Year of Living Thoughtfully – Part V

I always think of November as a sort of “gateway” month – a special time between the last of the October harvest activities and the onset of true winter in December.  It’s a time of cleaning up the garden and putting it to bed, pruning the roses and flowering trees, having vehicles winterized and perhaps even changing to snow tires, pulling out the sweaters and tweeds, and of course, shifting from pastimes that avoid producing heat in the house to those that definitely do, on purpose.  “Leaf Peeping” brings out the photography novice in me, and a rare major grocery shopping trip produces a frozen turkey.

This month, however, also held a rather startling realization this year.

Journal Entry November 4th – Election Day

Got out early to vote – home by 9:00 A.M.  Started measuring for the new window quilts and got sidetracked looking out at the most amazing color.  Spent some time with the 35 mm and hopefully, got some shots that will faithfully reproduce the light that the trees seemed to have, shining out from inside themselves.  Between these and a half-dozen taken at lunchtime this past week in Dover, I’m nearly through a whole roll of film.

Something about seeing November 4th in day planner looked familiar, as though I needed to remember something not specifically written down.  Finally — realized that today marks four months exactly — a third of a year, living alone, living thoughtfully, counting my blessings.

Could it really be that much of the year already?  A third of the way into it so quickly?  It is difficult to quantify how much has changed, but the friends who loved me enough to tell me prior to July 4th that I looked like death warmed over have commented often that I appear to them so much stronger, so refreshed and at peace. My home, while still mostly unfinished on the inside, is showing me its bones as things slowly get organized; and I am finding that having total control over an admittedly much tighter budget has its advantages – the unexpected car repairs come out of a Car Repair Fund; the unexpected need for a house call by the plumber comes out of a Home Maintenance Fund; and the last smudges of mascara that require a trip to the cosmetic counter come out of (yes, I really have one…) an envelope where I’ve been tucking a few dollars out of each paycheck, labeled “Girlie.”

Granted, I don’t have quite everything under control.  My tractor’s starter, which my friend Eve’s husband was kind enough to come and take off so I could get it checked out, turned out not to be the problem; so the tractor sits idle still, leaving the areas of my land (those closest to the house!) that are not cut and baled looking forlorn and unkempt.  The Tractor Maintenance fund is nowhere large enough yet to have a mechanic come out and diagnose whatever’s wrong.  I also lost a bit of sleep the night before a friend was to bring a gift of some cherry logs over to be milled so I could have the lovely wood to store and use a year from now for furniture — how could I accept his gift and then not even invite him in, with no doors on the bathrooms and a bare piece of plywood countertop on which to make a cup of coffee?  He may not be back, and I wouldn’t blame him.

Still, I look out and see that in every challenge there is a gift.  The tall grasses give the deer, who’ve figured out that this is a safe haven during hunting season, a place where they can browse comfortably, largely hidden from the street.  Their trust might be strained if my back acreage to the tree line were trimmed short as I would have done had the tractor been running.  And my friend with the logs?  His predictions that I’d never finish – that I’d let things slide until I was ready to sell some day — seemed like anything but kind, until I realized that they served to steel my resolve.

If there is one thing I have never taken well (and thank Heaven I recognize it now!) it is being told I can’t do something — that I’ll fail, or give up.  I’m not sure whether it’s a New Englandism or a more widely used term, but I am forced to admit to being what my grandmother would have called cussed (pronounced KUSS-ed, with two syllables).  I smile inwardly, thanking my friend’s cynicism for the defiance it engenders.   I have also found a place, thanks to a visit to the sawmill, where hardwood “slab” (the rounded, outside pieces cut off the logs as they become boards) sells for $20 a pickup-load and I can pick my own — off the bottom of the pile where it’s been drying for a while, if I choose.  The question of what will happen when I run out of my current supply of firewood (I have about enough to get me through mid-December) has been answered – affordably.

Meanwhile, as the canning pot with its rack and jar-lifter goes back into a big plastic bag on a top shelf, the soap-making and candle-making equipment come down, and I inventory my supply of olive and coconut oils, shea butter, essential oils, waxes and stearic.  It’s time to begin making gifts for the December holiday season!  First though, a day of Thanksgiving.  This year, my thanks are not only for health, friends, my job, the home that is now mine alone and the forest and meadows around me of which I feel a trusted steward; but more – they are for quiet, serenity, inner peace, and a recognition that the things with which I am blessed become too numerous to list as soon as I begin.  May it be so for all of you who share this community, who are certainly on my endless list of blessings.  My best to you all,

About SherryEllesson

Sherry Ellesson is a freelance writer and part-time homebuilder who lives and works in central Delaware. Originally from New England, she credits having been raised by hearty, self-sufficient people for her willingness to stay the course on the journey back to homesteading.