Thursday, December 20, 2018

This is How We Live in the Town

When I was young I had a book called This is How We Live in the Town. I don't remember a thing about it except the pictures and the title, but it sprang to mind this weekend when I experienced some of the joy that comes with neighborliness.

Last week, my dog ate chocolate. In the past, I've used hydrogen peroxide as an emetic to make dogs throw up in cases like this. I was all out, so I called a neighbor. Not only did Durand bring me some, but he went to the grocery store for it! In Scatchet Head, which is second only to Baby Island in its magical ability to be stupendously far away from everything, that's a testament to his generosity.

Over the weekend, I was making a giant holiday dinner for my extended family when I realized I had rapidly browning pie crusts and no foil with which to cover them. I posted an entreaty on the neighborhood Facebook page and within 45 seconds, my neighbor Tara showed up with a roll of Reynolds Wrap.

That same day, Nico stopped by to ask for help putting his ducks to bed when he was called away on urgent business. After a feast, my mom and dad and I walked across the street and herded Daisy and Ernie into their hutch in the waning light. I felt lucky to know Nico, and to get a moment with Daisy and Ernie, and to be able to give and receive with such ease in my sweet little community.

This is how we live in the town.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

2018 Reflections

Sarri Gilman‚ a program leader at the Whidbey Institute and an expert on boundaries, shared some questions for end-of-year reflection in a recent newsletter. I enjoyed thinking about the topics she raised, and while I didn't do the journaling exercise verbatim I did spend some time reflecting on my relationships, my work, my health, and my finances. Overall, I'm proud of how 2018 went and eager to greet the new year!

In the relationships realm, I am happily in love. I love his emotional availability, his communication skills, his empathy, and his kindness to me, my kids, my animals, and others. I'm getting better at expressing my needs and wants and recognizing what's mine and what's not mine to fix or change in others. I am proud of my kids, one of whom graduated in 2018, and so glad that my animal family is happy and healthy. The sudden loss of my beloved Fenway Bartholomule in June was the dark spot in an otherwise joyous year, and even that came with the blessing that his passing was instant and apparently painless.

At work, I'm extraordinarily proud of the whole Whidbey Institute team. We're two years into a $4.5 million capital campaign, our lodging has nearly doubled, we're holding more programs and welcoming more program participants than ever before for the important work of transforming in response to the interconnected social, environmental, and moral challenges of our world today.  I'm also thrilled with our newest team members, Meg and Sommer, who will help make our continued evolution possible.

In the health realm, I miss boxing and exercising (Shawn T, your DVDs are growing dusty on the shelf). Trying to write a memoir has gotten in the way of my exercise routines, and I know the new year will bring some needed changes in that regard. I've already made a small change, parking my car further from the office, on the assumption that a twice-daily walk will be a good start. Otherwise, I feel good. I just got a CBC during my annual wellness exam and I'm happy to say that all of my bloodwork came back looking good.

Financially, I think about the big expenses of 2018 that threw off my budget and I can say that it was all money well spent—a ductless heat pump, a new washer and dryer, a dishwasher, a propane range, new brakes, Brodie's veterinary care for Cushings disease and diabetes, Dahlia's treatment for a severe eye infection, and the purchase of Rosie, a companion for Dahlia. Vet bills will keep coming, but I think 2019 will be a good year for house costs. The heat pump really is ridiculously efficient, and the energy savings are HUGE. Fingers crossed—let's assume that 2019 will be a "steady as she goes" year for my wallet.

I used to write an annual State of the Farmlet Address, and it was hard after we left Bent Barrow Farm and especially after we left Greenbank. How was I to write, without a farmlet? Now, I feel liberated again as a writer and I can safely say that there will be a 2019 State of the Ark Address flowing off my fingertips next month.

Thanks, readers, for sticking with me. 2019 is going to be a good year.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Christmases of yore

I'll never forget caroling in Wickersham . . . Fenway in his sleighbells, Arrietty in her antlers and wreath, the Cain Lake Stables gang, complete with goats and ponies and giant dogs. Those were some of my favorite Christmases.

Dahlia and Rosie Cotton are going to be living in a walkable neighborhood soon. If I succeed in Rosie's halter training, we just may have a Maxwelton Beach caroling party in our future! 

Wednesday, December 5, 2018


Horse showing front incisors. atliegilsson/RooM /Getty Images

I'm irrationally proud of my teeth right now.

11 years ago I had fourteen fillings in one sitting. I'd been a cavity-prone kid, and I'd been neglectful of my dental health in my early adulthood. I was taking advantage of my last month of solid dental insurance, and the dentist thought it would be a good idea to go ahead and give my whole mouth an upgrade—replacing my childhood fillings in every molar and premolar and filling a couple of new cavities, too.

When the novocaine wore off, I called my dentist to say my mouth hurt. "What can you compare the pain to?" he asked. 

"I had a baby last month, in my living room. This is about three times worse," I said. 

"Let's not do 14 fillings at once next time," he said. "Take Ibuprofen—and when you feel better, floss more."

I started flossing as soon as that headache wore off, and I never looked back. I now floss daily, and although I've skipped annual cleanings—visiting the dentist just three times this decade—I haven't had a cavity since. Today, I got a cleaning and x-rays for the first time in a couple of years and, once again, I'm cavity free. I also signed up for a care plan, so I can afford to get them cleaned again in June.

Thanks, teeth. I appreciate you. 

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Arrietty Update

The girls and I visited Arrietty in Sequim yesterday, and I was reminded that she's exactly where she needs to be right now for her health, happiness, and safety. Her weight looks good. Her feet look great. Her stall is warm and dry and her hay is sweet.

The girls and I miss seeing her every day, but she's bonded with her new friend Zoe and we've enjoyed the leisure of mornings and evenings without mule chores. I'm really impressed with how clean and dry her paddock is (the Olympic Penninsula is mostly temperate rainforest, after all). Sue, her foster human, dotes upon her.

Sue asked me—as I've asked myself—why I didn't pair Arrietty and Dahlia up, rather than leasing Arrietty out and adding a mini cow. Several reasons, including timing (back then, Dahlia was happily housed with a cow herd) and above all my conviction that herd animals deserve same-species companionship. Arrietty and Fenway were like a married couple—affectionate, bonded, physically and emotionally intimate with one another. They spoke the same language.

The cultural translation that it would take for a cow and a mule to bond is possible, sure—and yet I think both of my beloveds deserve the ease of living with friends who understand them.

I reminded Sue that if ever her circumstances change, Arrietty can come home to me. In the meantime, I'm so glad to see her happy.