The Wa of 53

Kanji for Wa

Today is my birthday and I’ve turned 53. I remarked the other day that turning 53 is a nothing year. I was immediately bombarded with exhortations to seize the year and whatnot. I didn’t express myself well.I didn’t mean nothing as a negative. Some birthdays are imbued with an energy related to the number we use to mark the passing of time. Turning 13 is a high-energy number; so is 21. The year of 30 stops some people in their tracks. Or it might be 40 or 50 or 60 or 70. The year 25 was fraught with significance for me. This one, 53, is just another turn of the wheel which is not to say it’s not worthy of being something. Terming it a nothing year was a bad choice of words.

The past year has been rough in terms of sheer disruption; a trend that looks as if it will continue for the following year. A long while ago, I discovered that I’m one of those people who needs routine and structure. I discombobulate easily when the external gets a little too free-flowing even though I generally perform well under such conditions. Though the chaos–often chaos of my own creation–drives me crazy, I don’t crawl under the bed in a fetal position and refuse to act until the merry-go-round stops. As much as I want to.

Here at the barn, the chaos has reached critical mass. A black hole is getting ready to implode or explode of mutate into a worm hole or something. For various reasons, the barn home improvement project has been stalled for almost exactly a month. No, I haven’t been in a fetal position under the bed. Well, okay. I haven’t been just in a fetal position under the bed. There have been extenuating circumstances: six day power outage, sprained wrist, handyman delays, work obligations and family events.

I’m on vacation beginning today and continuing all through next week. I have an ambitious to-do list. I’m channeling Scarlet O’Hara, shaking my fist at the sky, and solemnly swearing that I’ll never be hungry again. Wait. No. That’s not quite it.

I’m vowing to jitterbug through this chaos and prevent a Big Bang. I cannot live like this any longer. I tend to measure my success at handling life by how much grace and style I can muster under adverse conditions. Grace and Style exited along with Equanimity when the Wa (Japanese concept of peace, harmony and balance) of my home ended up sitting in the driveway with the rotted bookcases. Even worse, Grace, Style and Equanimity had been threatening to move out for a good while before that. It’s time we were all friends again.

The bookcases were offered to a funeral pyre this week. It’s good to have them gone. I’m surprised at how much better I feel when I drive up the hill and am not immediately reminded of just how badly this project has gone. I suspect the Wa survived the cremation and is napping behind a tree somewhere.

At this stage, I can’t envision the end result, but I’m trusting that by doing what needs to be done Wa will return and wrap its tendrils around my heart and home.

With any luck, 53 will be both a return and an advance.

Nurture and Nature

With all the busy-ness, drama, peril, stress and discombobulation of the past weeks, months, years, I’ve been out of sync with my universe. This statement is probably one of the biggest understatements of my life.

Places to live usually just fall on me.

Three things ground and root me: friends and family, nesting and gardening, writing and creating. This great triumvirate of my life has been stripped of power for far too long and it is with great joy that HMO’Keefe’s arrival in West Virginia has put them back into office.

He and I have had separate lives that intersected too infrequently. We anticipated that blending our lives would create some flash points in terms of turf wars. My beloved barn is so much mine, we both feared the time it would take for it to feel like his while I adjusted to what might feel like his encroachment into my space would be uncomfortable for us both. This is one of the perils of independent, old folks moving in together. For this reason and several others which are actually more important, HMOKeefe and I have taken a pied-a-terre in town where we will live during the work week retiring to the country estate on the weekends.  🙂

[I find it completely ridiculous that I have a home in the “city” and a “country house” – I have yet to refer to either without feeling pretentious.]

Pied-a-Terre

I had great fun and great stress finding an apartment. I have never looked for a place to live before. Like the Wicked Witch of the East, houses just seemed to fall on me. I started this project eager and anticipating the process to be a big bunch of fun.

I approached the task of finding the pied-a-terre in a logical fashion. I created a wish list which included the neighborhood I wanted. Then I stalked that neighborhood, classified ads, real estate magazines, and Craigslist.

What people pay for rental property in Hooterville was a great shock to me. My optimism plummeted with every phone call not returned by a landlord, with every walk-through a roach motel and every apartment with no laundry facilities. [We are too old to be schlepping to the laundromat.] Finding a place for grownups to live in a college town is pretty damn difficult.

And, yet, my timing was perfect. I opened Craigslist at the very right second. I called the landlord at the very right second. I raced over to see the apartment at the very right second. And within 10 minutes of walking in the door, I was shouting “It’s mine, it’s mine, it’s perfect, I’ll take it!”

The apartment hit every bullet point on the wish list except one (ground floor). It is just beeee-youuuuuuuuuuuuu-tiiiiiiiii-fullllllllllllllllllllll. I’ve been consumed with ideas for decorating, furniture arrangements, and color schemes while simultaneously restoring order to the Barn. I have been up to my neck in domestic nesting.

I love BOGO!

The garden, alas, was neglected. The harsh winter, endless spring rains and real estate flitting translated into an eyesore of a garden.

Yesterday and today I ran around home improvement centers and nurseries buying bedraggled, late-season annuals to effect a quick aesthetic fix. I ran into a buy-one-get-one sale that went a long way to improving the garden. I ran out of time to get all the little (some of them sad) plants into the ground, but my equanimity has the warm fuzzies with the little bit I have done. I neeeeeeeeddddddddd to have my hands in dirt.

Instant Garden

Now that HMOKeefe is here and is a tiny bit settled in (we have yet to begin the task of moving into the apartment), I’ve had some time to reconnect with friends. Last night, I sat in a dear friend’s garden with more dear friends. We played with twinkle lights, ate good food, drank cheap wine and had a fine time. These gatherings are dubbed “sisterings” and more than a decade ago, I helped to establish sisterings as a Friday night tradition. The craziness of my life has been such that I haven’t been able to attend with any regularity for years now. That sad state of affairs is coming to an end.

Twinkle Lights and Wine

So, I’ve had time with my True Love, time with my friends, and tomorrow I trundle off to Charlotte to take my Baby Boy to dinner to celebrate his birthday. Throughout this week and weekend I have taken photos to bear witness. I’ve come to really enjoy the creative aspect of photo editing. I’ve written blog posts this week. I’ve nested, gardened, nurtured and created. I’ve hit all of my pulse points and life is good.

I had intended on posting way back in January that the slogan for this year was Almost Heaven in 2011. We’re about half-way through the year and things are on track.

I’ve also been remiss in acknowledging an award. Back in April (more than a month after my last blog post), I received email telling me my blog had been named one of the best West Virginia sites. In bestowing the award, The Very Best Sites wrote,

W.Va. Fur and Root is a self-proclaimed “hillbilly diva’s” blog (or, as she says, “blatherings”). Connie writes about whatever she wants, thank-you-very-much, and the title of her website comes from a sign that came with her old home, which she says is pretty much an old barn. She talks about nesting in that great old structure, but also talks about current events, TV, music, and pretty much whatever comes to mind. With terms like “Agog-O-Meter” I find her particularly fun to read, and so will you. She hasn’t posted in about a month, which I guess is because she is busy gardening, but read her older posts for a taste of something special.

As I think I’ve explained, I haven’t been busy gardening, but I have been busy. I’m very honored to have been listed as one of the best particularly in light of the other sites listed – many of them are favorites of mine and have characteristics that are goals for my blog.

It’s going to be a good summer. I’m sure of it.

High Falutin’ Beans and Cornbread

Braised and crispy fried pork cheek, leek puree,
warm lentil salad, microwave brioche and smoked ham hock jus.

Chef Boy ‘R Mine works at one of the top 20 country clubs in the country. As Sous Chef, he is sometimes called upon to choose (and prepare) food that complements particular wines. Planning and executing the wine tastings are something he enjoys doing and, according to the wine reps, something he does well.

He told me that for his next tasting, he wanted to sneak some “beans and cornbread” onto the menu. I howled with delight and was anxious to see and taste the result. Since he’s in Charlotte and I’m not, I didn’t to get to taste. (But doesn’t it look lovely!) I’m a teeny-tiny bit disappointed that he didn’t use pinto beans as that would have been a nice nod to his Appalachian roots.

[Lentils, kid? Seriously?]

My disappointment is slight as it is, but also tempered by the fact that I am often the recipient of some of the left-over wine as (shock, gasp, choke) Chef Boy ‘R Mine doesn’t like heavy, dry reds.

My son prepared this wine tasting yesterday, which was also his birthday. He is now the same age I was when I gave birth to him. I felt so old when I had him and, when I look at him, I see just how young 26 is.

And, yes, folks.  I do love it when he comes home and cooks for me.