Do you possess some form of heartache, pride or even a sense of neutrality, depending on how things turned out for your ancestors?
While researching the stories of female homesteaders on the upper plains one dominant trait surfaced again and again.
Women are remarkably capable of creating something out of nothing.
Leaving all things familiar to take a chance on a new life for themselves and their families was an enormous sacrifice, requiring great courage. So often they were very young women, ages we still consider to be children by today’s standards.
It seems that perhaps we all possess some cellular residue from the migratory ventures of our ancestors. This courage is exhibited (and often maligned) every day, all over the world, as people are forced to leave their homes.
They’re not fleeing for the heady chance to “prove up” 160 free acres as the homesteaders did. They’re most often trying to stay alive and feed their children, a brave migratory gamble in hopes of a better life.
I had the pleasure of spending time with my great-nephew, Liam a few weeks ago. My daughter (Willa), our Vermont friend (Jen Wool) and I were hanging out with him. He wanted us to find (and keep finding) cowboy videos on our phones and stories of cowboys in South Dakota Magazine. He couldn’t get enough.
Every time a story or video was over, Liam would say, “ummmmm…more cowboy stuff”. This became our catch phrase for the week.
Correct if I’m wrong Liam, however, I’m pretty sure you’re telling us to always seek out more of whatever sparks our interest. Ummmmm—for me, it actually is more cowboy stuff. Certainly in my artwork and photography anyway. Thanks buddy. You’ll surely be missed.
At fifty-two, I feel betwixt and between, no longer young and not yet old. Looking back I can see my life as remarkably valuable training and experience. To hell with regrets. I can’t change a damn thing. I know myself much better in midlife and that’s truly a gift. I also know I still have a lot to learn.
Like my prairie ancestors, I have an inherent longing now to settle or “prove up” one hundred and sixty acres. A sort of cognitive Homestead Act of my midlife psyche. A bit of a gamble, rife with elements of uncertainty, the heady buzz of adventure and the resilience to know I can handle whatever comes my way.
Funny to think about cognitive growth using these terms. However, metaphorically, it works pretty well. Claim my section. Select the crop. Prep the land. Plant the seeds. Irrigate. Fertilize. Monitor growth. Harvest. Review.
These 3 simple questions help me often and perhaps might’ve helped my prairie ancestors as well. The trick is being able to actually answer them.
Homestead Act of 1982 “…and that such an application is made for his or her exclusive use and benefit, and that said entry is made for the purpose of actual settlement and cultivation, and not either directly or indirectly for the use of any other person or persons whomsoever…he or she shall thereupon be permitted to enter the quantity of land specified.”
“This world of ours…must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be, instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect.”
—Dwight D. Eisenhower
“Fear in America”—mixed media • layered digital image—2018
We all are a bunch of contradictions. It’s hard for me to admit that this is true—every part of me wants to deny this about myself. I would rather have elective dental surgery than investigate this further. Actually I need some dental surgery, I’ve been putting it off…another contradiction.
I did this quick check today to notice my noticing.
I stared at the words I wrote that are entirely at odds with each other.
Can I actually hold all of these contractions at the same time?
YES. I can easily throw all of these messy, contradictory emotions into my bag, grab my keys, walk out the door and go on with my day. We all do it all the time.
NOTICING is helping me understand myself a little better.
I have a lot of emotional work to do
AND I don’t really want to do it.
LIFE IS AN ABSURD AMOUNT OF GREY AREA.
BLACK & WHITE thinking can make us rigid, limiting available options.
Just ask my kids, well, no actually please don’t.
Head or Heart. Winner or Losers. Right or Wrong.
This just isn’t the way the world works. When it does, things can fall apart.
I came across this website today…interesting: DIFFERENCE BETWEEN.
“‘Believing’ means that you have chosen a truth, but ‘knowing’ means that you are certain about that truth.”
I had to read that line about ten times.
AND JUST FOR FUN…
Good luck with your noticing.
HORIZONTAL MYSTERY SHIP when you leave at seventeen rarely home more than two weeks at a time months, years and decades can be surprisingly unreliable markers of adulthood only once in the summer of ‘88 a recent college grad wide-eyed and wanderlust-fueled my tonsils required more I stayed a whole month once healed, packed, and in possession of necessary visas off to the southern hemisphere a young pioneer in search adventure and different stars now, when visiting after a lifetime lived elsewhere grey hairs visible no matter my efforts I find myself sliding into a peculiar second adolescence of sorts driving Dad’s truck windows down, hair blowing mile after mile of expansive, wild beauty the prairie a determined cellular homesteader forever staking a claim in my blood and bones I want to sneak out to the bar play Space Invaders sadly, no longer a standard unlike 1982 drink beer, eat junk food and avoid the endless expectations of being a grown-up Looking back with midlife sensibilities I realize those late nights in high school tenth grade, I believe laser focused, playing Space Invaders provided a surprisingly valuable education initials entered, quarters stacked protect the bunkers, defeat the aliens monitor the horizontal mystery ship with vigilance my peripheral vision unknowingly trained to notice things beyond immediate scope bonus points pinged while friends waited impatiently twenty more minutes, please under a waning August moon only one lunar phase ago I was still my father’s daughter a middle-aged, South Dakota teenager pretending time actually plays tricks wanting desperately to disregard reality one more visit on the calendar one more phone call cheeseburger or ice cream cone one more evening watching Everybody Loves Raymond M.A.S.H. or Mayberry RFD twenty more minutes, please quarters stacked no longer Space Invaders the nearly forgotten teenage relic of a heartbroken fifty-something fatherless daughter once again, I am protecting my bunkers monitoring a new horizontal mystery ship paying very close attention to what's just beyond my immediate scope just twenty more minutes, please
I don’t excel at sleeping. I really never have, but now in middle age, my sleep is interrupted constantly. I’ve decided to not fight it, embrace my natural rhythms and see how the universe wants me to use my extra waking time. Last night was no exception.
I went to sleep around 10:30 and was wide awake at 2:50. Our cat, Karen was sleeping soundly next to me. My husband is gone and I don’t mind waking up Karen, so I felt free to roam. I got up to pee and I noticed that all of the windows were covered with the soft, haze of humidity.
The whole world seems to be trapped in heat and haze right now.
I wondered how I could photograph Cape Cod’s humidity in the middle of the night without leaving my bedroom. I took a few shots. The camera wasn’t capturing what I could see. I decided that wasn’t the inspiration I was searching for, not at all what the universe wanted me to do in the middle of the night on August 9th.
I decided to get back into bed and listen to a guided mediation on the INSIGHT app, which I highly recommend. I have a favorite voice, Sarah Blondin who guides me with her Live Awake series. I consider her a very close friend. Sarah’s voice and words have provided so much, well, insight and spark since I downloaded the app in January.
This morning at 3:10am I chose Life is Kind. Here is the start to her meditation.
“Though we are strangers, we are kindred in spirit. There’s no difference between us. We are the same.
We are here in the name of our hearts, in the name of opening, in the name of unstitching what has overtime grown closed within. We are each here in the name of reuniting with our soft centers. It is the place we are most alive, most accepted, most whole.
It is where we seek refuge from the from the weight of the world.”
I fell back asleep shortly after these lines and had a remarkable, beautiful and kind dream.
I’ll share that dream with you tomorrow.