I had a great day today. I woke up early, had my coffee- my wife always leaves the french press and a bag of nice coffee beans on the counter next to the grinder, the one my great-great grandmother allegedly bought for herself while her husband, my great-great grandfather, was laying siege to Fredricksburg. So every morning I think about my wife while she sleeps, knowing that she was thinking about me while I slept. And I get to use a tool someone in my family has used continuously for 150 years.
I did chores with my daughter this morning. She was going to a friends house on the lake to swim for the day and she knew she would probably camp out in the yard later so she spent some time following me around for an hour. She says “I love you daddy” apropos of nothing and I reply “I love you more”. She is getting to the age where such outbursts of paternal affection will likely become less frequent so I savor them when they occur. I watch her ride down the hill on her bicycle and just like that, she is gone.
After breakfast- fresh sweet corn pancakes with our maple syrup- we headed back out, this time our youngest son and I, to rebuild a back stoop to the milk house. We took the boards and the tools in a two-wheeled wood barrow and I let him push it so he could get the feel for it loaded up. We measured and cut using a folding rule, a cross cut saw and a framing square. We screwed the boards in rather than nail them- at seven nailing more than a dozen nails leads to fatigue- and he set every one by himself. It took longer than if I had done it myself, but we both had such a great time doing it I wouldn’t have cared if it had taken all day.
The neighbor kid came up and started put up sap wood for the sugaring season. After a while he got tired of that so he cut some hay in the orchard with a scythe, stopping every so often to sharpen it with a whetstone like I showed him. He comes and goes without asking, always works hard when he’s here and on occasion will ask me if he can ride the dirt bike, pick blackberries, have a chicken for the family dinner, etc and I always make sure he is thanked for his efforts. I never give him advice, but I did today when I showed him how to do something more efficiently.
“Time is the only thing you’ve got. You should spend it like gold.”
He nodded at me and went back to cutting grass the way I showed him. He didn’t say anything when he left, but he finished the orchard completely.
We completed the stoop, put things away and had lunch- there was some leftover chicken and sweet corn, sun tea and blackberries with quartered cukes and sea salt. We talked about things, I couldn’t say what exactly, just light happy stuff and we enjoyed a few minutes in the cool of the house doing nothing.
After lunch we headed out to a friends place to finish staining his deck and replacing some railing. It was myself and my sons, every one pitching in and doing their share. That lasted about 4 hours and then we came back home and did firewood for another hour. I took the 7 year old on the tractor and had him steer the whole time as we brought a couple half ton sugar maple butts to the landing where we cut and split as the Sun edged west through the tops of the big trees.
After that we did evening chores, topped off the chickens towers, checked on the goat with the bum leg ( a dog got after him, but he’s healing up fine) and mowed some grass until my wife called us in for supper about a half hour ago. Grilled London broil, fresh made sweet pickles, sweet corn (it never gets old), five kinds of tomatoes and basil mixed with olive oil and a nice glass of a Chianti I made about six years ago. It may have been the last bottle, but we opened it on date night (Saturday, no kids, full moon) and I wasn’t going to let the last glass go bad.
I read stories about how bad things are and I get it in an intellectual way. They are. In the big world, macro cosmic, multicultural ether that permeates the densely populated cities of late Western Civilization, things are falling apart. Economies, families, human bodies, and the beliefs of a thousand years. It must be painful to live so close to the core, rotten as it is, fed on a diet of heavily processed slop, isolated, alone. The eternal absence of love and the never ending sound of anger and snark are fatal in lesser organisms, they are soul crushing in ours.
Get out of the city. Do not eat another bite unless you know where it came from and how it was raised. Stop worrying about the rest of the world when you’re not even living in your own. Help a kid learn a new skill. Love somebody more than they love you and chances are they’ll love you more than you love them. Then double down.
I’m all alone right now finishing my glass of wine at the table in the dark. I got a few things done today, touched base with an old friend, did something for someone, let someone do something for me. Kissed my wife, told each kid I loved them at least a few times. Didn’t do anything that required a band-aid or a visit to the ER. Ate like it was my last meal three times. Upstairs you can here the sound of people winding down, water running, laughter. My heart is full to the point of breaking, but not in a bad way.
Outside the sky is the clearest shade of pearl with a smattering of cumulus clouds just far away enough to still be visible. There are so many things that were on my list to do today that I didn’t get around to, but soon its going to get really dark and I will lay my body down on a very comfortable mattress and with my head on a pillow and I will fall into sleep like I’ve earned it.
Like the man said, tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther…