Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Special Occasion

I was led to reflect on "special occasions" the other day, when a friend mentioned that she and her S.O. would be out observing one at a time I'd hoped to drop by.

It got me thinking. I don't seem to have special occasions much any more, or at least not the conventional ones. I don't celebrate birthdays much, and haven't really given Christmas gifts for years. This year I passed on the family Thanksgiving gathering, in favor of spending the gorgeous day working on the high tunnel with some of my favorite volunteers. Thankfully my family understands and approves of my farming passion.

I'm not sure how much this lack of special occasions goes hand in hand with not having a ready victim at hand to share them with. When I had S.O.s in my life, I would celebrate things at the drop of a hat. I put lots of time and energy into special birthday celebrations for both adults and children; memorable Christmas and Thanksgiving feasts; marked all kinds of milestones with favorite meals or cards. How I loved designing and sending out invitations or announcements for special occasions (that was all before E-Vite, of course)!

So maybe the fact that there is no accessible S.O. in my life, and my family is either busy, far away, or both, has diminished my desire for elaborate celebrations.

I think it's also partly a natural consequence of my journey towards living "plain", even if it is a rather quirky, post-consumerism, radical stealth kind of "plain". I don't dress up much any more, so that makes a lot of "special" occasions barely distinguishable from ordinary ones. "Dressing up" has become simply a question of wearing a black turtleneck that DOESN'T have paint spots, and a pair of black slacks with no holes in the pockets and not very much cat hair (what little vanity I had left has been fairly well obliterated by Mike's lovely soft white fur...a small price to pay for such lavish unfailing affection. But cats do not seem to have a concept of "special occasions", only "occasions for petting" which are too frequent to be "special"). And real shoes instead of rubber farm boots or sandals.

I guess I would feel sadder about not celebrating much any more, about not having special occasions or anyone to share them with, if I didn't see in hindsight how long it's been since I had that, and I haven't missed it at all up to now, so why be sad all of a sudden?

Just daily life at the farm is enough of a special occasion...or really, a whole array of them all strung together, often happening all at once...and like the commonplace nature of Mike's "occasions for petting", there are too many for any to be really "special": An iris booming in late November, a wren warbling in the barn, an impeccable blue sky, a perfect dandelion seed puff, a gorgeous bed of lettuce nestled under row cover, a dog making a perfect catch of a tennis ball...so many special moments in my days.

And more mundane things, like the car starting after not starting the previous day. Life is good.

The necessity of dealing with a malfunctioning septic tank pushed me to take the day off work today, one of the last beautiful warm afternoons we'll have for awhile...a special occasion in and of itself, if you ignore the raw sewage oozing out of the tank. This afternoon and evening I pushed to get things finished up before today's early dark, before day-after-tomorrow's bitter cold.

Getting the inflation fan set up for the high tunnel was top priority, once things were at a standstill with the septic. This little fan blows air between the two layers of roof plastic, creating an insulating air space and steadying the plastic against the wind. The high tunnel instructions said "follow instructions in the blower kit if you are installing a blower." But to my dismay, the so-called "kit" included nary a word of instruction on the motor...only a few diagrams about connecting the support bracket. And there weren't even any wires visible on the motor! I finally found a cover plate that opened to reveal two wire ends.

As I walk slowly back to the house, absently taking in all the wonders of the spring-like afternoon, I feel a twinge of regret and loneliness. This is one of the times I feel wearyest in my solo life...when I have to walk all the way back to the house to call long distance to brainstorm ith someone far away on how to proceed on a project, instead of having a partner at hand to talk it over with right there on the spot. It takes so long this way. Not just the walk, but the describing with words instead of pointing. I actually thought about taking photos and emailing them, rather than try to find words to describe the bracket, mount, wires, etc...but my dial-up service is so slow to load photos, it would have been just as much of a challenge. This is when the farm seems like a burden too heavy for just my own boney shoulders. Yet the only way it can really be shared is if someone were here in my daily life, in my evenings as well as my days, and happened to be home at the time. Not a moment for which you can send out an invitation.

Those who know me well, know that dealing with electrical wiring (not counting the electric fences) is sort of the second-to-last frontier to me. (The last frontier will be when I ever come to terms with being up close and personal with sparking metal, such as in welding or grinding. I don't "do" sparklers for the 4th of July, either.) This, despite having taken a wiring class many years ago and having been instrumental in the rewiring of two entire houses.

So the fact of me going to the hardware store, getting the parts (fortunately we aren't so far into the Christmas shopping season that all the seasoned, knowledgable hardware store sales people have been replaced by temporary youngsters), and putting a cord onto the blower is pretty major. Esp. with the uncertainty presented in trying pair up the motor (two perfectly identical black wires) with the cord (one white, one black). Thanks, Dad, for talking me though it...including the priceless (if less than reassuring) protocol for checking if it's done right:

1. Mount motor on bracket. Be far away not touching it. Plug it in. See if the circuit blows or there are sparks.

2. If anything goes wrong, don't touch the motor. Or, if you do, just touch it with one hand. Actually, touch it with one hand behind your back. That way you won't have that hand grasping a water pipe or something like that. Then it won't be ALL of you that gets shocked.

3. It's only the equivalent of a 50 watt light bulb, so you aren't dealing with that much electricity.

This is hard to reconcile with the line drawing, indelibly etched in my mind at the impressionable
age of maybe 4 or 5, of a classic 1950's housewife in shirtwaist and apron rolling an unconscious child away from the broken lamp with a broom handle (that was before metal broom handles had been invented, of course), that was in the Red Cross First Aid Manual which was one of my favorite picture books, right up there with Animals Without Backbones and the Yearbook of Agriculture volume on Animal Diseases and the Field Guide to the Birds. (And how did my parents EXPECT me to turn out, given reading material like that at a tender, impressionable age?)

At any rate...I got it assembled, mounted, tested...it worked...little by little I watched the sheets of plastic lifting apart as the little blower whirred quietly, illuminated by the full moon beaming through the layers of plastic.

A special occasion, indeed. The clear winter night sky; the beaming moon; the twinkling stars; the fresh air; the world's bustle and buzz all at arm's-length for the moment; the moist, earthy breath of the high tunnel as I open the door to step back in after surveying the rising plastic....

As I walk slowly back to the house, taking in all the wonders of the winter night, I feel a twinge of regret and loneliness. THIS is a special occasion--a significant stage of "completion" for the high tunnel, as well as celebrating a further step towards wiring serenity for me. Yet the only way it could be shared would be if someone were here in my daily life, in my night as well as my day, and happened to be home at the time.

Not a moment for which you can send out an invitation.

1 comment:

Wandering Coyote said...

Great post, Natasha. I am really indifferent around holidays now. I just can't seem to get excited about them the way I used to, either as a younger person or as one half of a couple. So many things have changed for me recently that these holidays are almost an unwelcome interruption to my normal routine. And I wonder what is wrong with me - why can't I get excited? It hasn't stopped me from participating fully, I just think I participate differently. Which is OK.