Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Bringing it Up To Date!

Hello all!

Here, as promised, is another blog entry, in which I intend to cover everything from the herbal conference to current. (Yikes!!!) Here we go…

So, the day after the herbal conference, Brian and I shifted into full throttle at work. The people for whom he was building the house needed to move in at the end of October, as the lease on their apartment was up. Granted, the house was mostly finished, but we weren’t exactly in “two weeks out” shape. So, we worked a 50-hour week followed by a 60-hour week, and finished up just in the nick of time.

It was intense. Not because the work was that difficult. I was doing mostly detailed finish work: sanding, applying stain, unmasking, touching up minor imperfections, etc. The intensity came from the long days; we worked 10 hour days, on average, which is literally dawn until dusk at this time of year!

On the other hand, it would not be accurate to say that the work was easy, either.

One of my projects was to strip and refinish an antique door with fifteen panes of beveled glass. Well, come to find out there were six distinct layers of paint (and goddess only knows how many coats of each…), which had to be painstakingly removed from each little crevice around every individual pane of glass. (By the way, no matter how much pain you are in after spending 10 hours bent over, scraping a trillion layers of ancient paint out of every nook and cranny of a ridiculously complex door, DO NOT complain at the dinner table that your back hurts from all the stripping you did that day. Your housemates will never, ever, ever let you live it down.) Anyway, two days, two cans of stripping agent, and $200 in labor later, they had me paint it a striking shade of cobalt blue.

Other projects forced me to face my fear of heights. One space in the house features a sort of balcony/skylight feature, where the second floor is opened up to allow light into the kitchen. (It’s very difficult to describe, but I hope to get pictures up soon.) Anyway, there is a window that is inaccessible except by a 20-foot ladder from the first floor, and a couple of weeks previously a bird had gotten in and pooped all over that windowsill. Brian asked me to climb up the ladder and clean it off. It was a very, vey tall ladder. Luckily, I was too proud to admit to Brian that I was too afraid to take on the task. I mean, come on! In Peru, I walked along the edges of cliffs that dropped off easily 100 feet. So I climbed up the ladder and cleaned the bird shit off the windowsill. I sweat bullets and my hand cramped up from my cast iron grip on the ladder, but I did it. Here’s to the healthy use of ego!

After that, Brian asked me to get on the roof and, with a broom, knock down all the cobwebs and wasp’s nests that had accumulated in the eves. Well, I’d done already faced my fear of the ladder, and since the house is bermed in, the roof isn’t terribly high… on one side of the house… But again, I invoked the power of the ego. I have pictures. It was a really nice day for being on the roof, too; warm, but not foot-burning. (You have to walk barefoot on metal roofs to avoid denting them.)

Anyway, I soldiered-up, and I made it. I got it while the getting was good. And did I get it! I ended up making a little over $2,500 in six weeks. Go. Me.

And apparently, I passed muster with Mr. Brian Love, as he subsequently offered me a work exchange position: house and farm-sitting for him while he is off on a sailing adventure this winter. So, this Thursday, December 1st, I am moving across the village to his house.

Brian’s house will be a wonderful place to spend the winter. Built with a rock solid passive solar design, the warmth from the sun maintains the house at a fairly constant 75-80 degrees all winter, without any additional heating! It is truly incredible. In addition to being well designed and efficient, the house is elegant and beautiful, and being surrounded by beauty is really uplifting. Plus, I am super excited about learning how to care for his flock of sheep (that’s the “farm-sitting” part). I have always loved and wanted to work with animals, and now I am getting my chance!

However, moving to Brian’s means leaving Medicine Wheel, which is bittersweet. I’ve had some great times here and my housemates feel a lot like family. I also think the vision for the neighborhood is really beautiful. However, given a lot of the advice I have gotten from long-time members, I think that it is really important for me to explore other neighborhoods and seeing what else Earthaven has to offer before I commit. I may end up back at Medicine Wheel, I may stay at Gateway after Brian returns, or I may end up somewhere completely unexpected. Who knows? Recently, the universe seems to have taken all of my careful plans, patted me on the head, and dropped them into the trash compactor. The new plan is that I have no plan. I have goals and direction and an understanding that there are many paths by which those goals may be achieved and an openness to those paths. Gai way oh.

Also, I recently found out that I will not be living alone at Brian’s. A really lovely family – Tiffany and Temple and their awesome kids, Amber (7), Evan (5), and Ocean (1) – will be joining me, at least until April or May, by which time they plan to have closed on a house and property of their very own. While I don’t know them all that intimately, my impressions and interactions have all been really positive. Tiffany and Temple are both really friendly and generous, and their kids are just fantastic. (I was recently at the house working on a project that involved sorting cloves of garlic into “preserve-able” and “compost,” and both Amber and Evan joined right in to help me. Of course, a number of play breaks were enjoyed, but they were super helpful, cooperative, respectful, and a ton of fun. Plus, Ocean is just melt-your-heart adorable. I just wanna squeeze him!) Anyway, the whole family is very well loved in the community, which is always a good sign. I am really excited to get to know them. It seems like Tiffany and I will be having a lot of fun cooking and doing crafts together this winter, and it’s really nice to have the genuine joy and playfulness of happy, healthy kids in my energetic space. Plus, now I have community with whom to collaborate on food and chores, which is really helpful. So, here’s to new living situations.

So, the other major thread in my life has been the initiation of a new romantic relationship. Exactly one month ago today, I met Giles at Medicine Wheel’s Hallowe’en party, and we immediately hit it off. I was initially charmed by his skills at dancing and conversation (both of which are eminently noteworthy), but through the powers of openness and honesty, we have managed to cultivate a really deep relationship in a surprisingly short period of time. In a mere month, we’ve come to a really rich understanding of and appreciation for each other. I feel like he is more familiar with my dreams and aspirations, doubts and insecurities, traumas, joys, personality flaws and character strengths, ambitions and fears and philosophy of life than some people I’ve known for years. And likewise, I feel like I know him more intimately than many of my closest friends.

And what I know of him is this: first and foremost (for me), Giles is really clear about his life purpose and work, which involves using story-telling as a tool for transformation, from personal to global. This clarity of direction not only gives meaning to his life but also informs the meaning and purpose of his relationships, including his relationship with myself, adding a very attractive layer of depth to our connection. Giles is also a real gentleman, and he has acted with deep integrity, which allows me to feel very safe in trusting him. He has also demonstrated this incredible capacity to communicate in deep, meaningful, connective ways. I am continually impressed by his ability to make himself vulnerable in the service of connective communication, as well as his ability to make me feel safe sharing all the things that make me feel most vulnerable.

He is intelligent and articulate. He has been really generous and tender. He makes me laugh, and that is really important. He is charming and romantic, and he treats me like a lady. (We have been on some excellent dates, including a rock climbing adventure, a very romantic dinner at a fancy, delicious tapas restaurant, and an ecstatic dance experience that left me literally and figuratively breathless.) He is a fantasy author and a rock climber. And he just about matches my degree of geekiness, which is, of course, incredibly hot.

I am looking forward to continuing to get to know him more deeply and seeing what kind of gifts and growth our relationship will offer us.

Well, that’s about it. Except that I have another terrible case of poison ivy. “How?!” you may ask, “How can you possibly be covered in poison ivy? It’s almost December, for the love of Gaia!” Well, it was a really nice day last Tuesday – short sleeve weather at the end of November! – and I was ripping out honeysuckle and blackberry brambles in the orchard to prepare beds for planting in the spring. Though the foliage has died back, I did not take into account that, as I ripped up honeysuckle roots, I might have been disturbing poison ivy roots, which are covered in more of those volatile oils than the leaves.

So, like last time, it took a couple days to show up, but I ended up getting it really badly in the little cuts on my arms from the blackberries I took out (those things are absolutely vicious), and I think I got it systemically, because it is popping up in exactly the same places I had it this summer. For some reason, however, it isn’t nearly as bad. Maybe it’s the cooler, less sticky weather. Maybe I have developed a physical and/or emotional tolerance. Maybe it just isn’t as severe. Maybe I have only been dealing with it for four days, rather than two weeks. For whatever reason, it isn’t driving me nearly as insane as it did in back in August. Yet.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Finally slowing down... a bit

Wow! Long time, no update, y’all. Sorry about that! However, life is finally settling down a bit for the winter. Well, a bit.

Let’s see, the last time I updated was on the eve of the Southeast Women’s Herbal Conference (which seems like several lifetimes ago now). As I expected, I had a really powerful experience. It almost felt like an anniversary, considering that it was the 2010 Herbal Conference that got me interested in Western North Carolina and initiated my relationship with Earthaven. (Red Moon Herbs, the company that organizes and sponsors the conference, is based out of Earthaven.)

I took some awesome classes, but the two that really stand out for me are the two I took with Dr. Ada-Belinda Dancing Lion, whose perfect blend of humor, wisdom, and no-nonsense delivery made her one of the best teachers with whom I have ever taken a class. The first class was on the Wise Woman Tradition and how it differs from the Scientific Tradition and the Heroic Tradition. The most powerful take-home point for me was the importance of taking good care of myself first. No one else knows better than me what I need and no one else is better equipped to give it to me than myself. Radically intuitive, huh? The second class was entitled “Living Takes Life: Our Predatory Nature,” and it was incredible! We talked about how, as mammals with canines and eyes in the front of our heads, human beings (including women!) are predators. The word “predator” carries a negative connotation in our culture (i.e. sexual predatory) because it is misused. The only two reasons predators in the wild kill are to eat or to defend. (By this logic, “sexual predators” are not true or healthy predators; they are mentally ill, which is to say attacking for reasons other than defense or food, and the term predator doesn’t really even apply.) Anyway, in reclaiming our predatory nature, we reclaim our right to take care of ourselves first, which is the only way we can truly take care of anyone else anyway. You can’t give something you don’t have. As Dancing Lion said, “Your nice is killing you.” Also, we reclaim our power to protect ourselves, even in the subtle realm of our energetic field. Predators aren’t “mean;” they have good boundaries. They know and are present with their own limits. Plus, they let you know where those boundaries are with a low growl before they attack to defend those boundaries, which is so healthy and so helpful. It’s powerful stuff.

Also, my work trade position for the conference was fire tender during the late night drum circles on Friday and Saturday nights. I still am not sure what sort of magickal transformation I underwent, but it was pretty powerful. Something about building the literal fires that provided warmth and light for the drummers and the dancers fed my internal fires, and I sang and danced and chanted with wild abandon both nights. I like to think of it as having opened my throat chakra, allowing my voice and my creativity to flow freely. I came back from the conference so much… freer, less inhibited, more empowered, more vocal and communicative. It has been great!

After the conference, I worked two solid weeks with Brian Love, finishing up the house, which is beautiful. (I’ll get pictures up soon!) And when I say I worked two solid weeks, I mean I worked two solid weeks – 110 hours all together. I got it while the getting was good, and I am very proud of that. Now, I am glad to slow down… a bit.

As much as I would love to update more about those crazy hours and the feats that I accomplished, I have got to get going. More later, though, now that things are slowing down a bit.

Love to all!