MONDAY MEMOIR: STORMS & BATTLES

We all face storms and battles in life; some worse than others.  Many even chase them.  However, only a few lust for actual hell on Earth.  The rest of us are focused on more heavenly dreams.

For some folks, that means a piece of land to call their very own…  A sunny, summer day.  Gentle breezes.  Verdant, rolling hills.  A bubbling brook with sparkling water.  Beautiful music.  A little girl in a calico dress with ribbons tied to her braids.  A young boy in cut-off jeans with a cane-fishing pole.  He’s barefoot and whistling without a care in the world.  Their playful dogs bounce alongside them.  Nearby, a healthy dairy cow and her calf graze the green grass.  It’s knee high, lush, and sprinkled with a rainbow of wildflowers.

In the distance, there is a modest home where happy parents hug.  They drink their coffee or tea together.  Handsome goats and a cute pig are content in their pens.  Colorful chickens cheerfully peck cracked corn.  Mama rabbit just gave birth to seven precious, baby bunnies.  Freshly washed sheets billow on the clothesline.  Lilacs perfume the air.  Song birds perch on the picket fence.  And a kitten chases butterflies.  Honeybees pollinate blossoms.  The weed-free garden and orchard will produce bumper crops.  The mortgage will be paid-off in no time.  Homestead life is perfect.  It’s a dream come true, right?  Oh, you poor and naïve thing.

Wake up!  It’s not music you hear, but blood-curdling screams.  Little Laura, who was frolicking in the meadow of your mind, fell into an unmarked well.  While fishing, the only thing Opie caught was his bare foot on a rusty nail.  Lassie was slapped by a porcupine not just once, but twice.  She’s a whimpering pin cushion.  The brook is frothing with toxins.  Your beehive was sprayed with aerial insecticides.  Out in the pasture, Bessie the cow has mastitis.

Did I mention foreclosure on the home is looming?  Yep.  Your significant other lied about paying the mortgage.  This was the final straw and it broke the horse’s back.  And after fifteen years of marriage, divorce court is only days away.  The sky has darkened, the wind is gusting, and it is hailing.  Oh, and I almost forgot… Old Yeller just died.  Honestly, what did you expect?  And what are you waiting for?  You’re burning daylight and wasting precious time.

There will be no apologies or hugs.  Better hope the fire department can rescue Laura from the well.  Hopefully, she’s only badly bruised and scraped.  Afterwards, Opie needs a tetanus shot.  Don’t be surprised if you are charged with child neglect.  And the neighbor may sue because your kids were trespassing.  He’s talking with the sheriff now, as your 30-day vacate notice is delivered.

Don’t forget, the divorce lawyer needs his money today, too.   Your Paypal account is empty.  And your credit card has been compromised.  If you have a vet, you’ll pay extra after 5:00pm.  You check your watch and sure enough, it’s 5:15pm.  You check your bank account and it’s overdrawn.  You decide to treat the mastitis with outdated antibiotics.   And you will try to remove the porcupine quills by yourself.

You look for your only set of pliers and they are not in the toolbox.  Where did you last use them?  Oh, dear.  Did you leave them outside last fall?  Remember when you were fixing the hog fence?  If so, they are going to be rusted closed by now.  Better try soaking them in some oil.  By the way, the pig and goats are loose again.  Like a war-zone tank, the pig has plowed down the clothesline.  She brought her pillage and tonight’s only bedding back to her wallow.

Psst!  The goats are eating your fruit trees.  A raccoon is eating the heads off your chickens.  An eagle flew off with your kitten.  And the rabbit just ate her babies.  Why?  She was stressed.  And from the looks on your kids’ faces, they’re thankful that you’re not a rabbit.

Now, where were we?  Oh, yes.  Your rows of corn have been pummeled to death by baseball-size hail.  Sadly, your garden harvest will be minimal.  Fifty-percent of the nation’s honeybees collapsed last year.  So, you will have to pollinate your vegetable and fruit blossoms.  What?!  You mean to tell me you don’t know how food babies are made?  Quick!  Find your high school science book.  It’s a crying shame that nobody prepared you for life’s real trials.  Bet you’re wishing for some help, huh?

When you first moved in, Old-Time Farmer welcomed you.  He even tolerated your anti-meat lifestyle and all your pampered pets.  If you asked, he freely gave you his advice and sometimes lent you a helping hand.  Not anymore.  You pissed him off and he told you to go to Hell!  Yes, he meant it.

Why?  Remember his cattle dog, affectionately named “Dog”?  You felt sorry for Dog.  You thought Dog should be kept “safely” inside.  You ignored that Dog lived 24/7 to guard their home and food (livestock).  You told everyone that Old-Time Farmer was out of touch with the real world.  You thought his ways were backwards and that he wasn’t very smart.  Meanwhile, you complained that he ate his animals and didn’t love his dog.

Meanwhile, Old-Time Farmer taught you about nature’s food chain.  He also warned you that predators hunt day or night, even in nasty weather.  He told you that Dog could take care of herself.  You thought you knew better than him.  You refused to listen and learn.  Instead, you called the animal police.  They tried to take Dog away.

Old-Time Farmer almost lost his right-hand companion.  And dog almost lost her 200 acres of freedom and purpose.  She came close to being smothered to death in a two-room apartment, dressed in human clothes, and confined to a crate.  The only thing she’d ever guard there would be a lifeless, stuffed animal.

And speaking of dogs, you missed the broken and deflated quills under Lassie’s chin.  You also need to bury Old Yeller.  The last of the chickens are eating his eyes and he’s starting to smell.  And now you have been reported to the animal police.  And one more, tiny, little thing… the shovel handle is broken…

Thank goodness, we have family and friends that will lend us a shovel.  And if we’re in the hospital, they’ll even lend us a hand.  Otherwise, it’s expected that we’ll do our own digging.  Each of us are fighting life’s storms and battles, while working toward our own dreams.  No, they aren’t all the same.  They’re all different; just like us.   Heck, we often disagree with each other, too.  In fact, many of us have opposing political views and different religious beliefs.  Even if we worship similarly, we could still be sworn enemies at the polls.

We are all human.  For some of us, this commonality extends downward to the fellowship of homesteaders.  As homesteaders, we don’t have the time to argue over who’s a Minnesota Viking’s or Chicago Bear’s fan.  Instead, we find each other on acres of common ground.  But, don’t let that fool you.  There are still battles to be fought; especially, if you boast that you’re a Packer’s fan.

Recently, one such friend asked me, “If we live in heaven, why do we make it hell for ourselves?”.  At the time, I simply responded that it was a damn good question.  We could’ve been fighting about sports or politics in America.  However, we weren’t arguing.  We were working together.  For the moment, we were on the same page and our discussion was a local one.

Incidentally, I’ve coined such conversations as “Local-focals”.  This time, we were talking about food.  We try to hunt down what’s honest and wholesome.  And we chase the elusive “Loca-vore” life.  Our families keep fighting to grow much of our own food.  We may be few, but we’re not alone.

Some of our family and friends are very talented gardeners.  And one couple is light-years ahead of the rest.  More importantly, they are gentle stewards of Mother Earth.  They’ve made sacrifices that most Americans have never considered.  They have my admiration and my deepest respect.  We often share our homesteading ups and downs.  Many of which, we’ve created all by ourselves.

Meanwhile, Americans across the country are fighting different battles; many are matters of life and death.  For a little girl named Sophia, that includes cancer.  For folks along the Gulf Coast, it includes a hurricane.  For folks in Montana, it includes out-of-control wild fires.  For me, it’s been potato-bugs.  There have been losses.  More will follow.  Life is not fair.  It’s tragically unfair for Sophia.  Once again, far and wide, hopeful and heavenly dreams turn hellish.  Why?  The reasons are as varied as the dreams themselves.  Yet, the more challenging question is, “Why not”?

We Americans tend to forget that real life has always been a battle.  We’d know better, if we’d just open our eyes.  Mother Nature continues to set the example.  And regardless of who our ancestors were or what they did or did not do, their basic needs and dreams did not just happen.  In fact, many starved to death.  Countless were persecuted.  And others died never seeing a single dream come true.  No, life has never been fair.

The next time you scream, “It’s not fair!”, how about a reality check?  Get off your couch and go visit a children’s hospital.  Only in Hollywood are life’s battles ever sexy, with fair and happy endings.  Just ask Nicolas Cage.  He recently met Sophia.  In real life, the battles are ugly and unfair; hellish, in fact.

Sophia’s mother knows this first-hand.  Yet, she fights hard to stay focused on love, gratitude, and compassion for others.  Her hatred is directed at the cancer.  While this woman cares for a daughter whose body is dying, she’s moving mountains with her words of encouragement.  It’s not by riots and hateful rhetoric.

No, fellow Americans, our good health, intelligence, food, housing, and dreams are not guaranteed.  So, what is?  Our freedom to pursue them; at least that’s what we’re told.  And these days, few Americans actively pursue much of anything; let alone anything wholesome.  Even fewer truly pick their own food, much less battles.  Someone else with an ulterior motive does it for them.

Alas, some of us are determined to keep trying.  We know there will still be losses and failures.  So, we vow to learn more, try again, and help others along the way.  Why?  Americans have too much to lose if we don’t.  Besides, we’re human and have a lot in common.

For the past few weeks, I have been humbled by seven-year old, Sophia.  I have never met her or her family.  Aside from a shared Facebook post, there is no connection.  As I write, she fights for her every breath.  And as Sophia’s battle lingers, her mother fights back with faith and gratitude.  They are powerful weapons in her war against the monstrous evil of DIPG cancer.

My quick Google search indicates that DIPG kills more than 250 children every year.  That’s always one child, too many.  But, statistically it is labeled as “rare”.  Hence, I’m told the research funding is only 4%.

Sophia’s mother could be raging and blaming God or others at this moment.  Instead, she’s praying.  She could be making outrageous demands.  Instead, she’s asked for two things.  She asked the world for continued prayers.  And she asked those who read about Sophia to tell 7 others about DIPG.  Why?  More resources for research are needed.  It’s a matter of life and death.

No, I’m not a Pediatric Neuro-Oncologist.  I’m not a nurse, either.  I’m a wife, a mother, and a homesteader.  I don’t understand all the genetic and medical components of DIPG.  But, I do understand that cancer is an enemy to be fought.

I also understand that many enemies are only seasonal.  But sadly, there will always be those hell-bent on nothing less than complete destruction.  In which case, the faster and more we learn about them, the better.  That knowledge is crucial to both defensive and offensive efforts.

Here on the homestead, my summer battles pale in comparison to Sophia’s, the Gulf Coast’s, and Montana’s.  In fact, from a potato bug’s perspective, I’m even the enemy.  It’s only eating to survive, just like me.  Our goals are the same.  Yet, we’re still in a life and death competition with one another.

By the way, in case you’re a potato bug activist, they won this year.  No, I’m not happy about it and it wasn’t fair.  Why?  I was outnumbered.  But, if I’m being totally honest, I was also distracted.  Other things took priority.  At least, I don’t deny it.  And I’m not so foolish or ignorant as to throw tantrums that destroy both mine and your gardens because of them.

Instead, I’m grateful our family and friends are willing to share their hard-earned potatoes.  In fact, I’ve never had to ask.  They care enough to stay aware and offer.  Meanwhile, I vow not to give up.  I vow to work harder with my own, two hands.  I will still help others.  And I swear my life’s battles will continue to be fought with faith and gratitude.

 

Sophia: You have our prayers, plus 7.

 

Sundog Cross before 2017 BARLEY DARTS

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