For three weeks, I have lived here with the odor of dead rodent rotting in the wall. It died near my favorite chair in which I ordinarily sit and read. Outside, the peonies are blooming, large, and with a scent that is so sweet and pure. The blooms are so big that they fall over, too heavy to stand up and be seen, thus my justification for cutting a few and placing them in a vase. I notice that the smell of dead mouse is less annoying when cut peonies sit on my table next to the wall where something died.
A few minutes ago, I put on my gardening boots and walked out to the overgrown flowerbed, shears in hand. I had just cut two peonies with long stems, was stepping back onto the patio when I suddenly was aware that something was scampering up my pants leg. I let out an involuntary howl, the peonies and scissors flew from my hand as I madly pulled off the right boot and shook my right leg, hoping whatever it was would drop out. It did. A fat, furry mouse ran and hid between the gas containers I keep for use in the generator. It looked up at me, big brown eyes. I spoke to it, “You need to stay out of my house, little mouse! Please stay outside, as the cats will find you and kill you.” It turned and disappeared. Shaken, I went inside with the one peony left out of the two I cut. The other peony had fallen apart, its white petals strewn over the ground. I had seen it at its end of blossoming.
This is the way of being here. Mice everywhere, enjoying the cat food that is left out for Jigga and Push Kitty, who are too fat, who sometimes catch one of them. I feed these cats too well, for they are not hungry enough to chase mice. I keep thinking that one of these days I will find a way to finish this cabin, to seal it better, so that these creatures have no way to come indoors. However, at this point, it does not look as though this will happen anytime soon. I simply need to check my boots before wearing them. I must not leave cat food sitting in bowls on the floor. All the stuff sitting about in this cabin needs to be stored, but there is no storage, no cabinetry. As long as this place is as open to the outdoors as it is, having cabinets would make no difference anyway. The little critters would still find a way to live here, literally, underfoot.
One might never believe I was raised by two very clean people, who made certain our home was tight and free of invasive outdoor creatures. In spite of this, we still had mice, and once, even found a snake in the bathtub. Apparently, the snake came in through the drainpipe. Growing up in the tropics taught me to always check the bed sheets before crawling into bed, and to watch out for tarantulas and snakes on the front porch as we were always barefoot. Living here, I have become too relaxed, although I know I must still watch closely whenever I step outside. Now I must check my boots before slipping my feet into them!
I stopped eating bacon a few years ago when I learned that the bears love the scent of it. This spring, two yearlings are wandering around on the property. The pear and peach trees are loaded, and I am determined to keep the trees safe this year. It means going out to the garden daily. That may not even help. Fortunately, the dogs are aware of the bears and are doing their jobs of keeping the bears at bay. Still, it will be a true miracle if the trees survive. The bears no longer have enough area in which to roam and find food.
Another year has passed, and sometimes I wonder how much longer I can stay here, living so alone with the challenges I seemingly cannot afford. It is a beautiful spot. My idealism fades with each winter. With each passing season, the windows in this cabin become leakier. The stash of wood is down to less than half a rick, and the chimney needs cleaning, again. I talk to myself, saying, “You can do this. You can climb up on the roof and clean that chimney. You can make your way into the woods and cut the firewood you need. You can stack it, and carry it onto the porch. You do not need anyone. Just do it.” However, this year, I do not know about all that.
The rest of the world is teeming with people just trying to survive. I am one of them, albeit, I am probably more blessed in many ways than most. For one thing, I do not live with the paranoia that one might feel living in a city. There may be bears in the woods, mice in my boots, and brown recluses in the walls, yet I still sleep peacefully, once I actually fall asleep. Here, I wake up to the sound of birds. I can look out my windows and know what the weather is doing. The seasons come and go; I grow older, struggling with my aloneness, yet unwilling to subject myself to others that are not on the same “wavelength.” A part of me wishes I had loads of money so that I could build, paying a crew well to finish this cabin, and put in water lines so I could have running water. I would clear away all the dilapidated cabins and build new ones. Maybe a few I know who also struggle with survival could live here. The large garden area shared, we might also share meals. It was the original intent of this place called “Windemere,” to be a place of refuge in these changing times.
I cannot leave this place. I have left, at least once a year, to go to the city, only to be so glad to return, in spite of how isolated I end up. My passion to live diminishes with each passing year, yet I remain. Whenever I am around younger people, I wish I had something to offer them. They do not need anything from me, for they have the desire to be here, living each moment, unencumbered by thought.
The early morning has passed. There is still time, before the sun gets too high in the sky, to go to the garden and water the corn and green beans I planted yesterday. In the late afternoon, I can finish planting the last of the tomato seedlings. The corn, beans, zucchini, and yellow squash I planted last week are pushing up through the soil. There are no guarantees that any of these plants will live to bear fruit, but with each visit to the area, I admire the force that is innate to all the flourishing plant life. Seeing fresh-sprouted seedlings coming up makes me remember why I keep on living here. My dream is that one day somebody will arrive with whom I may share this way of living, even if it is only for a day or two. Dreaming is one thing. Actually living is another. Today is all I have. May it be enough, being present.