Being completely alone requires some adjustment. Sound is the most immediate thing I notice. The only random sounds, within these walls, are those that I make myself. This is unfamiliar territory. As the eldest of six children, the sound of others was like the air we breath, it was just there. I lived alone briefly, in the city, for one month, as a first year student at university, holding down several jobs to pay my way. I spent little time home and alone. Then I married and lived with my first husband. Eventually the first child arrived, Luna, eight years later the second, Terra. When my first marriage ended I raised my daughters alone, and there was always activity and the sounds of children growing in the house. Eventually I married again, to Attila, and the children left, one by one. Attila and I have lived happily together since then, just the two of us.
Then we bought this little house in the city, intending to move here, together. Attila got a promotion at work the week following the closing date on the purchase of the little house in the city, and a move became untenable. Unable to find any real work, this past summer I began to travel to the little house in the city by myself. Attila could not come, as he works six days a week at the country house.
Being at the little house in the city is a curious experience. I miss Attila like crazy, the sound of him when he is home, and the knowledge that I will see him soon when he is at work. At the little house in the city there are no sounds but my own, for the first time in my life. I am here by myself, Attila is not coming home; I will see him next when I drive back to the country house. It all feels very strange.
To date, I experience a period of disorientation when adjusting to staying at the little house in the city by myself. I have to learn my own pace, there is no one else to adjust to, to accommodate, to consider. For the first time in my life, on these visits, I only have myself to consider. It is foreign territory, this total focus on self.
In an odd way, I feel less lonely staying here at the little house by myself. Attila and I speak via Skype each morning for a short time, and every evening for an hour or so. It isn’t the same as being with him, but it does place anchor points in the day. At the country house he is always legitimately busy, and doesn’t like to talk while he is busy. During our Skype conversations he uses the speaker phone, and chats while he putters in the kitchen.
At the little house in the city the neighbours speak to us, me when I am alone, and wave as we/I pass by in the car. I often meet a former neighbour at the store, she sold her house last year, and we chat, catching up on neighbourhood news and general pleasantries. Terra drops in to see me frequently, and is wonderful company. Occasionally I will visit Terra and Lares, and their menagerie, which is always fun. I can easily run to the store for a small item, such as milk. A trip into the city to the big box stores and thrift store shopping is an easy drive and easy on fuel economy. Here at the little house in the city there are shops at an easy distance, for walking or driving. All this to say that the immediate environment at the little house in the city is not hostile. It isn’t idyllic by any means, but it is not hostile. In saying this I realize that I do find the human environment at the country house hostile. I think this has much to do with the very affluent seasonal people, and the much poorer people who compete and scrabble to cater to their seasonal needs. The human landscape isn’t pretty, the natural landscape is beautiful, the contrast is striking.
I may be a little odd, but the arrogance of wealth, and expectation of its entitlement, puts me off. Slyness and false pleasantries abound, so that any smiling face becomes circumspect. The wealthy I come into contact with lead such sad lives, in my view. The video, Death Star Canteen has become one of my favourites, in a very dark and meaningful way. When I watch this I laugh until the tears run.
Eddie Izzard:But there must’ve been a Death Star canteen, yeah? There must’ve been a cafeteria downstairs, in between battles, where Darth Vader could just chill and go down:
Darth Vader: I will have the penne all’arrabiata.
Canteen Worker: You’ll need a tray.
Darth Vader: Do you know who I am?
Canteen Worker: Do you know who I am?
Darth Vader: This is not a game of who the fuck are you. For I am Vader, Darth Vader, Lord Vader. I can kill you with a single thought.
Canteen Worker: Well, you’ll still need a tray.
Darth Vader: No, I will not need a tray. I do not need a tray to kill you. I can kill you without a tray, with the power of the Force, which is strong within me. Even though I could kill you with a tray if I so wished. For I would hack at your neck with the thin bit until the blood flowed across the canteen floor.
Canteen Worker: No, the food is hot. You’ll need a tray to put the food on.
Darth Vader: Oh, I see the food is hot. I’m sorry. I did not realise. Ha ha ha ha … oh … tray for the … yes. I thought you were challenging me for the fight to the death.
Canteen Worker: A fight to the death? This a canteen, I work here.
Darth Vader: Yes, but I am Vader. I am Lord Vader? Everyone challenges me to a fight to the death. Lord Vader? Darth Vader, I’m Darth Vader. Sir Lord Vader? Sir Lord Darth Vader? Lord Darth Sir Lord, Lord Vader of Cheem? Sir Lord Baron Von Vader Ham? The Death Star. I run the Death Star.
Canteen Worker: What’s the Death Star?
Darth Vader: This is the Death Star! You’re in the Death Star! I run this star!
Canteen Worker: This is a star?
Darth Vader: This is a fucking star! I run it! I’m your boss.
Canteen Worker: You’re Mr. Stevens?
Darth Vader: No, I’m … who is Mr. Stevens?
Canteen Worker: He’s Head of Catering.
Darth Vader: I’m not Head of Catering! I am Vader, I can kill catering with a thought.
Canteen Worker: Wha’?
Darth Vader: I can kill you all! I can kill me with a thought! Just … fine, I’ll get a tray, fuck it. This one’s wet, and this one’s wet and this one’s wet. This one is wet. This one is wet. This one is wet. This one is wet. This one is wet. This one is wet. This one is wet. This one is wet. Did you dry these in a rainforest? Why, with the power of the Death Star do we not have a tray that is fucking dry? I do not … no, no, no! I was here first!
Other guy: You have to form a queue if you want food. Can I have, uh … ooo, penne all’arrabiata. That’d be very nice.
Darth Vader: No, no, no! Do you know who I am?
Other guy: That’s Jeff Vader that is!
Darth Vader: I am not Jeff Vader, I am Darth Vader.
Other guy: What? Jeff Vader runs the Death Star?
Darth Vader: No, Jeff … no, I run the Death Star.
Other guy: You Jeff Vader?
Darth Vader: No, I’m Darth Vader.
Other guy: Are you his brother? Could you get his autograph?
Darth Vader: I can’t get his … no, I’m Jeff … all right, I’m Jeff Vader! I’m Jeff Vader!
Other guy: Could I have your autograph?
Darth Vader: No, fuck off or I’ll kill you with a tray! Give me penne all’arrabiata or you shall die! And you and everyone in this canteen! Death by tray it shall be!
Canteen Worker: Do you want peas with that?
Darth Vader: Peas! You don’t have peas! You can’t put in right in … you can’t put …it doesn’t work with penne! Unless you push ’em up the penne tubes and then it’d be weird! Oh, all right! Put some peas in.
On the drive down to the little house in the city, I made a short stop at a country store where they sell fresh, local apples. I bought a half bushel of seconds, MacIntosh, which I intend to eat daily during my stay. When I arrived at the little house in the city on Monday, I spent the rest of the day shopping for food, cooking, and cleaning. Six of the apples were stewed up in a pot, with a little water, a few tablespoons of sugar, and wee bit of cinnamon. Dinner consisted of Giant Oven Pancake topped with stewed apples, and a large glass of cold milk. Yum!
Tuesday, yesterday, I tackled mowing the lawn. The grass had grown into a thick and luxurious carpet. It was much more difficult to cut than the last time I had done it. We have a double lot here at the little house in the city. I divided the lawn mowing job into four sections, two in the front yard and two in the back yard. It was tough going! After the first quarter in the front yard I was soaked with sweat and my head was pounding, clearly time for a break. I rested for an hour or so on the back porch, a cold drink beside me, until I finally felt ready to tackle another quarter. At the end of the day I had managed to mow three of the four quarters of the yard. The third section, in the back yard, was covered with fallen leaves, which I mowed over, and which made the job a lot more difficult.
The highlight of yesterday was jumping into the shower! What a luxury! The load of working hard physically is lightened, with the knowledge that a hot shower can be had when the job is done!
Before I could pop into the shower, I needed to put some kind of window treatment on the window to protect it from water. This is what I came up with.
I haven’t decided on a permanent window treatment yet, still looking for something lovely, such as the stained glass Bex suggested. I know the perfect treatment is out there waiting for me to find it! This solution will work well, on a temporary basis, it lifts easily to access the window for opening and closing. In addition, it provides some privacy, protects the window from shower moisture, and has insulation value! And it looks kinda neat too, I think.
Terra says she can’t shower here, because she has a thing for popping bubble wrap. Don’t pop my bubbles Terra!
Today I have a list of things that I must do. First on the list is to mow the last section of lawn. Second is to have another shower! Any excuse for a shower will do right now. The new bathroom is very appealing!
Later in the day I am meeting Lares in the city, where we are going to meet at a sellers home to look at a used freezer. If it works, and I buy it, Lares will bring it home for me. I have several errands to run in the city, so I will need to get there earlier in the day to accomplish these tasks. However, I do not enjoy planning out a time schedule. In fact I dread time schedules! I don’t think I realized that about myself until today, not really. Figuring out when to leave, where to be at particular times of day pinches me in all the wrong places. It is not something I enjoy doing, but I can be very good at it!
Attila and I have decided that it would be prudent to have a chest freezer here at the little house, to accommodate shopping for seasonal food in this area. Terra’s neighbour raised some grass fed cows and is selling the beef, so we are purchasing the meat this fall. A half a cow is a lot of meat, so we will need a large freezer to store it until we can transport it to the country house.
These are the cows that Terra and Lares saw grazing in the field beside their country house. These are the cows that got loose into Terra’s yard, and that she chased back into their own large and sunny pasture. They have been happy cows, leading happy lives. The meat from grass fed, pasture raised, cows is unlike any meat I have ever eaten from retail establishments. It is the only kind of beef we eat.
Last week we finished the very last package of frozen beef I received in payment for writing and publishing a family history book, for a local family near the country house, in 2009. I received the meat from a quarter of a cow, butchered and packaged for the freezer, in payment for my efforts. Those cows were grass fed and pasture raised. It was the best beef I had ever tasted, with very little fat. The fact that it took us from 2009 to 2013 to consume the meat from one quarter of a cow demonstrates how little red meat we eat. It was excellent meat from the first package to the last, with no deterioration in the quality.
Date: 2:00 PM EDT Wednesday 2 October 2013
Condition: Mainly Sunny
Pressure: 101.3 kPa
Visibility: 24 km
Wind: W 20 gust 30 km/h
“I was always taught to respect my elders and I’ve now reached the age when I don’t have anybody to respect.”
1896 – 1996
I so enjoyed this lovely post of your two worlds. I’ve never written about my sensations of living alone and you caught the essence so very well. Profiling of any ilk can be a slippery slope. The father I grew up with was a plumber that fixed peoples toilets and furnaces in the middle of the winter in the middle of the night. He never graduated from high school because his father yanked him out to work in the family business. My father’s hours were worse than a doctor’s because he was on call 24/7. The Daddy I grew up with had grime embedded in the whorls of his fingers. He was also a brave volunteer fireman and was on call 24/7 for that too. He nearly died in WWII. Yet, as the years passed and he saved his money and prudently invested… he became very wealthy as well as very generous. He provided me with a good education for which I can’t find fault, and then I was on my own. I don’t know many wealthy people, but I guess I’ve been lucky to know ones who are hard-working and kind and generous and good-hearted. Such a pity that hasn’t been your experience.
I don’t think the wealthy or the poor can all be painted with the same brush; people make a lot of generalized assumptions that, while often true, are just as often not. I hope.
Irene, your father sounds like a wonderful man!
I agree Stubblejumpin Gal. I would also like to say that a description is not the same as a generalized assumption.
Profiling: the recording and analysis of a person’s psychological and behavioral characteristics, so as to assess or predict their capabilities in a certain sphere or to assist in identifying a particular subgroup of people.
I guess I have been keeping a “record” of what it is like to live in a “Malibu” type area. And yes, I have been assessing what it is like to live in a seasonal “community” as a non-recreational, non-affluent resident. Why? Because it is impossible to ignore!
Living in a community where the local population is 600, and the affluent seasonal population is over 6000, is not for everyone, and it certainly isn’t for me. As you can imagine, all community efforts and funds are focused on the values and goals of the majority, who dominate the local government, do not live here, and support themselves from “foreign” monies, outside the local economy. The majority have few ties to the local economy or the local residents or even each other. In the world I value, not everything is measured by how much money one has, how palatial one’s recreational property is, or how powerful and influential one has become.