Sybil Ludington Rides Again

Politics, Freedom and Farm Life

Category: Family

Facing the Quicksand

I’m sure everyone has had to do things they don’t especially want to do. For me lately it’s been a barn infested with raccoons. Oh yes, they are cute, they are adorable, very clever little bandits. Until you find they have killed one third of your flock of chickens like I did several years ago. I don’t want to hear the nonsense about them just being hungry. Not when you find your chicken dying having had a leg or wing ripped off, or just ripped open. Not when you find their corpses stashed in the upper part of the chicken house. No, it killed because it enjoyed it. And so I will tolerate no raccoons in my barn. It’s too close to the chickens. Not to mention they poop on the hay for the boys and they carry diseases. Nope, not happening.

So this year has been very bad for them, and me. I’m guessing at some point a mother gave birth to a bunch of them and they’ve all come back for a family reunion. So far they have chewed up the extension cord that my stock tank heater was plugged into. While it was plugged in. I’m still grateful it didn’t set my barn on fire. The tin I kept the boys treats in has been in use for years and the lid fit tight enough it was never a problem till this year. I don’t use it anymore. I’ve lost track of how many I’ve killed. But I’m very tired of having to clean up the “messes”. The last one I had to clean up was the worst. I just couldn’t make myself do it for various and sundry reasons. I finally ended up praying about it. It had to be done, I knew that or it would attract more animals. Believe it or not, an answer did come, and I was able to accomplish the necessary task fairly quickly. The sense of relief was amazing. Yes, I know it seems like a stupid thing, but not when you have to do it.

And it set me to thinking. How many other things in life do I try to do on my own willpower, or with only my own resources? Sometimes we just don’t have it in us to be nice to that person that really annoys us, or we don’t even like. Or to work on a task we are dreading but know we need to do it. I wonder, have I thought it was too lowly for G-d to want to help me, or to bother him about it? I know the only real strength, wisdom, courage, creativity or anything else comes from him. Perhaps I need to be quicker to ask for help with even things that seem lowly, or like I should be able to do them on my own. Because frankly? Some of those efforts don’t turn out so good.

I guess it depends on how we choose to spend our time. We all have time, sometimes it seems like not enough, but I think it’s a case of what I choose to “spend” it on. I can waste it on a multitude of things, or I can treat it like the gift it is, and spend it wisely.

This is from a meditation book I love called The Daily Stoic for March 15th.

The Present is All We Possess

Were you to live three thousand years, or even a countless multiple of that, keep in mind that no one ever loses a life other than the one they are living, and no one ever lives a life other than the one they are losing. The longest and the shortest life, then, amount to the same, for the present moment lasts the same for all and is all anyone possesses. No one can lose either the past or the future, for how can someone be deprived of what’s not theirs?”

MARCUS AURELIUS, MEDITATIONS, 2.14

Today, notice how often you look for more. That is, wanting the past to be more than what it was (different, better, still here, etc.) or wanting the future to unfold exactly as you expect (with hardly a thought as to how that might affect other people).

When you do this, you’re neglecting the present moment. Talk about ungrateful! There’s a saying—attributed to Bil Keane, the cartoonist—worth remembering: “Yesterday’s the past, tomorrow’s the future, but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.” This present is in our possession—but it has an expiration date, a quickly approaching one. If you enjoy all of it, it will be enough. It can last a whole lifetime.

And that brings me to facing quicksand. There are things, situations and events that happen in life. They are big, and they didn’t turn out the way we had hoped or wanted. We feel like they are so painful that there is a psychic tear or something in us. We heal, but we are not the same. Sometimes it’s the lose of a much loved family member. Sometimes it’s something career oriented, sometimes it relationship oriented. So what do we do with that? All of these are situations we don’t control really. We can never really control another person.

We just don’t want to let go. We think it will get better, just a rough patch, be patient, be kind. It’s only when the decomposition process begins we are finally forced to admit that it is done for. Stick a fork in it, it’s done. Let it go Jim, he’s dead.

They do what they do, but we can choose how we react. If we do choose to react. Sometimes we go on, get over it and go forward with the relationship, the job, the hobby or whatever. But sometimes? That tear is strong enough that we choose to alter our course in life, or our thoughts or opinions about the job, the person, the opportunity. I think of it as quicksand. If you’ve been caught in quicksand once and made it out, you know what it looks like when you see it. When you’re out walking, you aren’t afraid of it, you have an appreciation for what it can do to you and you just tip your hat and walk on by it. Because there is just not a good enough reason to examine it up close again. It’s not living life based on fear, but on how you chose to react to something that doesn’t work out well for you.

So, today is a present, may I spend it wisely and remember, G-d cares about the situations I face and that he can use those psychic tears in our souls. I don’t know that I want to “mend” or “heal” from some of them. I think I will just begin to see it as something of a quicksand avoidance system. And perhaps with that system in place? I will become even closer to who and what G-d created me to be in the first place. I may be a very flawed creature, but I’m a flawed creature that G-d has a plan for. I’ve discovered his plans for me are often better than the ones I make for myself. I shoot too low from time to time. My hopes and aspirations for myself are sometimes pittance to what he has planned. Because his? They are always on the mark.  I’m sure many have felt bruised and battered. I do. But I will keep going on with as much dignity as I can, learn life lessons and be the stronger for it.

A Lot Can Happen In 30 Seconds

A tornado hit my best friend’s farm the other night. I got a call from her a few minutes after it happened. She sounded pretty calm, it crossed my mind it could be the calm of someone partly in shock. I wanted to go down then, but there was still a storm going and she told me that too many power lines were down. I said I’d come the next day. She told me I’d never get through. I said I’ll come Wednesday, she said I might be able to make it then. She said they were all safe except one kitty who was missing. The roof was gone off the barn, windows were broken through the house, but they were safe and at her Mom’s which didn’t sustain much damage.

So today was the day, I went prepared with two big foil pans full of Cafe Rio Black Beans, a bag of mountain trail mix, 2-2 liter bottles of Coca Cola, a 2 liter of cherry Coca Cola (the only thing she asked for was that I bring 4 Coca colas for them) a gallon of Arizona Sweet Tea, a 2 liter of Diet Mountain Lightening, it’s like diet mountain dew and 20 pounds of ice. 2 packages of baby butt wipes, in refreshing cucumber scent since in addition to no power, they had no water. A box of assorted flavors of black tea, and since she sounded so down Tuesday night I asked her what I could bring her to give her a lift. She couldn’t think of anything. Luckily I knew just the thing, I got her a bag of Hersey’s kisses with caramel. One of her favorite things is caramel. While chocolate may not solve life’s problems, it does make them easier to bear.

When I finally got there she and her Mom were having a sandwich, I unloaded and went in. She offered me a cookie, one relative had brought sandwiches last night, someone else brought a box of cookies. Their Golden retriever Charlie came up to me with his zebra toy in his mouth excitedly telling me about what had happened. I listened and commiserated with him.

As I munched my chocolate chip cookie Celeste told me how it all went down.

First, a little of the layout. Celeste and her family live in one side of a earth contact duplex, her Mom lives in the other. The two share a common laundry room/mud room. Each has a separate entrance to the respective houses from a shared patio area that used to be covered with a charming arbor trellis. In the summer it would be lovely shade made of vibrant trumpet vines.

Bill, Celeste’s husband, had been outside the front door of Edith, his mother in law’s side. He saw the flashes of lightning and the power flashes, then he saw the tornado.

Now some of this is hitting me strongly because of the recent Systema class I took, and because I just finished Joe Mayberry’s first book, The Systema Warrior Guidebook. I’ll give you a link to the series of articles I’ve been doing for The Zelman Partisans at the end of this column.

Bill didn’t stand there and think, well, it’s a tornado, it may turn, they do that. He didn’t stand there and watch it to see what it would do, he read the writing on the wall and reacted instinctively. He spun and whipped back into the house and started yelling for them to get down. Celeste was at her Mom’s but they didn’t know where there 20ish son Jake was. Bill was yelling at Jake to get down, Edith was already on her knees and Bill put her all the way down and shielded her body with his. Edith was worried about her only pet and constant companion Molly, a little dog. Celeste put Molly under her, and shielded Molly with her body. Jake was in his house, he lives with Bill and Celeste when he’s in town. When Bill yelled at him, Jake didn’t say “Aww DAD, seriously?” He didn’t argue with his Dad, he didn’t look out the window to see if he could see it, he didn’t go out the door to check it out. Had he done any of those things? He’d be dead. This young man I’ve known since he was maybe six? He’d be gone.

Jake grabbed his Golden retriever Henry and threw him in the laundry room, then dived in after him. As he was diving into the laundry room, which has no windows the wind sucked the door closed after him. Estimates are within less than 2 seconds time from when Jake hit the laundry room to the door slamming shut. One thousand one, one thousand two. You’re dead. The wind came from the massive beam that flew through the kitchen window where Jake had been standing.

I absently reached down and rubbed Charlie some more as he continued to tell me his odyssey. Charlie had been missing for a while, he was finally found hiding in the garage, sitting on the golf cart that they use to putt around the farm. Everyday Celeste and the Goldens get on the golf cart and go down to their beautiful woods that Bill keeps like a park and the boys have a nice run through the fields. So I guess to Charlie? The golf cart is a “safe space”. It’s a bit disconcerting to realize a neutered Golden Retriever has more balls than most liberal snowflakes.

We finished our cookies and took the boys for a walk and she showed me the devastation. We fed the horses at the barn, all three were ok. One has a small scratch on his nose, that’s it. The roof was ripped off the barn while the horses were in it, and they are ok. Matt cat had reappeared yesterday and Celeste said in spite of the horror of all of this, after Matt cat came back she felt so much better. She said he was all sticky and covered in something, they have no idea what but by the time I saw him, he was sleek and shiny. Orange and white Paladin cat accompanied us, to supervise I suppose. She had managed to tie up the field fence around the pony pen with hay twine, so she had been able to let the horses out of their stalls after almost three days. So their brains were improving. We fed them and changed water in their buckets since the white van in the drive when I got there was the nice water man and water had been restored. Seems when water pipe is ripped out of the side of your house it creates lakes in your patio area. Huh. So fresh water all around for the horses and Matt cat.

Bill and some buddies from work were nailing a barn door back on to one end of the barn, that cut down on the wind tunnel, it’s a temporary fix, as is the barn roof, but if it works for a few weeks it’ll do.

About then Celeste’s cousin Charlie (not the dog, a really nice guy) got there with a big dish of fresh homemade chocolate chip cookies. I just laughed and said “Well, we are people of the South, when disaster strikes we show up with food and work gloves”. FEMA? BAH! The government? BAH, we bring food, tools and work gloves.

Bill came up on the golf cart when Charlie got there, I don’t think the chocolate chip cookies had anything to do with it though. I walk over to Bill and said “This will never happen again” and gave him the longest hug. I am SO grateful for this smart, savvy, brave man who does whatever he has to do to protect and take care of his family.

Then Celeste, Edith and I got to work. Celeste pointed to a debris field and said “salvage”. While she worked on salvage with her Mom cataloging what was saved and what was lost for insurance purposes I started treading beams of what used to be a storage shed. I found old photos of pets I vaguely remember Celeste having when we first met and became friends, they were fine. They were right next to ruined books, covered by a pair of men’s underwear. I found numerous marbles from Jake’s collection. I took great joy in giving them to Celeste and telling her, “no matter what you may think, or people may say, you have not lost them all”.

The field was littered with broken glass and boards loaded with nails, so the dogs had been penned up in the house. The cats were still on hand to supervise us though.

A set of intact china belonging to their daughter was found, but much of Bill’s Mom’s china was broken, although we did find some pieces. I found vases, some of Celeste’s beautiful silk flowers she makes lovely arrangements from, pieces of their nativity set, handmade quilts and afghans.

It was very sobering. I was chewing over what Bill said, “Sybil, a lot can happen in 30 seconds”. I searched through this family’s memories for things I could save for them, baby books? Bill’s letters from college, a vase that had been aunt somebody’s. Memories saved and treasured strewn over huge swathes of land decorated by uprooted trees and the neighbors clothes.

It was interesting, for the last few months, I don’t really know how long, I’ve felt my intuition and instinct have been jammed up. I don’t really know why, I think I’m getting a glimmer though. But as I mused on Bill’s words, I began to think about what is really important in life, what really matters. And about how we live our lives. And I began to try to let my instinct and intuition guide my searches. I found some amazing things intact. Celeste was overjoyed and shocked. I had been searching in a part of the debris field that had already been searched. By three people. So perhaps in trying to good for someone else, I am having some healing of some sort. Because the radar was working.

When Celeste and I got our turn with the golf cart we took the Goldens and went to the field again. Heartbreaking, trees over a couple hundred years old, laying on their sides with root balls exposed far taller than I am, they left holes 8 feet deep in the ground. Their woods will never be the same again. Not because they didn’t take care of it, but because something beyond their control whipped through, a lot can change in 30 seconds.

No matter how rooted we think we are in this life, no matter how rooted we think our lives are, they aren’t. Nothing on this earth is rooted beyond destruction. Only, only the things we have rooted in G-d are beyond the reach of this life. And a lot can change in 30 seconds. Live each day, the best we can, try not to borrow trouble, try to appreciate the things that bring us joy. Horses kisses? Oh yeah, a kitty on the lap, your dog nuzzling you? A friend on the phone, a random text message saying someone thought of you, coffee with a friend, good music and fabulous sunsets and sunrises. Enjoy it all, drink it in. A lot can happen in 30 seconds, and some of them may well be miracles.

Cutting Calves

The Warrior’s Path, Systema Part 1

The Warrior’s Path, Systema Part 2

The Warrior’s Path, Systema Part 3

 

Massive root ball leaving 8 foot hole

Damage near by