Counterweight

I pulled into the driveway of my close friend’s small brick house one autumn afternoon, the air thick and humid, stuck in transition from summer heat. She wasn’t home, but her neighbors’ kids ran and yelled at one another in the front yard next door, enjoying their first few moments of freedom after school.

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I jiggled the doorknob and prayed it would open. It turned without hesitation—I exhaled and let myself in. I could have imagined it, but a strange hush filled the rooms as I determinedly made my way to her bedroom, contrasting with the intermittent boom firing in my chest.

The handgun lay exactly where she’d told me I might find it. My hands shook as I dismantled the weapon; I felt silly for this. You’ve killed a deer, for Pete’s sake, Bethany. This is just a handgun.

But I’ve never dismantled a handgun at my friend’s home and held it for safekeeping after she placed it next to her own head the night before, contemplating pulling the trigger.

One small handgun never felt so heavy in my hands.

It was just one moment in one afternoon, in response to one action taken in one moment on one evening, yet the impact of hearing Dickinson’s carriage wheels screeching to a halt has not yet faded. I will never know why my friend chose not to pull that trigger, but thank God she didn’t.

This week, the Ozarks were hit with a line of thunderstorms I’d categorize as a deluge. I waded to my car in my rain boots after a meeting and drove home at 7:30 in the darkness, listening to Iron & Wine’s Trapeze Singer.  Another dear soul I love deeply and had to release came to mind, and I literally could not breathe. This was a problem since I was in the process of operating a vehicle in the midst of a downpour. I nearly stopped driving and clutched my chest, tears falling. I’m sure I was making what my friend Tara calls “the ugly cry face,” but I couldn’t help it. For a few seconds, the grief of losing someone invaluable overwhelmed me.

282244_518566098082_1117807_nA few days ago while the sun rose and glistened across the horizon, I stood in my backyard, which is nestled deep in the woods, and I noticed the spindly spider webs connecting trees on the hillside waving and dancing in the wind, the dew on each silk thread reflecting light with every tiny movement. Dry leaves fell among them and rustled through the recently raked yard.

I thought about grabbing my camera and attempting to capture this beautiful moment, but I knew it would be in vain. Even the best photographs are poor mirrors of our experiences; life is meant to be lived.

As painful as it is to grieve, to remember, to work through and process trauma, to watch people suffer, and to suffer myself, I don’t want to stop living. I never want to lose the chance to experience beauty that can’t be captured.

Those brief, beautiful moments are enough to serve as a counterweight for me, and I’m grateful for that.

One of my favorite poems, which resonates with me, is “Thanks” by Yusef Komunyakaa.

“… What made me spot the monarch
writhing on a single thread
tied to a farmer’s gate,
holding the day together
like an unfingered guitar string
is beyond me.  Maybe the hills
grew weary &  leaned a little in the heat.
Again, thanks for the dud
hand grenade tossed at my feet
outside Chu Lai. I’m still
falling through its silence.
I don’t know why the intrepid
sun touched the bayonet
but I know that something
stood among those lost trees
& moved only when I moved.”

 

20 miles in the snow

When I started dating my husband, we lived almost two hours apart. We took turns visiting one another, sent each other countless emails, and racked up some serious minutes on our cell phone bills. We were in ooey gooey love.

I remember one night in particular, I’d had a very rough day emotionally. I talked to him while he was at a friend’s house, surrounded by people who were laughing and obviously having a great time together. I felt sad that I couldn’t be one of the people there with him, enjoying his presence and conversation. He consoled me over the phone, and we said goodnight as he reminded me that he’d be coming to my house in two short days for a visit.

Our footprints on Valentine’s Day weekend, 2011

In the middle of the night, he called me and told me he was a few minutes away from my house. I was giddy with excitement and overcome by his willingness to drive so far at such a late hour just to see me. When I told him I was taken aback by his willingness to go to such extremes to spend time with me, he told me the story of an elderly men he knows who once walked 20 miles on multiple occasions, through snow and icy wintry weather in the Ozarks, to sit next to his soon-to-be fiance in her parents’ living room and simply hold her hand.

“I’d travel any distance for you,” he assured me.

And he has. Even after I moved back to my hometown so we could be together, he’s never stopped pursuing my heart and has gone to extravagant lengths to prove his love to me, to convince me of his trustworthiness, and to bring a smile to my face. He has trudged through miles of emotional baggage. He’s labored countless hours while building our home and providing for us. He’s never given up on finding his way to me.

Right now, he is driving home after working in the woods all day, hours away, coming home to me rather than taking the easier path and spending the night near the work site.

I’m so grateful he’s never stopped seeking me.

 

I’ve become a locavore

Last night, as I told my friend Alison (who is an amazing pastry chef) that I’d just eaten trout from the White River, caught this summer, and mashed turnips from a local farmer’s land, she commented that I was a locavore.

I’d never heard the term before, so I did what all of us do when we hear new terms–Googled it. I found this definition:

A locavore is a person interested in eating food that is locally produced, not moved long distances to market. The locavore movement in the United States and elsewhere was spawned as interest in sustainability and Eco-consciousness became more prevalent.

This  is true about me now. However, the reasons for my locavore-ness might surprise you. I’m not what I’d consider an environmentalist. I don’t even recycle at home. I don’t visit the farmer’s market, carry my own grocery bags around, or eat all organic foods.

I live in the Ozarks, and I’m blessed to be surrounded by an abundance of wildlife that’s not just edible but also delicious and healthy, including deer and fish. I’m blessed with 43 acres of land, and the ability and opportunity to plant a large garden in the spring and turnips in the fall. I’m blessed to be with someone who is a wildlife biologist and knows which mushrooms are safe to eat and which aren’t and added some wild morels to our stir fry last week. Ever had wild sassafras tea? I hadn’t either until we moved here.

For me, it’s not about making a statement. It’s just about doing what makes sense. I enjoy hunting and fishing, and so does James. Not only do we spend time doing something we enjoy, but we also save hundreds of dollars every year which we’d otherwise spend on beef and fish from other states or even other countries. Trout are one of the most sustainable fish in our rivers, so instead of purchasing imported Swai from Vietnam in place of American catfish, I prefer to “live off the land” as often as I can. Living off the land also makes sense because it’s a healthier way to live. Deer, if processed properly, is an incredibly lean red meat. And who doesn’t know about the Omega-3 benefits from eating fish? Eating our own vegetables has benefits as well. Not only are they truly organic, but they’re also pretty cheap in comparison to store-bought or even farmer’s market vegetables, not to mention delicious.

This lifestyle wouldn’t work for everyone for all kinds of reasons, and I know that. It works for us, and that’s why we do it.

When I started dating James, I found a magnet at Barnes & Noble featuring a quote by Teddy Roosevelt.

“Do what you can, where you are, with what you have.”

So that’s what we do.

Trout fishing on the White River