Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day

I remember Memorial Day in New Rochelle, NY, in 1989. I remember it because Maggie R., the 4-year-old in whose house I rented a room, was out on her tricycle on the patio singing some version of "Memorial, Memorial, Memorial Day" for about an hour directly under my window. And I loved hearing her down there, making up a song which meant less and less the more she repeated the words.

Twenty years later I'm here on this farm. And there's nothing like a four-day weekend (I took Friday off because we had a wedding to go to in the afternoon) that marks the beginning of summer to give one a chance to think over exactly what kind of life one has entered into.

My biggest frustration with life now is that I don't know quite what to do with myself. I feel like in some ways the things I enjoy don't quite match the place. Here's an example: today I went to Office Max "in town," meaning St. Cloud six miles away, to make photocopies of the poetry manuscript I'm sending out to contests. There were maybe five people in Office Max, and I enjoyed myself, looking at the computers and gadgets with one ear to the hum of the self-serve copier. Then I walked over to Barnes & Noble, where there were maybe 15 people. It was a very different scene from the crowded bookstore of the winter and spring. On this first day of summer the place was empty. "Everyone's at the cabin or a barbecue," I thought.

I had one more stop to make, Fleet Farm, for some liquid nails and the good deal they have on microwave popcorn. Well, the good people of Central Minnesota were not all at the cabin or a barbecue. Most of the town, it turned out, was at Fleet Farm! There were 13 registers open, and all of them busy. The parking lot was crowded and so was the store.

If you don't know about Fleet Farm, it's the big box version of a country general store. You can get Carhart work clothes and boots there, and farm equipment, and lawn equipment, and lawn furniture and grills, and hardware, plumbing equipment and paint and kitchen items, food (mostly snacks) and clothing (a whole area for big and tall). And the other half of the store is for fishing, hunting, camping and other sporting goods. It is, in other words, Minnesota in the summer.

I am the girl who would ride my bike to the Park Forest Aqua Center in the summer and sneak next door to the public library. And I now live in a place where everyone is up by 7 a.m. and out working until the sun STARTS to go down at 9 p.m. It was very nice weather for a bike ride this morning until about 11 a.m., when the wind kicked up in earnest. I was about ready for a bike ride at 1 p.m.

This weekend I got the annuals in the garden and got it mulched. I lay on the hammock and read my bon appetit magazine. I made two batches of rhubarb bars with rhubarb from my garden. I weeded the vegetables a bit. I marinated some meat and made delicious shish kabobs and a mango salad. I prepared four poetry manuscripts to send out. I visited with Steve's cousins, in for the wedding from Denver, and thank goodness for them or I would have been really bored. There was a great cookout at the Kluesners' house on the farm Saturday night and we welcomed Sophia home from college, and of course the wedding Friday night. I also spent some time miserable because I just don't know what to do with myself.

At lunch today Steve was telling me that it takes awhile to get used to this lifestyle. No one knew what to do with themselves when they first moved here. Everything about it takes time. For instance, the tree nursery. He didn't even think of it for the first 10 years or so. Then you plant these whips and you don't really have a tree for six or seven years. You try something one season, learn from it, and then try again the next year. It takes several winters and summers before you know what's going on or can get something going. He was telling me to hang in there.

I think if I were writing that would help. But it's very hard with a full-time job that really dominates my head-life. And I'm restless reading-- feeling like I should be out there doing something. Having to remind myself that people who are fishing are really not doing anything at all for hours on end! They're just doing nothing in a boat! And think of the people who sit inside and watch baseball games and golf on television!

And remember this from the last four days: the pheasant roosters, the blue-winged teal and his mate, the wood duck and her nine ducklings, the turtle in the yard and the way copious amounts of pee poured out of it when Steve picked it up and moved it, the sand hill cranes and the baby blue herons, both kinds of frog calls I can distinguish, the sparrows with their two nests in the webbing beneath the porch. And it hasn't yet been a year.

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