Friday, December 21, 2018

The Shortest Day, the Longest Year

Happy Solstice! Though we've had a good helping of snow already, today was warm here: 64 degrees, sunny and rainy by turns. The Handsome Communard and I signed out a car to go to the nearest public library for a couple of hours, so I could get some work done and he could do some health-related research (the internet's been unreliable at home lately). We stopped by the doctor's to get some paperwork straightened out, and by the grocery store for some snacks. We returned in plenty of time for dinner: soup and rolls, cauliflower and rice, chocolate chip cookies, homemade tempeh, and salad greens freshly harvested from our high tunnel. The near-full moon that lit our way home from the dining hall is hiding behind rainclouds now, but the night is so mild, there's no need to light the furnace. It's been a pretty good day, all things considered.

I'm coming up on my three-year anniversary at Twin Oaks. Life here has been full, challenging, rewarding, draining. It has never been even a little bit boring. I have loved life here, and at the same time, have wondered how I can make it more sustainable for myself. Maybe it's that I do too many different jobs; maybe it's that I get too emotionally involved with the community; maybe it's that I always want to do more things than I have time and energy for... regardless, I've found it increasingly difficult to maintain space for writing and other creative efforts in my head and schedule, especially this year. (As I review the past year's photos to find one or two to add to this post, I realize I haven't even used my camera much. Here, have one from March.)

Our garden under a blanket of snow.

2018 has been something else. Twin Oaks has been rocked by more than its usual share of turmoil, betrayal, controversy, and loss. In the words of John Lennon, Everybody had a hard year. And as I recently wrote in a letter to the community:

I'm emotionally spent. I began the year managing the rollercoaster that was my friend Jayel [a member of Twin Oaks]'s hospice, I lost a beloved aunt shortly after Jayel's death, and I came very close to losing the love of my life to a stroke at the end of July. Then an old friend of mine died suddenly at the end of October. In addition to caring for Jayel and my sweetheart, I've chosen to do some jobs here that have further drained my emotional resources. While y'all have been incredibly supportive (thank you!), I need a bigger break from Twin Oaks right now than our strained labor budget can provide. I need to spend time resting and focusing on my own needs, so I can come back with fresh energy for the work of community.

As you might read between the lines, I have a lot to be grateful for. Twin Oaks showered Jayel with love and care in her last weeks, and has had my back whenever I asked for help. The Handsome Communard did not die, and is recovering slowly (as one does from a stroke), on his way to better than ever. Twin Oaks' support allows him to focus on healing, rather than having to struggle to maintain a full-time job with a damaged brain. This is a wonderful and rare thing.

And with the community's care, I can afford to leave him here and take a long, much-needed break.

I miss my old home, back on what I frequently refer to as "the Best Coast." I've missed having the brainspace to write, or to even really focus on anything outside of community. I'm missing my niece's and nephews' growing up, my parents growing older, my grandmother's last precious years (she's 101). And I'm also restless. The past decade or so of my life I've moved on every 2-3 years, started over fresh, tried something new. I'm still drawn to that pattern, even as I'm drawn to life at Twin Oaks. Fortunately for me, the community has a built-in system to deal with this kind of wanderlust: for every 3 years you live here, you can drop membership for up to a year, and return without any sort of re-approval process, take on the same jobs or different jobs, even reclaim your old room if you want it. (I like my room.)

That's my plan. I am headed for Oregon in mid-January. I am going to rest, I am going to spend quality time with my family, I am going to write. I hope to have a book published by the end of 2019, but I am also working on being okay with myself if I don't. I am going to miss the Handsome Communard and Twin Oaks very much, and will look forward to returning to them at year's end.

So! If you live in the Pacific Northwest and you:
  • want to hang out with me in 2019
  • want to offer me a place to stay and write for a month or two (would you believe I already have 3 offers? my friends are so kind!)
  • want me to housesit for you while you travel
  • know of short-term or part-time work I can take on to help me pay living expenses
  • know of something that's happening in that area in 2019 that I absolutely cannot miss 
...then I would really like to hear from you!

*   *   *

A thing about writing (for me and I think probably most writers), is that when I'm feeling as low as I have this year, putting words together can feel like trying to build a graceful galloping horse out of Play-doh. When I feel like I have nothing worth saying, trying to say something anyway can be such a clumsy business. Even this blog post feels awkward and forced to me as I squish it into shape.

In the middle of November, out of the blue, I was handed an opportunity to write an article for a community-focused issue of Missio Dei journal. I was excited about that opportunity, but I was tired and distracted, and impostor syndrome had me by the throat. I ended up submitting something that I felt bore some similarities to a misshapen lump of Play-doh. Bless them, they published it anyway. If you're interested, you can read it here for the next several months.


  1. You know, if you're going all the way to Oregon, New Zealand is only a few miles further . . . .

  2. I feel lucky to live in Oregon so I can take advantage of this. :) Happy new year to you and the Handsome Communard!

    1. Thank you! I feel lucky that you live there, too. :)

  3. We have a guest the PSW :(. But we have a KITTEN! And she is so worth the trip south.

    1. I haven't ruled out a southward road trip. But perhaps we can also cross paths at the Guild!