And so it was that for the night I could not sleep, the headache was too intense, even above the allergy medicine; and in the morning the "mold expert" came and delivered the news: This is bad. Your family should leave.
Quite in shock, I left the front door open and wandered, lost-like, down the dirt road. I stared out at the fields, overgrown with weeds and grasses. I couldn't compose a single thought. This happened before, right after our son was born-- our Colorado cabin was flooded with snow melt, and we had very little time to pack it all up and get out of mold's way. And now? Now again, as then again...
This little fuzzy fellow caught my eye, just then. (Rather, one quite like him-- "him" I borrowed from Google.) Inching along the dirt road, the brightest thing against the dust, heading toward a change all his own. I knelt down, taken by his earnest hurry; and in stooping, noticed more animals preparing for fall. The air was changing, cooling at long last. And so many were busy- busy, gathering and hunting, finding new homes-- and some, new bodies--knowing of this change just by some internal compass, and simply going along.
He's been something of a mentor for me in these last two days, as I struggle with the effects of a nasty allergic reaction to the mold that has taken over our furniture, our clothes, our home. Inching along, task by task, allowing for wee breakdowns here and there, but focusing steadily and even laughing where possible.
We left later that afternoon for the refuge of an old hippie commune (yes, in Southern Maryland) of all things, and immediately upon the road in front of us darted out a gorgeous young fox... I followed him for the second or two that I was allowed a glimpse, and into the brush he vanished; and I smiled, at long last feeling a strange peace with what is happening.
By all accounts September seems scripted to be a most difficult month. And here at the end of it, I too am eager for the last page to turn into the welcome cool of October. The mold problem we've been experiencing has exploded into something I never expected... a real problem, unaffected by the simple means I've been employing to address it, turning things furry and green all over the house, menacing me with the worst allergies I've experienced in my life. The intolerability of living in this place has stepped up so many notches, I'm aghast at the comedy of it. And so I walk outside, and while collecting rocks for my two-year-old (to "boom" into the river), I come upon this little reminder. "Keep the faith," says the Universe. "I heart you."
When we first moved to Maryland-- just this time, last year-- I was struck by an awful case of poison ivy. Next came the wasps, incensed that some silly humans had moved into their home. And then the spiders, which again have returned again in this seasonal turn, their babies draping numerous (and quite funny) attempts at grand webs all about the house. As winter came, so did the mice. And always the hunters, the sound of gunshot a constant echo... And in the earliest suggestion of spring came the wood roaches. Spring brought the wasps back with new fervor, and more poison ivy by the height of summer. (The snakes I didn't mind so much, though, somehow; they are the black kind, which eat the copper kind, which...well. Yes. I liked the black ones.) I understand fully how this place does not belong to me.
A couple of days ago we celebrated the Autumnal Equinox in a wonderful way, my child and I clamoring through tall, crispy corn to pull exquisite cobs with neat rows of dried yellow kernels. The papery husks we turned into a real Gent and Lady, remembering corn as a nourisher of life, and the many generations of humanity supported by its cultivation.
It's been a harsh living, here in this wilderness. Life here has certainly balanced my notions of a wondrous natural world-- the world I woke up to when I first landed in New Mexico, my eyes wide at the utter, breathless beauty and possibility of it. Now there is an added bite, sting and itch; an unkindness to guard against, to build stone shelters against and survive in the best way one can. I don't like this feeling. It too feels too extreme. On the evening of the Equinox, we climbed into our canoe and drifted upon a darkening river. I took this image without a flash, so it's a little shaky-- but apt. How do we live in an unbearable situation? We breathe, you could say; but even that's become a trick with all the mold around. The balance point between yearning and acceptance offers so little room for error. Shall I see this as repayment of some karmic debt? ...can I accept the responsibility of it completely? How can we sail in this darkening place, consumed as we are by such harsh beauty?
I've been wondering for a while now about how I might write about what's happening. Life has offered an opportunity to practice something of a tricky, beautiful balance, much like this double-cairn my husband created in the hills outside of Stowe, VT. Happily, this practice is continuous.
We'd longed to leave the oppressive late-summer heat behind, and with it all the strange revelations that presented themselves in recent weeks. It was time to put the job search on hold, leave behind the tensions at work and go north, to cooler weather and friendlier faces.
Just before our departure, though, we were hit with a double-whammy: my husband was offered a second interview for a position in Amsterdam, of all places; and I accidentally discovered something of a major mold problem in our house that needed attention immediately. So while my husband shuffled the details of our trip to fit in the details of yet another, I set about to laundering and bleaching and scrubbing, saving packing for last, and all within the last minute.
By some miracle, one suitcase alone was unaffected by the mold, so my husband would be "presentable" overseas. The rest we shoved into duffels, and those we shoved into the car, along with ourselves, for the long drive to New England.
We saw some lovely things, met some lovely new friends (who had been internet-only friends up 'til then!), and very slowly I healed from all the mold I'd inhaled during my frantic clean-up. At some point during our meander in the woods of Vermont, I felt myself exhale fully, for the first time in a long time. No question, the intrigue and excitement posed by this exotic second-interview in Amsterdam rode something like a fourth member of the family, crammed in the back with the rest of our things. Could we really do that-- could we move overseas? Yes. What would life be like? What adjustments would be needed? How would we manage? Questions were many, and could be entertained only so far. We couldn't really plan until an offer was official, and so a delicate balance was struck: investigate a little; draw back. Imagine a little; draw back. Fantasize a bit; draw back.
Details were too numerous and overwhelming, for either option ("job" or "no job"). Thinking on it one day as the interstate exits whizzed by, I blurted out: I can't breathe! Aha, I thought then. There's the message of all that mold, all that stagnancy-- living in expectation, we hold our breath; we suffer. There was nothing to do but drop the expectations, and accept everything. And so? For two weeks, we lived diligently on that precipice between fear and joy, overwhelm and openness, insecurity and love. And by the by, with such delicate practice, I felt myself enter into a place of determined not-knowing... and life became joyous. In the end, my husband left Amsterdam with 3 others to ponder a next-move that did not include an international address, and a fifth went on to celebrate a new career. And our family left behind our beloved roly-hilly, chilly, leaves-beginning-to-turn New England only to return to a moldy old cottage in the too-hot South that seems to long for a return to the nature that surrounds it. And I felt again the acute despair that is the cost of living in a place where one does not "belong". Yet, this time? This time, I rest easy. This time, my mind is expansive and I am comfortable with all my intolerable emotions (...and allergies). How? It seems that the exquisite, true practice of really not-knowing, of holding all possibilities equally, brought me to a light at the end of my turmoil. And how glorious it is to finally realize this place of balance is not a "decision" I should have made earlier, nor an admonishment for better moral behavior. Rather it seems peace is the reward for letting go, watching carefully... and being. Just fully, truly being. Luckily, this practice is continuous...
Oisin G'Dea's mama, wife of an Ruaphok Gaiscíoch; lover of the creative life, nomadship and stewardship; zen priest, gardener, artist, writer, herb-crafter, counselor and dreamer... I've lived in the inspiring high-desert, mountain-punctuated New Mexico & Colorado ~ misty redwood-coated coastlines of Northern California ~ strangely elegant riversides in Southern Maryland ~ snowy, busy Greater Boston ~ lovely and welcoming Hilltown Massachussetts.