Last week it rained a pleasant, easy rain for nearly two days. Our living spaces and the walkways between were transformed thereafter into various shades of mud, dirt, and slippery. We waited several days before being able to drive on the dirt roads. But we didn’t really mind; rain is always welcome here.
One of the greatest joys and biggest struggles we’ve encountered since moving to the land is the exposure to the elements, especially as shelter is still in progress. We live both indoors and out most days and that makes the weather a constant companion. I’ve heard the term indoor-outdoor living framed in such a way as to make it seem glamorous. Maybe it is in the magazines, where mulch is plentiful, grass abounds, and there is central heating and cooling to escape into.
But this isn’t Better Homes and Gardens, y’all and I’m pretty sure their editors won’t be calling anytime soon, what with the composting toilets, rain-induced mud slicks, and calf fries I found in our cooler one morning last week. (There usually aren’t calf fries in our cooler. We got some organ meats when our neighbors butchered a cow and they made their way into our meat box as a little pre-coffee surprise.)
I think the most interesting part of this exposure to the elements is realizing how disconnected I’d always been to it. I grew up somewhat in the country, but never with this sort of raw connection to the surroundings. It is now intimately woven into our days, these shifts in weather and consequences of temperatures.
I wonder now what it would be like to live in Minnesota again without the buffers of electricity and central heating. I find Texas harsh and unpredictable with sweat-inducing heat one week and the blowing in of winter the next. The wind-shaken walls around us and the chill at our feet urge us on in the hauling and stacking of firewood here in Texas. We fill buckets with water to mitigate against frozen hoses and solar water pumps. Having a shelter with insulation this year is almost a shock of comfort and ease I’m not quite yet acclimated to.
So I wonder if I’d really find my home state as inhabitable in its raw form as it is in this memory of mine that so often betrays me. And would I long for the cedar and dynamics of this new home as I do the pine and familiarity of the old?
While we’re still long from truly living off the land, we are connected to it and made vulnerable along with it. The wind-swept soil and eroded roadways surround us as we again build shelter in the face of a coming winter which seems to have already blown in. Months of firewood and bundling little ones and keeping warm await us but we know that not long after the last fire will come the brutal heat of summer, which is almost unfathomable as I watch my breath and type with numbing fingers.
Maybe it is that vulnerability to the elements here that makes this place at once an antagonist and an ally in this back-to-the-land story of ours.