essay, Feminism, Inspiration, Memoir, Nature, Rant, relationships, Womanhood

Farm Her: New Job, New Life

I work on a farm now, helping care for hundreds of chickens, plenty of pigs, a handful of sheep, a field of cows, and three goats that are up-for-grabs.

My boss, a young woman not much larger than I, is southern-girl-polite, patient with me as I learn the ropes, and incredibly tender with her livestock. She is teaching me how to use power tools, perform animal husbandry, and push a little past what I think I am physically capable of.

So much of what I thought I knew about the world is being called into question. Namely, what I am good for: sitting pretty? Moving things? Growing food? Personality traits and body parts have taken on a whole new meaning. I can’t fall back on pretty, no way, no how. I don’t even put on makeup before I start my day. (So, if you know me at all, you know that everything has changed.) The one thing I have going for me is that I don’t mind getting dirty.

What used to bother me so much about customer service was the shallowness, the trivialness. I have none of that now. My boss is stone-serious about what we do. Because what we do matters. Believe it or not, I’ve only had one or two jobs where that was the case (working for the National Park Service was one, working with incarcerated youth was another. My post office job, well that was somewhere on the border.)

Sure, I’m working a million-gazillion times harder than I ever did before (except for my time cutting down trees with CREC, whadddup!) but it’s a different kind of work. It isn’t so mentally exhausting (not nearly as mentally exhausting as writing!). I whip around on a four-wheeler all day from one task to another with nobody asking me to “smile more,” with nobody’s wonky energy to pick up and take home with me.

I’ve loved all my jobs (maybe that’s a stretch, I’ve had a lot of jobs) but I often regret that I haven’t stuck with one and, you know, Started Making The Big Bucks. But this job? This job is legitimately good for me. This job is wholesome. Educational. Amusing (those piglets!). Active. EMPOWERING. And don’t even get me started on Do You Know Where Your Food Comes From? (I’ll just say: whatever you’re paying for chicken, you’re not paying enough.)

I’ve been feeling like “farming found me” because although I did apply for this job, I also applied for about 10 different State Park jobs before getting turned down and, miraculously, getting a phone call from my new and lovely boss Jenni. And I’m glad I did get turned down by the parks because my exposure to nature at the farm is probably ten-fold what it would’ve been and I’m learning skill sets that will last a lifetime (I can’t believe I’ve made it to 31 without knowing some of these things!)

My values are being turned on their heads. Not all my values, but things like: what makes me a beautiful and valuable human being? What do I really contribute to this world? What does environmentalism really mean to me? And am I willing to act on those values? Where did that jerky come from? How was that animal treated? My former touching stones (shopping for clothes, getting dolled up, watching mindless movies) are eroding beneath me. It’s kind of scary, but exciting. This is just the start of something bigger, a drop in the bucket no doubt, but I am evolving and changing as a person and a woman and I am trying to get a foothold in this strange, brave, and REAL new world.

18645116_1751137028246715_9074084015937421312_n.jpg
Literally me. A photo Jenni snuck of me on one of my first days at work. She posted it on the farm’s Instagram account and titled it “Chicks putting out chicks” #farmher
Memoir, Poetry, Prose, Rant, relationships, Spirituality, Womanhood

Introversion (synonyms: introspection, self-absorbsion, timidness)

covergirl
photograph by Kirsten Lara Valenzuela \\ model Crystal Danielle Gasser

 

Introversion. You wonder if is innate or learned.  Is it because you were raised as an only child? Is it because of early childhood trauma or simply because the birds used to laugh at you outside your window? “Mocking” birds, you later learned. Is it because you were raised in a cabin, with just your father and a wood stove for company? What came first, the chicken or the egg? You remember pretending to be ill when childhood friends asked you to play. You felt you couldn’t tell them the truth: that you just wanted to be alone.

You are on Facebook, see a meme: I’m staying inside, it’s too people-y out there, click Like.

It’s like this: as introverts we are inclined to work the night shift, in fire towers, on the homestead. We are willing to stop and look at the moon for a long period of time. We go on to ponder it and everything else within a moment that drags on for a night and the whole next day. We take security personally and are often the guardians of our homes. You go, I’ll stay here. We can almost sense the need to be in a tower somewhere. You always thought Rapunzel really had it made: that long golden hair, impassioned lover, and that bedroom all to herself with few visitors. Twenty four hours is almost not enough time to yourself, you’ve noticed. You could take weeks, a month, of solitude. You need it! You want to scream— as if the world should hand it to you. Your boyfriend leaves to Africa for three weeks and you were just getting used to the new routine when he comes home.

You read Barbara Kingsolver’s Prodigal Summer and High Tide in Tucson.
You can feel someone coming from a mile away.
No one ever sneaks up on you, yet you are often startled.
You are “sensitive” and there’s no way around that. Ever.
You cannot date or live with other sensitive people.                                                                     ……Can’t one of you just go for a walk?

You take up writing.
You notice nuance everywhere.
You suck at wowing a room verbally.
You feel you are often interrupted or misunderstood.
You try to express yourself with as few words as possible.
You notice what everyone around you is doing, even feeling.
You’ve called in sick when really you just needed a “mental health day.”
You feel incredibly guilty, foolish, and weird for this.
You RSVP to parties then panic and not go.
Your one true desire is a full weekend at home.
You read Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.
You prefer the company of just 2-3 friends over dinner or lunch (preferred).
You are a powerhouse one-on-one.
You let few people in but to those you do you are loyal.
You prefer letter-writing as a means of staying connected.
You would never, ever do social things three days in a row.
You are well rested.
You have secrets.
You are sensual.
You like to be in bed.
(some boyfriends find this sexy,
others are appalled.)
You enjoy you.
You notice everybody
else seems to
need company.
You pity them.
You wonder
if you could
ever have a child,
if you should ever
have a child.
You prefer the
company of animals,
radio show hosts.
(But even they can
be too yappy.)

Poetry, Prose, Rant, Spirituality, Womanhood, Writing

But I Wouldn’t Wish It On Anyone

If I could
I would tornado
around this town

You’d be better off
inside the eye of me

It would be on a Monday
and I would hold no regard
for pleasantries
for once

My answer to all the trivial
questions I am asked on a typical
Monday over and over and over again
would be answered only by
teeth-shattering wind

and the loudest
goddamned silence
you have ever heard

that would be my wish,
with all due respect
to Mondays

In a rusty-visioned chaos
I would be unable to open my
mouth for fear of shattered
teeth and cinnamon lung
A perfect storm of sand and Zen
would overcome us all
and I would
selfishly be
grateful
for it

for Monday
would be quiet
for once

and no one would
be talking about
the weather

just stunned

Dreams, Feminism, Freedom, Inspiration, Poetry, Rant, Spirituality, Womanhood, Writing

To-Do

Fall apart, let loose into creation
Let my hair down, like a poet would do
Dance a sexy dance, for no one
Write off my obsessions and idols
Lower them until we see eye to eye
Kiss them
Open my mouth
and let love in

Get places on time
step by step, cover the basics
Clock in and clock out
with a smile
Allow myself to fall apart,
just enough behind the scenes that
I walk away with a notecard poem
safeguard–just barely–my reputation
my job title

Forgive others
as easily as I forgive myself
Let loose the reigns
and let em go wherever
the fuck they want

Seize the moment
(cross that out)
Avoid cliches

Fear blank pages
more than scribbles
For mistakes are a sign
of progress

Live in the knowledge
that things cannot be pretty
100% of the time
A concept not limited to
my face, my body
Understand that superficiality
is the sister to vanity
and to view yourself poorly
makes you just as vain as if
to  view yourself pretty
all of the time

So you
do the dishes
tidy up
Everything
Everywhere
All of the time

But most of all you
fall apart
into poetry
even if it means
scribbles and
ink on the fingers
or your face
even if it means
mussying up a
blank page
a blank page
that will roll around
in your purse
in your car
in your junk drawer
mussying up your life
like children or dirty jobs
in general

Fall apart for creation
for a full and happy life
Fall apart for a full heart
and just write

Inspiration, Memoir, Poetry, Rant, relationships, Spirituality, Womanhood, Writing

Next Best Move

They say you
can’t be helped if
you can’t help yourself

So I wet a rag and wipe
the dust from my long
wooden desk

I am alone

I wipe it with
a dry cloth too–
watermarks make
me nervous

I water the jade plant
and consider re-potting it
but the plant only makes it as far
as the foot of the screen door–
a low priority on my
list of things that
“help” my “self”

I pour a hot cup of coffee
but on a warm day it’s
somehow less satisfying

I glare a disgusted look
at my laptop, smeary
fingerprints on its
black hood

“Traitor”, I think..
I know your shtick and
you’re not as glamorous
as you think you are
you’re convoluted
too full, yet empty
will just make my
shoulders hunch over
and my jaw go slack
as I search search search
for spacenuggets of wisdom
and the sun struts across
the sky outside
and the moon prepares to
rise and all the while you’re
sputtering out slacktavism
and maybe a
good song
for me

I won’t waste my hours,
not today, too short
today I need more than
that so I choke you out,
shut you off,
think of how the Internet
has turned Art into a
popularity contest–
a snapping of the fingers
a dusting by with the eyes

Maybe I get sad cause I
never was too good at those
–popularity contests
too self-conscious, too bitter,
too insecure for contrived
showing-offs
not quite so carefree and
pretty as to be popular
But still

Do I try at becoming an
online sensation?
“Rub shoulders” with
the literary stars and musicians?
Start up an Instagram and
filter my life so pretty?
Arnt ya so pretty still?
Remind me.
Arnt ya still eating well?
Show me.
Shit, I aint got
time for that!

I think today I’ll just sit
at my kitchen table and
read the paper
write a book
blue ink and white sheets
you hold in your fingers
scribbles and all
visceral

Discoveries I find in
the quiet quilt of my
own mind
reflecting on the fact
that I am certainly not an image,
not my supposed doings
not my desperation
or just my smile
but feelings
and thoughts
and blood,
so much blood.
I am just white paper
and black or blue words,
and what is more mysterious
than that??

I’ve still got it
I’ve still got it
shit, I’ve still got it

Still bitter

Nobody likes to hear that shit

I believe I am
how I make
people
feel

Whether or not
I am saying
the exact
right
thing

Yeah.

I am responsible for
helping myself

You can’t be helped
if you can’t help
yourself

I am unattached to
your validation
(ahh! refreshing!)

Part II

On my drive to work
I turned down the
radio to say a prayer
it might have sounded
petty but it wasn’t,
it came strait from
my worn and hopeful
heart

“Lord…just be with me
…in general,” I sighed,
defeated

I sit at my kitchen table now
and work at shedding negative
energy from my shoulders to
my hip bones–always popping and distraught
to my bare feet and out through my toes
I sweep it all up from the floor
and I beg for solitude
for even when I am all alone
I sometimes feel crowded,
maybe it’s the internet thing
or the cohabiting thing or
the responsibility thing

Don’t let anyone preach to you,
including me
But ask yourself, what makes
you angry?
Now throw something at it.
Trash things you once thought
valuable
Hang onto things but
do not crowd them
If you smile too much, frown
you’re faking it
If you frown too much
take vitamin D and
think like Buddha

Don’t worry about stories
that go from a to b to c
Read a book that’s so good
you almost don’t get it
but don’ t think too hard
and you will get it
Make lists.
Make a meal for someone
then ask them to leave you
the shit alone
Instead of napping,
sleepwalk through your
house pondering your
father
your brothers
your boyfriend
your friends
and what they
really mean to you

Burn old bad poems
you wrote
smile at the flames
hands clasped in your
lap, eyes closed
release your short comings
and accept yourself

Don’t let anyone preach
to you
Including me
but turn off your computer
and do something awesome
Don’t tell anyone about it,
just make yourself proud

essay, Inspiration, Memoir, Rant, relationships, Writing

Between The Lines

It’s been a good hard rain for two, maybe three days. The sun still sets at five and the glorious Oregon landscape, such a popular destination these days, is all lost on us locals, given the rain, given the dark. Out back behind the bar we all stand together on a wooden picnic table underneath a white tent cover too small for all of the smoking people, and drinking people, and people trying so hard to get along (this is a good thing) all so we can share our misery together. Misery likes company, which is just another cliché but there is a reason why clichés are catchy, I figure. I sit at the end of the table, on the damp picnic table bench in my red vintage overcoat, the one people always call me Red Riding hood when I wear, but I laugh inside because it doesn’t have a hood, the jacket. A young man tells me, “You’re gonna get your jacket all wet” and reply that this is my Party Jacket.

photograph by Kirsten Lara Valenzuela
photograph by Kirsten Lara Valenzuela

Looking up at all the party people—the ponytailed women and ballcapped men with logos from their respective logging companies (there are two in town) silhouetted against the snowwhite tarp like the people are all on stage, I watch and I write sentences in my mind. My most gregarious local friend (the girl I came here to meet) is spouting off about NOTHING and we are all entranced, absolutely spellbound, or at least we are pretending to be. Some people know how to keep an audience, they’re comfortable with it. I am not one of those people. Which  is  why I write. I  watch  Becky  and  I  vow  to   write   about her—silhouetted  and  spouting  words and  beer fumes in the rain in winter.

My boyfriend would no doubt say that this is not miserable and that no one, or maybe not everyone, is experiencing misery as they inhale and sip inhale and sip and who knows what else. My boyfriend and I, although we are at the same place now, come from different sides of the partying spectrum. He, raised in perhaps the most wholesome home environment I have ever witnessed, no smoking, no drinking, no cursing, is a rebel against stability. Where I was exposed to, most likely, all-of-it, and so have a deep-rooted attachment to the life. Which is something that I regret most of the time but fall back into it like a comfort blanket…still young, still free (see unattached, no babies, no nothin’) I may as well “live it up” while I can. We are at the same place now but he has not seen the end result, I have. I say let’s get out while we still can he says let’s stay for another beer. I say Okay, for now.

But my boyfriend isn’t with me tonight. (The question begs, then why am I even out?) My girlfriends and I had a quick and serious discussion at the beginning of the night—at the Mexican restaurant that serves marguerites where we were seated by the restroom, which I always hate…saw as a bad omen, but vowed to let it not ruin my night. I choked down an enchilada regrettably ignoring (not so much) the scent of artificial bathroom cleaner and Mexican food shit. Anyways, we discussed and decided that we wouldn’t let any men buy us drinks…cause if we did we might actually have to talk to them. One older local gentleman (who always sends a shiver through me no matter what) had swooped in and paid for our Mexican dinner. Then he left but we wondered, what would he someday want in return? I personally would regret even having to speak with him again. But this is all beside the point now as he is inside the bar, and I am safe outside in the rain with the chubby, domesticated late-thirty-something logger men and my expressive Aries girlfriend who is making animated moves with her naturally tanned mexican hands and her golden beer is sloshing out of its glass in the streetlamp—like lightning.

A woman next to her begins to tell a love story…about how she and her husband met in California in 1974, they had a child after a year or two, they were young, he was wild, so she had to set him loose (this was her talking, not me) and after 5 years they reconciled and have been together ever since. Nobody says anything in response, she starts to go on, and I’m thinking of saying “And it’s been sweet love ever since!” I want to validate her, I like her love story, I want one too, I want good love karma, I enjoyed her story (she actually had something to say) and I want her to know but as I am thinking, the moment passes, it’s a little too loud, the jukebox speakers, the rain, the conversations happening to my right, to my left, she is at the end of the table and so I do not shout it out, though I nod vigorously and smile her way as she finishes saying “I have never loved a man so much, never wanted to. He is my soulmate.”

Maybe tonight I came to the bar solely for this message. It certainly wasn’t for the beer, the music, or the food. This is a unique message because while I have heard soulmate, I have rarely heard soulmate plus forty some odd years. I hear soulmate then I see a breakup and I hear soulmate again and so on. I am thirsty for the truth of soulmate and long lasting intimacy. I think I am capable of this but alas my track record does not reveal such.

The bar is not a highly inspiring place. But in-between the lines there is a surprising lot of beauty. Awkward conversations between strangers, tonight: a girl from Houston who just flew in yesterday and hasn’t even SEEN Oregon yet, given the rain, given the dark, but keeps saying how she loves it here, how pretty it is, and how she might move here someday. I am getting to know a little better the freckled girl from the mini-market, who I see on Saturday’s when I deliver the mail, when usually it’s just a passing quick hello.

Ultimately, I am scared off by the man who sends a shiver through me every time as I approach the bar for water and he comes in close, tells me I am special, and I stumble backward, afraid. My eyes dart around for my friends and they are lost in conversations with other locals they know so well. I eye the clock and its 11:30. “I have to go,” I tell the man. He fiends concern asking me if I am okay to drive and I hastily reply that I have been drinking shirley temples and  cokes all night, as to say, what a joke you are, you don’t even know me. And I’d like to keep it that way.

The moment underneath the glowing white tarp is gone. It is time for me to take what I have gotten, the sentences gathered in my mind like supplies with which to paint the blank pages back home, and leave. “Do you live close?” The man asks me. His shitick is that he used to be a correctional officer, which makes him kind of like a cop, which makes him good, which is not at all true. I shiver and stagger out of the bar, waving quickly to my friends, maybe looking scared as this man has resurrected the flight response inside of me.

Outside I am walking on the gravel driveway and alone, I look back at the bar to make sure no one has followed me. I climb into my car, and lock my doors. I am shivering and who knows if it’s the man or the Oregon chill. As I pull out of the lot I look at the bar again and in the faint yellow-lighted doorway is a man—a silhouette. I gun it all the way home. I take the night for what is was, not good, not bad. Just life. I vow to write. It’s all I have. I am a woman who speaks very little. You talk, you act…I will read between-the-lines and write about the night.

Poetry, Rant, Writing

Billboard People

Instead of regurgitating facts
why not digest the knowledge
Instead of claiming ideas as your own
shoving them down my throat
like capsules of lead
let them collect around you
and carefully handle the wisdom
grow to understand it
before you accept it
Everything has a label now
most of all, our own persons
are we not all tagged as this
or that?
Who am I if I do not
promote myself to you?
Do I exist at all?
Have I no life if
I am not on display?
Have I got no education if
I don’t wear it like a badge?
Have I got no past if
I don’t carry my albums
in my mouth
spilling them out
on the floor at every change
waiting for you to stop
talking so that I might
do my dance
How old are we anyway?
Still young enough for
Show and Tell?
Are my bones
my breath
my eyes
my body
all lost on you?
Is my presence
not enough?
I forgot my billboard
at home
You forgot my
address
my phone number
You forgot I’m
a person
not a number
Not friend
number 362
but a soul
a spirit
a woman
begging
authenticity
from
you