Call it fear of trying to paint snow or obsession, but on the first winter weather day of the season, I found myself painting the wheat fields in Eastern Washington.
This is the second version in progress – a barn that needs to be resized, details to be added. I’m hypnotized by the lines and soft colors but also by the magnitude of humanity’s fingerprint on this land that was mostly desert before modern irrigation allowed aquifers to be tapped. It is at once wild and the ultimate symbol of land tamed, of plenty being created in a country that somehow still has millions of people living with food insecurity.
The decaying barn was the only building interrupting the swaths of wheat in this stretch of field by the highway, but it reminded me how fleeting human accomplishments can be and how long our fingerprint can stay on the land – for good or for ill.
The weather has been mostly grey around here the last few weeks which pretty much reflects most of my December. A few days before Christmas, with the help of a lot of antibiotics, I began digging out from fever and pneumonia in earnest. The last few days the pain that’s radiated from my chest down my arm has diminished, and I got the only Christmas present I really wanted – to be able to hold a brush or pencil without pain. The results weren’t spectacular, but last night wasn’t about results. It was about having a process again.
I’ve been fighting off a nasty lung infection for the last two weeks, and it’s left me too weak to even pick up a brush.
The heat in my head has created some very odd dreams – Eiffel towers in the mountains, watching my lungs break apart in the wind. I’ve been keeping a sketchbook and pen on the couch to keep track of it all as Thing2 hovers next to me, nursing every little cough and sniffle..
Often when I’m driving around our sleepy town of 300+/- looking for something to paint, I’m struck the number of widows I see going about their chores, feeding livestock, fixing fences, and holding down the fort — often for decades after their husbands have passed away.
I don’t like to think of life without the Big Guy, but a few years ago he was laid up in the ICU for a week and that became a distinct probability. For a few days I wasn’t sure if he would be life-flighted to a larger hospital or would he even survive the flight.
I was scared. There was the emotional prospect of losing the one person who is able to put up with me for more than 24 hours a day, but there was also the fear that I wasn’t capable of managing life and parenting Thing1 by myself.
Thankfully the local hospital was able to treat him, and, after ten days of tears and crossing my fingers until they ached, the Big Guy came home, but I made up my mind that week that if disaster ever hit again, I was going to be ready to do more than just cross my fingers.
I’ve made job and attitude adjustments since then to try and keep my promise, but watching these other women tackle homesteading gives me courage.