By The Skin of My Teeth

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The sump pumps churn in the basement alternating forceful, consistent blows of water from the concrete foundation, up and out of the house. Ten inches of snow melt seeped into the November soil followed by two days of consistent rain, asking too much of the ground below to hold. Freshly emptied water buckets under the dripping roof have been poured into the sink and returned to their kindred tile homes eager for new collection of earth which spills inside. I boot up and take a light to the basement examining the streams that press in from the walls, remembering salamanders dwelling there during flooded days of early spring when the water ceased to keep from the walls. One half brick and two lengths down in the corner on the north wall is a mental note I make to myself where water pours in. Under the chimney boiling up from the floor. Another hole high up above one sump pump where water cascades down the wall, three holes apparent building a stream, and one room of the basement ankle deep with too much water to assume there is only one culprit spot allowing in the flow.

The kitchen is filthy and frigid, my belly hungry with cold in my bones. I take a hot shower first so that the water will warm my fat allowing me a more pleasant mood to cook a hot egg and warm some bread in a pan which will warm me from the inside. My skin begins to cool the longer I cook, but thoughts of the hot yolk slipping down my throat are promising. There is still no insulation in my ceiling, and when the heat kicks on part of me sickens visualizing dollars I do not have evaporating out of the cracks and through the roof. I part the blanket separating the living room and kitchen to get under blankets and a heating pad to eat my steaming egg and rosemary bread.

There are moments on this farm where I feel like I have the help of the world, and this is a truth. It is also a truth that I am a single woman, and all of these trickles of water and slips of heat are burdens all my own. There is no one beside me hustling pastries, sewing goods, planting for spring, making soap, or caring for babies to make an income to put into the roof or the walls. My saviors are my two hands, my hurting legs which still allow me to move and walk, and a sense of capable self worth and gratitude which prevents me from wallowing in disbelief in the power to accomplish and provide for myself.

This is no plea for pity. It is a truthful analysis of my days. They are both sweet and tart. “Three things of joy, one of grief, that makes a living thing,” I keep this statement alive in my brain when I feel simultaneous gratitude and truthful pangs of struggle. I am alive. My shower curtain is weeping with hard water, stained from the family who lived here formerly, and never replaced new when I moved in. Lady bugs cluster together on the ceiling in the bathroom where there is still insulation and the steam of the hot water enlivens them again, and they start to skate around the ceiling resurrected. Who am I to kill them when they cluster for warmth as I would if there was a belly to my back? Seeing their shells meet I feel an affinity to them as though we are in this together. I thought to myself how to so many people this house is unsavory and gross with its many issues and the wildlife it tends to harbor. To me, it is my home.

“As long as you’re in no hurry, it doesn’t matter how much work your house needs,” a neighbor once said to me among a corn field. With certainty, there are many accomplishments that will come in slow time. In the meantime, it is imperative that I fight for each dollar in the jobs I take on because my time is worth it, my skills are worth it, and my heart is pure in every job I take on. If I make you food, it is with a yolk colored of the sun down, rich, and labored by a hen who mustered what she could with the dwindling light of the season. If I care for your baby, I give them my heart and my hands, and if my body was willing I would lend them my breast. When I give you my time, I give you my life. When I give you my word, I give you my heart.

Just now, I am supposing I simply wish the world knew. I wish that all of our employers, all of those in positions of power with dangling dollars, could see what our individual lives hold, and how hard we are working to put those dollars into warming our walls. And in so, perhaps those employers would limp their wrists and let down the dollar easy and say, “I see how you love my child. I see how cold your kitchen is. I see how your work is the earth’s work. I see how you nurture life among the land and life among our homes. I see you are trying. And because I am in this position of power, and because I honor what you give to my family and what you give to the world, and how you honor your word, I, too, will honor my word and will stay true and giving in the reciprocity you provide for my family and the sleep I collect because your hands and heart are at work in my home, in the heart of my child, in the heart of the earth wherein I am absent. I cease the negotiation of your time.”

But what more to do, than to speak the truth, illuminate what we can, and move on where our light is not seen. Praise be for strong friends who remind us of our capacity and our worth. Praise be that I live among these lady bug companions who remind me that all I ever wanted were simple walls that I would enliven into a Home, and land wherein I could be free. So be it that the sump pumps wanted one more workout before the coming again of spring rains, and so be it that the kitchen has yet to keep its warmth. I am grateful for all I have, for I have much more than I have not. I have life, freedom, mobility despite pain, a warm bed, myself and animals fed, my praise of days, loving friends and family, capable and hardworking hands, and a heart so full that it only continues to multiply in love for all the earth harbors.

I might be making it by the skin of my teeth, finding it difficult to ask for what I need, but I am asking for what I need, and by the skin of my teeth, I am making it and fully alive, a living thing.

Abby Juanita Rodriguez, November 2015.

If you walk through life with one eye wincing, consider all you may be missing.

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Basking in a now cool June evening, pale pink lengthy silk night gown, bedded chest of lace, and a long slit thigh. Feeling pretty to see my curves, and the way the silk follows. A stained glass lamp is stuffed between pillows to keep the light tall to see to write. Though as I scrawl my pen hand makes a still significant shadow.

The sump pumps are churning their fourth evening after massive amounts of rain. In the field and home this week I have begun to feel a farmer’s fear of rain, in recognition of its great capacity lying in the flood plain of the Rock River. The force of weather rang its reality like the winter day I learned wind is an equal force of fire, and oh, how not one can control her will.

Though still I sit with a good belly and chest of breath. Breathing is easier, comfort from within is True, and to feel so is hopeful and secure. How much more calming to breathe in and say, “Things are good and will be good,” than to meander in the mire.

To look myself in the mirror without judgement and see and say…

This is where you are.

Right now.

And it’s beautiful.

There comes a smile felt from the heart, knowing it is true. In that space of contentment we feel it is useless to pine for any moments that are not yet ours, draining from the moments that are ours. Right now.

Longing for future realities denies us of the ample abundance of current beauty. It can rob us of opportunities to learn, to recognize love as it is before us. What we commonly view as mundane or in the habit of normal, a commonplace act, is often a treasure in plain-sight. An every day event we have become accustomed to can be rippling with beauty should we turn our vision towards it.

The statement does not have to be, “I feel better now that the bathroom is blue,” with a swift motion to eradicate the the task from the list.

What lead the tincture to happen upon the wall was quite a glorious moment, a gem of the commonplace unfolding unto its own lush existence.

A hot and humid Sunday brought a dear friend to town for a visit. She wanted to see the farm, share friendship, and help me in any way she could. We decided against field work due to rain, but we would paint inside the house for certain.

She would do the cupboards in the kitchen and I would adorn the walls of the bathroom. Dividing and conquering, our work was cut out for us. We gathered our supplies, turned the music on, and began to transform the space.

The air was wet, looming with humidity, and we took our tops off. Our chests were free to catch the air below our breasts. I painted in an airy skirt with one side hiked up my thigh to further cool my skin. She was bare with laced underwear. Our breasts moved the most naturally and mine jostled to open the paint can. There was no cloth to limit the truth of their movement. I saw the curve of her back, A Woman’s Back, which in a glance sent me further appreciating her strength and my own. We were not too much, or not enough, but two whole women, creating atmosphere.

We went to one another’s painting zones checking on progress, commenting on different room feels. I was surrounded with sisterhood and freedom. I resounded gratitude that I left this activity to accomplish with a dear friend because it made the making of my home much more rich and memorable, texturing the hue a color specific to my eye.

And so considering our riches comes with a tuned lens. The wall blue, the chore complete. Or the wall is ripe with kinship of sisterhood, Good Love, Good Will, hope, inspired hands, and a refusal to hold back.

The desire to make a difference and the execution thereof lies in strokes upon the wall.

Should we desire for abundance we have yet to encounter, may we only steep ourselves in the present and begin to lose track of our primary source of pining as we see, with the glory before us, illuminating the otherwise monotonous, task-checking mindset we can fall prey to.

And that feels Life Full.

No need for more.

The greatest dangers lie in the resistance and lack of recognition of where we are. For in doing so, we demean our presence, the gift of our current days. We undermine what is to be gleaned on our path and we belittle the inherent knowledge of nature’s truth of change, becoming, and the cycles of our own seasons – how there is a time for everything, be it not now, or be it some other time.

If you walk through life with one eye wincing, consider all you may be missing.

Abby Rodriguez – June 16, 2015.

The Day I Planted Your Flowers

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Late in season, November,
And the first snow blessed each bulb finger pressed into
Deeper cool soil.
The fields quieted with fallen flakes
Broken only by the lamb’s cry,
Pleased and perhaps perplexed by his crown of white.
He gave a shake and laid the bridge of his face against my thigh.
The late farmer.
The novice in the field.
Thinking she had more Time
Until time itself had proved again the suspension of its own arms
To be finite.
My hands muddied with the mixture Of sweat, snow melt, and still sticky soils.
This one is for the dead,
This one is for woman unknown,
And this for my dear friend,
This one is for the breath of the Earth,
And she for the bees,
And this one is for the worm,
Another for celebration,
A hearty one for the inevitable whistle pig,
A bulb for marriage,
And she for ceremony,
And one for existence alone.
May you all stand for a world made more beautiful
By hands that dare to sow creation and hope into the soil, despite Ideal time, despite time at all.
May the Great Mother be happy to belly a new home for what is to Sprout with another Rotation.

Abby Rodriguez (November 2014)