cannot unsee

Me this morning, cutting strawberries: You ever notice how strawberries really look like human tongues?

Mark: What? No.

Me: They do! Look! (holds out strawberry)

Mark, shaking head, moving in the other direction: No. No, I don’t want to see. Once you see you cannot unsee.

Me: I know, right? But seriously, look…it looks just like a very red human tongue. (wiggles berry)

Mark, still refusing to look: Noooo! I don’t want to think about it! (shields his eyes as he leaves the kitchen)

I don’t know what he’s got against delicious disembodied tongues, frankly.

I’m sure that yellowing at the tip would not be a good sign if this was actually a tongue but since it’s not we can all just laugh about it and not spend any time obsessing about our actual tongues in the mirror today, right? Right.

stupid human tricks

Sometimes it seems like my life is just a series of things I do to amuse myself that end up backfiring and causing me extra work or costing me more money.

Case in point: today’s vegetable peeler incident.

I have Fridays off for a while – I won’t bore you with why (it involves needing to use up a bunch of vacation time at work because I can’t roll it over). Just know for the sake of this story that for the last six-ish Fridays I have been largely home alone, with only the dog for supervision. Which, being an only child, a latch-key kid, and a social pariah for most of the 90’s, you’d think I’d be used to functioning under those conditions.

It’s not that I can’t function when I’m home alone, so much as that I have a harder time filtering the near-constant stream of questionable ideas that my brain produces. Especially the ones that I think are funny. This isn’t even a case of ‘doing it for the ‘Gram’ or making TikToks or whatever…this is literally me just indulging the stupid shit that pops into my head because I know no one is around to judge me for it (not that my husband would judge me for most of the stuff I do…not out loud, anyway. He IS British, after all).

Today I was making a batch of soup ahead for tonight’s dinner. I had my dance mix going and was grooving along to Jamiroquai (I know that guy is problematic – I assuage my guilt by reminding myself that he’s probably only getting like half a penny from Spotify whenever I listen to one of his tracks. And yes, I know Spotify is problematic, too. I assuage THAT guilt by reminding myself that I get to pay the student rate rather than the full monthly subscription rate because I take one measly college course per semester. Also, good luck finding someone / something that ISN’T problematic these days, mmkay?), as I peeled some carrots. I peel the carrots over the garbage can because I hate cleaning up carrot peels off the counter, but my garbage can is also across the room from the counter where I chop stuff and there’s no flat surface around the garbage to put anything down on, so I was taking one carrot at a time over to the garbage can to peel it, then bringing it back to the counter and grabbing the next one.

That makes it sound like my kitchen is huge. My whole house is like 1100 square feet. The kitchen is like three paces across, max.

Anyway.

So, carrot peeling got tedious very quickly. As I finished the last carrot and was half-dancing back to the counter, the song I was jamming to reached a funky breakdown part. Carrot in one hand, vegetable peeler in the other, I did a little twirl, then flipped the vegetable peeler up in the air with every intention of catching it.

Now, it’s worth noting here that I’m actually pretty good at doing this. Flipping things up in the air and catching them, I mean. It’s a random stupid human trick that I’ve been doing for as long as I can remember, with basically anything that has a handle. I’ve done it with screwdrivers, hammers, paint brushes, all manner of kitchen utensils, pans, a curling iron twice (once it was on…had to up the stakes, apparently. While home alone. I am very stupid)…you get the picture. There is literally nothing else physical that I’m good at, so I’ve really honed this one craft, trust me. As a result, I almost always catch whatever I flip.

I’m sure you can see where this is going.

The vegetable peeler flipped end over end, almost up to the ceiling. I reached out with perfect timing, right on the apex beat of the song’s crescendo…and missed the handle by a hair’s breadth. I watched the bastarding thing hit the floor and, in seemingly slow motion, the blade popped out of the handle and skittered directly under the stove. I got down on the floor to try and fish it out with a wooden spoon, but the thing was so far in that I couldn’t even see it. It is officially lost to the Beneath.

So now I have to shop for a new vegetable peeler. I’ve had that one probably ten years. Have there been exciting new innovations in vegetable peeling technology in the last decade? I’m guess I’m about to find out.

Rest In Peels, Peely. You were a real one. Carrots won’t be the same without you.

annoying realities of being an adult with ADHD, #457

Some days I can’t read.

Like…technically I can…but there are days where anything more than two or three sentences in one go turn to smoke somewhere between my eyeballs and whatever half-rotten corner of my brain is responsible for word comprehension.

Part of it is definitely interest-based: I can read what I’m writing right now, I could pick up the novel I’ve been reading and be perfectly fine getting sucked into that for an hour. But I have this 11-page instruction manual that I’m supposed to be reading (and understanding) right now and it’s just not happening. It’s not even that my brain is making a specific choice in that regard, either. I’m not sitting here saying “I’ll read this but I won’t read that”. Rather, what happens is that I go in with every intention of reading the thing I’m supposed to be reading and my brain is like “hey, here’s something else we definitely need to do RIGHT NOW”, and that just keeps happening until it’s 4pm and all of a sudden I’ve done everything except the one thing I really needed to get done in my workday.

Urgency is a big thing for a lot of people with ADHD. Many of us joke about leaving important things until the absolute last minute as a strategy for success and that tends to sound kind of unhinged to neurotypicals but the thing is…it works. It SUCKS, don’t get me wrong. I definitely don’t enjoy sitting here knowing that I have six hours to do a thing and then waiting five and a half hours before I start it, but I’m so much more likely to get the thing done if I start it with half an hour left before the deadline than if I start it hours ahead. My brain literally needs that pressure, that sense of dread, to function some days. It sounds masochistic, I know. Trust me, most people with ADHD wish we didn’t operate this way as it causes us a lot of stress and aggravation…but sometimes you have to do the best with the maladaptive coping mechanisms you have, and some days putting things off until the last minute is the way that happens.

I sat down at my desk this morning with literally two things on my to-do list: deal with emails, and read this 11-page instruction manual with enough understanding that I could then put it to use in the software it’s for. The emails part was easy because it’s quick snippets of stuff with definite answers, and I get a nice little dopamine hit from each one that I deal with. But since I’ve finished emails, I’ve done the following, all in the interest of not reading aforementioned instruction manual:

  • clipped the dog’s toenails
  • made a snack
  • made tea
  • spent an unmentionable amount of time on Instagram (my dopamine peddler of choice)
  • downloaded a video editing app I don’t need and will probably never use
  • spent 20 minutes practicing German (another way I try to feed the dopamine beast)
  • had two fully unnecessary chats with coworkers
  • did some stretches
  • did a circuit of planks, push-ups, and various other upper body exercises with a resistance band (which, to be fair, the physical movement did at least settle me enough so that I could sit down and write this, so…winning?)
  • writing this blog post, which originally started out as an Instagram stories post but for once in my life I realized maybe writing on the blog rather than just word-vomiting on IG would be good practice for, you know, writing…which is a thing I claim to want to do more of

And probably other stuff that I don’t even realize, because that’s how ADHD works. See the shiny, chase the shiny, go back to the thing you were meant to be doing three hours later with sticks in your hair, missing one sock, a strange taste in your mouth, and the inability to think of sea anemones without shuddering in fear.

All because my brain decided it can’t read today.

But, soft! What fuckery through yonder window breaks? It is the west, and oh fuck me, who cares.

long weekends (a hypotenuse)

I have a theory about long weekends. I developed it just now while standing by the microwave waiting for my burrito to cook. I guess technically it’s not actually a theory but rather a hypothesis. Also, full disclosure, I DID just have to Google ‘scientific method steps’ to come up with the word hypothesis because I knew it started with ‘hyp’ but all my trash brain could come up with to fill in the rest of that blank was ‘hypotenuse’, for like the full 60 seconds that I was able to devote to trying to remember that word. Also I definitely just Googled ‘hypotenuse’ to make sure I spelled it correctly. My brain may be trash but I still have standards.

Anyway.

So, my hypotenuse is this:

Long weekends that involve a Friday off are FAR SUPERIOR to ones that involve a Monday off.

Think about it. What’s better, a normal week that converts to weekend a day early, or a weird week that doesn’t start when it should so you spend the whole week slightly out of whack? A week where the routine is already basically set and you just have to adjust to get stuff done one day earlier, or a week where you can’t wrap your brain around what fucking day it is because everything that SHOULD have gone on YESTERDAY is happening TODAY along with all the TODAY stuff and it’s all just very confusing?

Mondays get so much hate, but Tuesdays are already worse than Mondays to begin with, and then a long weekend like the one we just had essentially converts Tuesday to Monday, and that seems like too much shittery to pile into one workday. As much as I dislike Tuesdays, I don’t want them to have to bear that burden.

So that’s my hypoalgesia. My hippodrome. My hypotenuse. Now I’m off to try and figure out what work I can get away with putting off until later in the week when my brain finally catches up to my body in time and I know what day it is again.

Me bailing on today

the mechanic

A few weeks ago…ok, probably a month ago? I’m bad with how time works. My brain reads hours as minutes and weeks as days more often than not.

Let me start over.

A month or so ago, I’m pulling out of my driveway when my neighbor flags me down. Our individual driveways merge into one small road that goes out to the main road, so we see each others’ comings and goings fairly regularly. I roll down my car window and smile.

“Hi there! What’s up?”

“Did’ya know your tail lights are out?” His voice is gravelly from years of heavy smoking. He’s got about four visible teeth in his mouth, presumably due to the same.

“Oh no, are they?” I had no idea. I’m never in back of the car when it’s running, let alone braking.

“Both of ’em. The one in your back window is working, but it’s small. Better get those fixed before you get hit,” he says sternly.

“You bet. Thanks for the heads-up,” I say. We pull away and continue along down the drive.

Of course I instantly forget about the tail lights.

A week or so later, he flags me down again, this time headed into our driveway.

“Tail lights still out,” he mutters. His rheumy blue eyes betray that he’s more disappointed than he sounds. And he sounds pretty disappointed.

“I know it, I meant to stop in at AutoZone and get them fixed but I’ve been busy, and then I forgot, and…you know how it goes. But it’s on the list, I promise.”

He nods and waves me along. As we pull up to park, I say to my husband, “You watch. One of these days he’s going to get sick of my shit, come fix those tail lights, and not even tell us”. We chuckle and don’t think much more of it.

This afternoon I’m sitting here working and my cell phone rings. It comes up with the neighbor’s name so I answer it.

“Hello?”

“Hello. Your keys in your car?”

“Uhh, no. Why?”

“I was gonna come over and fix those tail lights.”

“Oh, I’ve got an appointment at the garage next week, I was going to have them do it then.”

“Not safe to drive around without ’em. I’ve got the bulbs and the tools. I’ll come do it for you real quick.” And then he hangs up.

Well. No sense arguing, I guess.

He’s maybe 15 years older than me, but he looks much older. Decades of heavy drink and smoke will do that to a body. He recently had part of his pancreas and stomach removed, spent six weeks in hospital, and was out mowing the lawn in ten-minute bursts within a week of coming home. Once he was feeling better and moving around more easily, he started in on trimming back the limbs along the shared part of the driveway because he wants to have it widened and re-graveled this fall. His flower garden is extensive and immaculate. The man truly doesn’t know how to be idle.

While he’s here fixing my tail lights, he notices that my tires were really worn down. I say I was kind of putting off replacing them because I’ll need to buy snow tires soon enough anyway and I don’t really want the expense of buying two sets at once. He leans down, brushes the dirt off the sidewall of a tire and reads out the size.

“195/65 R15. I think I have a set of used ones in that size at the shop.”

“Oh! That would be great, I’d be happy to buy them off you.”

“Used. They wouldn’t cost you anything. You couldn’t run them a whole season, you’d still have to buy a new set come spring. But they’d get you through inspection and last you ’til you get your snows put on.”

“Ok, well…let me know, I guess. My inspection appointment is Thursday.”

He nods slowly, then starts walking down the driveway, back toward his house.

“Hey, what do I owe you?”

He turns his head halfway back over his shoulder as he continues walking.

“Nothin’. It was just a couple lightbulbs. See ya.”

So I guess the moral of the story is, if you’re forgetful and not good at car maintenance, get yourself a mechanic neighbor with a lack of boundaries and a generous heart.

garden grace

Peace has always been hard to come by for me, and even more-so lately. Inside my head is forever a hot mess but the threat of the virus, the carelessness and abject stupidity of our government and its supporters, the constant march of time despite being stuck in this strange wormhole where we never seem to leave the house anymore and where work has become home has become workhomework, plus a whole bunch of other stuff…
…it’s been overwhelming to say the least.
It’s raining today, but not hard. Just a slow, soft, frankly kind of half-assed rain where the sun is partially out a lot of the time.
I went outside at one point mid-morning to get something out of the car. Stepping out into the cool, humid air, I expected to be swarmed with mosquitoes immediately (move to the woods, they said. It will be fun, they said). But, to my surprise, between the slight breath of breeze and the slow drip of rain, the mozzies weren’t chancing it.
Realizing this rare gift for what it was sent me back inside to get my gloves and pruners. I spent the next 45 minutes working my way through the garden: deadheading the big-leaf rhododendron and azalea, pruning back the small-leaf rhododendron, clipping dead wood and sassy bits of yellow loosestrife from where it had insistently emerged in the middle of hydrangea bushes, and chasing down the origins of some intrusive blackberry brambles (don’t worry, I kept plenty). I got to visit with my little garter snake friend who lives under a partially propped up brick near the damp tangled shade beneath the rhododendron.
Chipmunks chittered and birds hollered. Something with some girth to it slowly crunched along through the underbrush but I couldn’t get my eye on it to get an ID.
The whole time I was out there, I just WAS.
I was damp from rain.
I was stretching to reach branches and stooping to pull weeds.
I was moving with quiet and purpose, not having to think about every little thing I was doing or what I was missing inside or who wanted something from me.
And somewhere in the midst of all that, I found some much-needed, if fleeting, peace.

privilege

This is not a funny jokey ha-ha lol-times post, and I am not apologizing for it. It’s my blog and I’ll write what I want to. Kthanksbye.

I just finished watching this week’s episode of Finding Your Roots and I have a lot of feels. I’m a genealogy nerd and a sucker for life stories so the show tends to be my jam anyway…but the episodes where he traces the family trees of African Americans always really get to me. It’s a similar story almost every time: the tree gets to a certain point and then just stops because you inevitably get to a time when this person’s ancestors were no longer recorded in census data because they were basically considered livestock.

If you’re white, REALLY think about that for a minute. Think about what it might feel like to be told that your great-great-great grandparents were owned by someone else. OWNED. Someone looked at a fellow human being, passed judgement on their worth, placed a price on them, and exchanged them for currency. Imagine looking at another living, breathing, feeling, human being…and somehow constructing the belief in your head that you are so superior to them that you could BUY and SELL them, let alone force them to do your bidding, rape them, beat them, and keep them in appalling conditions. And this was the norm for centuries.

It’s deeply uncomfortable to think about these things, and that’s why so many people just…don’t. Being uncomfortable isn’t fun. It doesn’t give you a good story to tell, a cute meme, or a nice photo for Instagram. But discomfort is an excellent teacher. Lessons learned through a filter of discomfort are often the most impactful ones.

My ancestors were very likely not slave owners. I could tell myself a nice story about how it’s because they were all good people who knew right from wrong and valued every human life…but the hard truth is that likely a lot of it was down to the fact that most of them were dirt poor their whole lives themselves and buying slaves for their farms just plain wasn’t an option available to them. Even so, I have internalized racial biases inherited simply by so many generations of my ancestors being white. Even as a dirt-farmer in rural Vermont in the 1800’s, being white was still a shit-load easier than being anything other than white, and I have directly benefited from that privilege. I continue to benefit on a daily basis from a system filled with those same internalized racial biases. Life is just plain easier in many countries in this world if your skin is white.

I’m not waxing about any of this to earn any sort of credit or prove any self-righteous point. It just struck me how uncomfortable and ashamed I felt while hearing the stories of these peoples’ enslaved ancestors, and rather than run away from the discomfort, I decided to sit with it, to turn it over and look underneath it for a bit. Acknowledging to myself that I have and will continue to benefit from white privilege isn’t that difficult for me – I’ve felt it since long before I had the catch-phrase to define it. What is more difficult for me, and what I find myself subsequently leaning into tonight as I write this; is admitting it, fully and without couching, to anyone who chooses to read it. But I refuse to keep choosing my own comfort, and the comfort of those who I know don’t understand or agree with me, over the truth. This is the VERY least I can do as a white person in this fractured, racist world…but it’s all I’ve got for tonight.

it came from the closet

Have you ever been cleaning out your closet (or, let’s say, putting away giant piles of laundry that may have accumulated on the guest room bed ) and found a zip up hoodie that you hadn’t seen in maybe years and you can’t imagine why the hoodie got taken out of regular rotation because it’s not stained up or damaged in any way and is a totally acceptable color and seems really comfy so you run it through the wash and start wearing it again only to discover halfway through the second wearing that this is actually the zip up hoodie that refuses to stay zipped because the zipper is weirdly heavy in relation to the fabric of the hoodie and so the zipper keeps just working its way down every time you move and it all sort of starts coming back to you why you banished the zip up hoodie to the back of the closet (or the bottom of the laundry pile) to begin with?

This is not a metaphor. I am currently wearing that hoodie. This is the third time I’ve put it on since I washed it and I now know FULL WELL what it is capable of, but it has weaseled its way back into the rotation and now it will take an act of Congress (or the acquisition of more new clothing, which is similarly expensive and time consuming) for it to be banished back to the dark depths of the closet from whence it came.

That’s basically all that has happened in the two months since I last posted. That and homework for this business law class I’m taking, because what I definitely needed in my life was more reasons to sit in front of a laptop staring at a blank page and hating myself for being unable to just…start. I mean, hating is a harsh term, I guess. It’s more like a loathing. Loathing is a step down from hating, right? The internet says they’re synonyms but I’ve decided that’s fake news.

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The antagonist of our story

why do my neighbors yell so much?

– They are trying to compete with my dog for the coveted title of Yappiest Yapface of 2019.

– Their apartment is filled with spiders and they react to spiders the same way I do: yelling until someone comes and rescues me the spider.

– They believe that he who prays loudest gets the most attention from Imaginary Sky Daddy.

– They’re actually a bunch of Siamese cats inhabiting human bodies, and it’s always ten minutes past feeding time.

– They were brought up in a cave behind a giant, roaring waterfall and had to yell everything just to be heard. The habit stuck.

– They have Fatal Ear Freezing Syndrome and have to wear ear protection at all times to keep from dying of the dreaded Freeze-Ear.

– They’re professional yodelers. Really bad ones.

– Their family hobby is acting out that popular meme of the Orange County Choppers guys yelling at each other.

– They all have terrible spatial awareness and keep stubbing their toes on every corner and piece of furniture they come near.

– Their carpet is full of tacks.

– They’re from Massachusetts and they’re also drunk a lot (not that people from Massachusetts are any more predisposed to getting drunk than anyone from anywhere else in New England (there’s not much to do here). But, in my experience, many people from Massachusetts DO seem predisposed to high levels of…personal loudness. NOT ALL, but many).

ocmeme

I didn’t make this meme, but I have lived this too many times to count.

chasing ghosts

(Let’s just pretend I haven’t posted in six months, mmkay? Mmkay.)

I believe in ghosts. Living things are made of energy and I believe some of that energy can cling to places, objects, and even people. As long as you invest your own energy into carrying the memory of someone, they’re living on in you, even if only a tiny bit.

We’re all haunted, for better or worse, by the people we choose to put energy into remembering, then. I am haunted by my Nana on the daily – whether by seeing a bird or flower she liked, smelling a scent that I associate with her, or thinking of a specific time I was with her. My paternal grandmother, Marion, haunts me often by way of my love for fiber arts and textiles. She was an amazing knitter and seamstress, and had aspirations in her early days of becoming a fashion designer. When I see a beautifully made piece of clothing or I sit down to knit for a while, her energy is there in my hands, if not my head, making me itch to create.

Can you be haunted by someone you’ve never met, though? Someone you have no memories of to feed your own energy into? I think in some cases, yes. Maybe you visit a place where someone’s energy is still clinging for whatever reason, like in a classic ghost story of a grisly death or unrequited love, where someone’s spirit can’t leave. Their energy might not even be trapped there due to bad circumstances – maybe it was a place that person loved so deeply or made it so much their own that they willed part of themselves to stay there long after their body had left. Perhaps there’s an item that was so important to someone that it ended up absorbing some of their energy. Whether a cherished object or a utilitarian one, the things we surround ourselves with and use on a daily basis can certainly carry echoes of us far into the future, I believe.

If you’ve gotten this far you’re probably wondering why I’m even blathering on about this woo shit. It’s not my normal LOL-fest, after all (please read that with the intended sarcasm. On no plane of existence would I have the audacity to judge my own writing an actual LOL-fest. Apparently I DO exist in a space where I refer to things as LOL-fests now, though? I’m not sure I’m ok with that, but I’m quickly sliding headlong into a black hole of parenthetical digression and I need to back away from that particular event horizon before it sucks me in and disintegrates me. I’ve been watching a lot of documentaries about space lately, can you tell?).

Where was I? Oh yes, explaining why I’m talking about ghosty woo things.

So, the reason I bring all this up is that I’m being haunted. The spirit of one of my great-great-grandfathers, Harlan Godfrey, has been all up in my grill for quite some time now.

I’ve always been really interested in old stuff. I was never really great in history class in school because that involved a lot of memorizing names and dates, which put me right to sleep. But old STUFF? Stuff you can hold in your hands, or at least see in the context of the time in which it was created / used? That’s always been my jam. I wanted to be a paleontologist, then an archaeologist, for most of my childhood. Eventually I figured out that both professions a) spend a lot of time doing very physical work in some pretty inhospitable places (or worse, are in academia), and b) are not known for making big bucks. Or any bucks, really. Being physically uncomfortable and being poor have both always been pretty high on my Do Not Want list, so I eventually moved on to other dreams (none of which I have actually achieved either, but at least I learned to be more realistic? That’s a useful skill, surely). My love of old stuff and old stories never really went away, though. Eventually I started channeling it into genealogy. This was especially satisfying to me because it combined my love of old stuff with my ridiculously strong life-long urge to know other people’s business.

For a long time my genealogy fixes came from my Nana. She had lots of old pictures, lists of names and birth dates, and she knew where most of the bodies were buried. Literally. Her husband, my Bampa, was long gone at that point – he died when I was 11 – but she had stayed in close touch with that side of the family and had a lot of knowledge of their ancestry as well. My mom has always been interested in family history too, and with the advent of sites like Ancestry, being able to build an actual family tree and show her all kinds of cool stuff like census records and draft cards got her sort of sucked into my project as well. We ended up going to a family reunion together a few summers ago – NOT something that either of us would normally volunteer for, as we’re both card-carrying introverts – but several very elderly family members were going to be there and we were interested in seeing if they could confirm some details of some people for us. At the reunion my mom’s aunt Jan (my grandfather’s youngest sister) mentioned that she had some books I might be interested in, and that she’d get them to me eventually.

The following summer, Jan showed up one day with a smallish clear plastic tote bag – the kind that gift sets of shampoo and body wash come in. Rather than bottles, it was filled with small books.

“Here’s something to get you started. I want these back eventually, so please be careful with them,” she said, handing them over. I pulled out the first little book, smaller than most peoples’ cell phones today, and flipped open the cover.

‘Diary of Harlan F. Godfrey, 1910’

I went home that afternoon and lost at least three hours reading. The entries are all entirely utilitarian. Harlan was a subsistence farmer in turn-of-the-century Vermont. He used his diaries to keep track of weather, which heifers were bred and which ones were sold, when he bought feed and supplies and how much he paid for them, etc. Not exactly riveting reading for most people, but for whatever reason, I was hooked. I read through all the diaries over the space of a few days, then proceeded to bend the ear of every family member who showed even the remotest inkling of interest about them.

Jan’s words kept bouncing around in my head – “I want these back eventually”. But…but what if I some day had a burning need to know how much Harlan had paid for a hogshead of cracked corn at Chase’s store in Bradford in September of 1910? She wanted the books back, but I couldn’t handle the idea of losing that resource. I needed to preserve my hoard of the most banal treasure imaginable. So I decided to do the only reasonable thing, given the situation:

I decided to transcribe it. All six books worth.

It should be noted that, like with most plans I come up with, I decided I was going to do it and then immediately started four other things, which lead to three further projects, which in turn brought on an avalanche of roughly 17.6 million additional tasks. Before I knew it, a year had gone by. And then another one. That is 100% how I’ve made to to age 39, by the way. I swear the last time I looked, I was 27. This whole ‘time compressing as you age’ thing is pretty fucked, especially if your brain was pre-wired to have no real concept of time passing like mine is.

Anyway. Jan still hadn’t asked for the books back a couple weeks ago when the second anniversary of me having them whizzed past, but I know Jan and she is as dragon-esque with her hoard of precious old things as I am, so I know she won’t forget and I won’t be able to put her off for long once she decides she wants the books back.

So, last Friday when I had something else I really needed to be doing and thus was fair gagging for a procrastinatory escape hatch, I pulled up a Google doc, cracked open the first diary, and started transcribing. It’s going faster than I originally figured it would – it takes me about 30 minutes to get through a month of entries, provided I don’t run into any super scrawly bits that I have to try to decipher. Harlan’s penmanship was pretty decent but he wrote with a pencil, the point of which wears down periodically, making things harder and harder to read…to the point where I’ll find myself muttering ‘sharpen your god damned pencil, Gramps’ like he could somehow hear me from 110 years in the past. His grammar is also pretty suspect, which can be kind of amusing at times. He wrote very much how he would have spoken (must be genetic?), so there are entries like “Done choars this F”, meaning he did the chores this forenoon, and “drawed wood all day”, meaning not that he’s drawing pictures of wood but that he’s dragging it out of the forest with his horses. My favorite is that, almost every Sunday, his entry is “here to home”. Sometimes it’s accompanied by notes of people having visited that day, but mostly it’s just that one simple statement that sounds so…content. Like he’s taking a well-earned day off after a week of hard work. I mean, for all I know he spent his Sundays beating his kids and kicking the chickens…but I’d find it quite surprising if that were the case.

What used to be Harlan’s farm, and then his son Floyd (my great-grandfather)’s farm, is about a ten minute ride from where I live. It’s a spot I have been inexplicably drawn to for many years – since way before I knew which property my ancestors had owned, since before I stopped to look at the gravestones in the little cemetery tucked up on the side hill and noticed many names I recognized from my family tree. All that energy, all that love of place that three or four generations of my ancestors worked into the side of that hill… it’s like someone strikes a kind of cosmic tuning fork and the bits of those people that live on in my blood start singing that haunting note and I have to go back to harmonize for a little while.

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Mmm, so old. Very book.