Betty Duffy

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Photo Essay

I've been a bit of a downer lately. I don't think anyone made it out of my last post with their dignity intact, and my family is taking a beating lately too.

I've been thinking about a post at the Darwins' concerning Rural Ideal/ Suburban Compromise. Feeling apathetic about the rural ideal, because it's a lot of work, and sort of lonely. And I don't do much of the work, actually, which just makes you feel worse.

The actual labor I accomplish is in inverse proportion to the work that NEEDS to be accomplished (ie. the more there is to do, the less I do) because I feel overwhelmed, and work always yields more work. Such is also the case with relationships, with having a family, rearing children: the more you invest, the more you realize you need to invest. Still, things fall apart anyway.

I felt just as much, or even more, the mistress of my domain when I lived on a postage stamp lawn in town. It's easier to tame a postage stamp, for sure. When you make an investment in land, you sign away your right to control or subdue anything, unless you have some big machines, and people to steer them.

But maybe this is right where God wants us: out of control and ok with it, as opposed to out of control and anxious about it. I've been anxious.

People move to the country because it fills your life with metaphor and meaning, not to mention, beauty. Work has rewards. But always detach, open, surrender, invest--each being its own particular labor that feels at times more difficult than tilling the dirt or pulling out the broom again.

So here's a little pictoral quest for the reward, for the metaphor. (Caveat: I took most of these at my parents' house because it's easier to see the beauty in other people's work, and because my house is a falling-apart-mess.)

Self-portrait of the moment:

Early Peach:

Mean Bastard:

Spider in the Locust Bloom:

I don't subscribe, but I use this mug:

Bee on my wrist:

Bees in a box:

Empty cells:

Hot shit:

Ladder to ?:


Plug for my husband because he's really good at his work and he made these tables:

And this blanket box:

Evening sun:


Ellyn said...

Those are gorgeous pics!
(And I kind of wish I had a 'mean bastard' of my own. But our homeowners assoc. is high falutin' in those regards. Though that doesn't stop the fowl from several blocks over from cruising our street. More power to them.)

mrsdarwin said...

work always yields more work

So true, especially in regard to housekeeping with children. What kills me is that I clean, not to improve my surroundings, but to get them back to the way they were fifteen minutes ago before the tornado whirled through. And I clean, knowing that in fifteen more minutes the tornado will pass through again, and most of my work will be undone and fresh work will be created.

I guess it makes it more feasible to live in the present when the only seeming reward of work is the way it looks the moment it's done. Like making a bed -- it gives a nice start to the day, even if later on it will be jumped on and used as a laundry deposit and a cat bed.

Kate said...

re: your crossword mug, I think there's a mistake b/c I don't know any word that starts with two bees.

TS said...

I've been leery of "going country" in part because it's never enough. I loved my first house with its tiny yard because before that I'd lived in an apartment. Now my current house has a big yard but, after 10 years, seems small.

What really scared me off was how someone with 5 acres told me "don't even look at anything with less than 10 acres." (And, I'm thinking there are likely a lot of people out there with 10 acres who say, "don't think about getting less than 20 acres...").

Hope said...

Here I sit on 80 acres. Thankfully most of it is pasture. Sometimes dearest one and I drive past postage stamp size lots in town and envy how little time people need to spend on keeping that little piece of ground looking tamed. But I wouldn't trade the holes in our lawn, the old cars and such that litter the other part of the yard for the view of my neighbours over the fence. I like my privacy and here we have it.

mrsdarwin said...

I read a book review in today's WSJ about the desire to move around and find the ideal house, and the last line said (paraphrasing from memory): "If your American dream includes the ideal house, it's probably not the one you're living in now." I felt convicted, since that's almost always been true for me. (And I'm an "American House Dream" sorta gal.)

BettyDuffy said...

Ellyn, thanks!

Hope, holes in the yard, old cars (though it's the one I drive). Really, I wouldn't trade it either. I do love our house and where we are, but it's not the oasis I thought it might be.

I was surprised to discover that my anxiety followed me here from the city. I'm the common denominator, of course, and the anxiety mutates to meet the need.

Mrs. D, I think I might have read that article, or one like it by the author of "My misspent youth"? She's written a book--"I'll be happy when I live in that house."

Yes, I'm an American Dream homer too--though I think more of my dream has to do with your first comment--the work being done, perfection maintained--so I can sit on my butt where I belong (not that I never sit, but that I'd like to do it without guilt and apathy towards impending tornadoes).

Kate, what about bee bee gun?

TS, I think the right amount of land depends on how you intend to use it. Ours is mostly spent on running kids and a big garden, and we have room for a four-legged grass eating animal or two if we want it, so it feels like plenty.

Some people want woods, which we don't have, and with that, I think your friend is right. More is better. But you really can do a lot with a few acres.

deanna said...

Great pictures and commentary. We tried to live in a semi-rural area; it was a major fail. Moved to a townhouse to recover, now we live in a house with a lawn in front and no backyard to speak of. Works for us. In my dreams I live on Park Ave in NYC.

Anonymous said...

For some reason the sentence that struck my about this post was the one about "control." That's a big issue for me—mainly trying not to be too preoccupied by my lack thereof.

Have you ever read David Foster Wallace's 2005 commencement speech at Kenyon college? It's quite interesting on that topic. Here's a link.

It is not written from a Catholic or even Christian perspective, but it is nevertheless very insightful and includes, perhaps unintentionally, very important spiritual concepts.

I have read it several times, and the more I read it the more I recognize the voice of Ecclesiastes.


Emily J. said...

Kate, you are the crossword queen. Do abbreviations count: Bee bee que?

I saw that American Dream house review in WSJ yesterday, too, but didn't read it closely. Was the point that Americans think that there is a perfect place to live? Or that most people feel a little unsettled wherever they are, even if they think they have their dream house? Is it particularly American to think that there is a perfect place?

The kind of nice thing about having to move frequently is that you get to test drive different house styles and locations. I'm keeping track of the details I like and someday, someday...

I wonder if anyone has ever done a study to find out how many people are happiest in the kind of place they grew up and how many like the opposite better.

Emily J. said...

p.s. Would you like to live here: or here:

p.p.s. Mom wonders why you didn't clean off the tables and around the floor of her blanket box before taking photos.

JMB said...

My problem is that I travelled a lot during my teens and 20s and suffered tremendous homesickness for my Jersey way of life. I needed shopping malls, crowded stores, Brooklyn Italian and Statan Island accents, big hair, mom & pop Italian restaurants, and neighbors in ya face. So it seemed fitting that we chose a house 3 miles from where I spent my childhood.

I wouldn't even consider moving down towards where my husband grew up (in Jersey too, near the Shore) because I didn't want to learn my way around.

So I think that there is a myth about finding the "perfect house" and having the "perfect life". I do suffer from that to a degree. But for me, I would suffer even more if I had to leave my less than perfect house and move into the unknown.

BettyDuffy said...

Mike, that commencement speech made an impression on me too. Actually, referenced it here:
Not that my post had very much to do with what he was saying, but there was that quote:
"The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day.”
So true.

Emily, in answer to Mom's question, I didn't want to give anyone the impression that there is perfection and cleanliness in the wake of my children (or my mother).

And in answer to the hobbit house question: YES YES YES! How fun is that?

JMB, I think you made a good point about how much of what we want relates to what we are familiar with--at least for me. I could never envision my life on the west coast for instance, though I like to visit. I've lived in Rural Indiana for the majority of my life (A few parentheses aside), and I still want to be here. I suppose the interesting thing is living in rural Indiana as a grown-up, a homeowner, and a mother,as opposed to life here as a child, which was carefree and wonderful.

But no two days in the life are the same, and honestly, I'm so fickle that today I'm back in love with things that bothered me yesterday.

Anonymous said...

I LOVE these posts. I wasn't a regualr reader, but your "downer" writing makes me smile and relate and will insure that I check your blog many times each week to get to know you (and myself) better.