Sap, Whiskey and Wild, Wild Women

The sun is getting stronger, the sap is running, the children are muddy. On my walks in the morning I’m hearing the melting water run under the snow. It sounds like a hoard of insects ravishing some animal.

A few years ago we went in on an evaporater to make maple syrup with some of our favorite people. Sugaring season lasts a few weeks if were lucky. It usually starts with waist deep snow, taps and bucket set high in the maples and then by the end it’s all mud and we have to reach high for the buckets on the trees. Maybe it’s only a problem for me because I’m small. Most nights I’m up with my tribe of bold, irreverent girlfriends boiling away until midnight or later. Sometimes brave men join us. We make 15-20 gallons a year. Not much but enough for our families and gifts. Each gallon of syrup takes 40 gallons of sap. It’s a good wake up call and workout for our winter sleepy bodies.

We scrounge wood from our building projects throughout the year. As we split the wood we pay the kids a quarter if they find antique nails. Each piece of wood has a story, a memory. The kids look like muddy wildlings. They build jumps for bikes that are terribly dangerous. They go down hills and jumps inside 55 gallon barrels. We teach them how to split with a hatchet. We always enjoy the show. The kids can test the sap if they bring us wood. Finally, the kids go to bed and we buckle down to boil the barrels before it’s too late. We stoke the fire, fill the reservoir, strain the sap, draw the syrup, talk, hoot and holler. I try to drink sap and not too much whiskey because I have to get up in the morning early for  the farm, kids and to boil again. It’s a good way to say good bye to winter. Our thighs get burnt from hugging the stove but our butts get cold from the winter night.

This experience of writing for the future is female has been fascinating. I’ve been deeply uncomfortable. I’ve never put myself out there on the Internet. Privacy has been primary for me. Weekly, I’ve had to find courage to open up. Every post has felt like exposure, prickly fear. What I have found is that I love writing. It is such a treat for me to enter into this room in my mind. Every time I have hit publish on a post I’ve thought “ well thats shit! Oh well, I’m sick of it”. Yet, I have received letters and notes from old friends and new that have been moved by my words and inspired to write their own stories. I have been enriched by the other women writers in the future is female. What a gift to feel connection with others. This is my last post for this section. I’m unsure if I will continue. I have an ebb and flow in me that thrives on opening and connecting but also needs to live in solitude and  fill my well. I live deeply in the seasons. I thrive on change. How does one know when a season is expanding or contracting and find the bravest road? If you would like to stay in touch you can find me on Instagram. Reach out if you like. For the next few weeks you can find me in the sugarhouse.

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Source: https://instagram.com/coyoteboaz

Showing Up

It’s a radical act to be in the here and now. It’s a radical act to put down your phone and hold eye contact. The noise, the static, is constant. The mindfulness industry is blowing up. We ache to take a walk in the woods, to catch up around the dinner table with friends, to live like this is our one precious life.

Why do we not practice what we preach? What keeps us from unrolling our yoga mat, walking to the studio or barn, opening the journal, putting down the phone? We can have the best of intentions but one ounce less then we need. Self discipline is all well and good but what about the lingering brace inside of us. Is it self sabotage? Is it laziness? What’s that little hump that stops us from moving towards progress? Why do we resist our juiciest possible life?

I struggle with transitions. I struggle with the start. As soon as I have a rope in my hand and a horse in my vision, time stops. Once I start I can do this forever. Once I start.

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My mama cowgirl brain is divided into so many conflicting responsibilities.. when are the taxes due, is that the nurse calling from school or the principle, who is in trouble, what’s for dinner, have I ordered the seeds, why can't I stay in bed and eat chocolate, the laundry machine is broken, the sap buckets are overflowing, the cows in heat, I have to call the artificial inseminater!!? These are all important tasks but I need to learn to shelve them to be present with my creative work. I need to set solid boundaries with the busyness of life. I also need to learn to trust myself that the work will be done and take the brace out of completing them. I don’t want to be a spastic squirrel run over while gathering nuts.

I eliminate external excuses and complications. Then I only have to got to war with the internal excuses. And I do. Everyday.

The main tactic I use to pursue my work is my calendar. On Sunday I have a calendar meeting with the family. I schedule my workouts with girlfriends. I will show up for them more easily than for myself. I move every day. I need to sweat to have focus. I schedule connection time with my man. I ask my family what foods they are craving for the week menu plan, it might shift day to day but it gives us options and the kids agency in their food choices. I make sure everything is written down.  I schedule in all my horse training and lessons six months to a year in advance. I commit to my teacher and I always show up regardless of weather. I do chores at sunrise and sundown. I need to block myself in to a place in which I have no excuses. Otherwise the bullshit excuses that I can come up with would win a creativity award.

I make appointments with my goals. I have partners, mentors and friends that hold me accountable. I prepay. I eliminate exit routes. Daily, I battle internal resistance but externally I have already committed. If I don’t schedule, I won’t show up for my life. My spiritual nature is spontaneous, whimsical but I can’t give myself the luxury of a good life and follow through unless it is premeditated. Everyday, every week doesn’t work out. Sometimes everything goes wrong and the plans go out the window. But my intention is clear and my plan is thought out. I always have the next Sunday to make a better plan. I fail, I learn. I fail worse, I see it, I learn, adjust.

Observe, Remember, Compare.

Alexander Graham Bell

If I rely on the muse of creativity to strike me I will never create. I need to step into the arena, create a space for the opportunity of magic to happen. I need to set her place at the table. In the morning I drink my coffee, put my hair in their braids and my knife on my belt. I'm determined to be ahead of my internal resistance.

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Help! It's Valentines Day!

Bear with me. It is Valentines Day.
It also the middle of February in New England and I'm about done with the sludge of winter. Valentines Day is saccharin and annoying even when we have reached all the society driven milestones of successful love.

There is one thing about Valentines Day that I desperately love... making cards. I love the dumb, lacy doilies, glitter, metallic pompoms and the googlie eyes. I’m at my wits end in February all of my goodness is worn out from the New Year. I have no problem allowing the dining room table to be covered in the chaos of making. We play Otis Redding love songs. We stay up late with our glue sticks and our metallic pipe cleaners. We wake up early and add finishing touches. I don't even care what they look like at the end as long as they make someone smile. Each kid makes a special one for each of their friends depending on what animal or sport they love. We poop glitter the weeks before Valentines Day. It gets me through. Who needs roses and chocolate? Okay fine, I want that too…. and diamonds.

This weeks theme is “help”.... not my strong point. I'm terrible at asking for help. I'm learning how to help others when I can and say no when I can't, how to manage my internal resources to sustain the long slow burn of being a giver and care taker.

I'm not sure if its my ego, my rural New England nature or my arrogance but I am hollowed by the act of reaching out, humbling myself, revealing weakness or asking for favors. I feel safer birthing alone where I can focus on MY truth, MY body, without eyes watching me. I won't be owned. I just get on with it.

My husband is my warrior, my best friend. But today, I’m going to zoom in on my girlfriends. I have a vast arsenal of friends. Yes, Arsenal. They are powerful. They are a tribe of remarkable, irreverent, bold, all wrong and all right women. There is nothing they can’t accomplish. They are bad ass bitches, they are soft and wise and vulnerable. I have cultivated these friendships throughout my life and I have many friends that will be life long.

These women carry me when I can’t crawl. These are the women that remind me who I am when I forget. Who make me piss myself laughing. Who tile a floor with me fueled by whiskey and hip hop until 5am. When I lose perspective they redirect me back to truth. When I can’t stand my kids, my friends love them and give me new tools of connection with them. When we speed walk we solve all the problems of the world. When I want to run away from myself, they drive me to the ocean (or HomeGoods ;)).

 

Female friendship is one of the greatest treasures of being a woman. How lovely that we can choose each other. There is no contract that binds us together, just a daily choice.

I hope you find connection this Valentines Day with a lover, a friend, a child, a puppy or in your solitude.

xo Beth-Marie

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Progression

My greatest desire as a child was to be a Mother and Wife and have a farm filled with animals. That sounds embarrassing to admit. It is so provincial, base, primitive. But its the truth. I'm deeply grateful to be living my cowgirl dream. But damn, its not all I thought it would be.

I never factored in the daily smashing of ice in the water tank for dozens of livestock. Living off grid means no heater to keep the water from freezing. What young idealist couple can understand that before they live it?

I never factored in that I wouldn't be able to save my beloved milk cow that slipped, fell and froze into the ground this January. I never factored that our heat lamps, blankets and warm tears would not be able to warm her out of a coma. We would have to put her down ourselves because the ground was too frozen to bury her body if she was put down by the vet's euthanasia.

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I didn't factor in how much these cherub children would fight with each other and never put their dirty socks in the laundry. That my kids would experience darkness and sorrow that I couldn't heal. I never factored in that a meeting a marriage’s needs takes much more intention then meeting my children’s needs. Children scream and yell for what they want while a marriage can silently wither and die.    

Some days the daily barrage of the farm and motherhood chip away at my sanity and sense of dignity. Even though it is precisely what I have desired. I do not want to be ungrateful. But living the dream looks really different on the outside then the inside. Sometimes progress looks like showing up even when you want to hide. Sometimes hiding and shutting down is progress. Sometimes radical progression is simply not allowing motherhood to annihilate your dreams.

When teaching a horse. It’s important for the session to have a beginning, middle and a very clear end with a positive shift in the direction of the intended lesson learned. If you rush into another session too quickly the horse will become overwhelmed, confused and insecure about the point of it all. A horse needs a moment or 10 to digest what has happened and integrate the positive shift neurologically. If you skip that part, the horse can become fractious and uninterested in your next offer. If we offer our horses a positive experience and then offer total release by tying them to a rail or just taking all predatory energy off of them by looking away from them and respecting their bubble, the horse will integrate and be ready for your next offer. Kids need recess to be able to learn. Progress can’t happen without release. We need to shift down, to be still, to find silence in order to find emotional collection and mental fitness in our next try.

I'm looking for that downshift. I'm looking for moments of the centered, settled silence. I'm looking to give myself and marriage more of the sweet deal I offer my children and horses.

I’ve acquired a ton of skills and careers over these 37 years but none of them look very fabulous in the college alumni newsletter. Sometimes, I feel bad about that. I should have been a better feminist and powered into a power suit career instead of being a commercial fisherman in Alaska, cleaning toilets for the rich, second home owners, slinging drinks for pushy tourists, mucking stalls and riding colts no one else will ride. So far, a mainstream career doesn't suit me. I’m open to change. I love being a beginner. I look into grad programs every other year and then realize, nope, I don't want it.

I was always a women with loads of ambition. My ambition wasn't modeled in our culture. I wasn't ambitious for wealth, power, status or an amazing career.  I’m ambitious for a juicy, life long marriage, for life long friendships, to grow the best radicchio, to let the horse change me. At some point I will find a way to tap my gifts and skills to help more people and make more money. I'm ambitious, I measure progress through the quality of my relationships and if I can rest easy at night knowing I did my best and that I showed up.

Thank you for reading,

Beth-Marie

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Beth-Marie's Mission Statement

I walk away from my house with its endless to-do lists…. orthodontist appointments to make, meals to cook, dishes to wash. Hunted by the business of life, I walk out to the barn and pasture. I put my predator ego on the very same hook that I take a rope from and I stop. I always stop. I try to find that part of me that is timeless, that part of me that is right on time. Right here, exactly in this moment. I melt. I breathe. I find silence. Sometimes I'm a hot mess and I don't find it and my horses notice and I screw something up. But they forgive me. If I adjust myself they settle. They are always on time. I'm the one needing to slow down, always.

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What is my mission with these horses? Why have I completely given every extra dollar and moment of my crazy, busy, full life to them? All I know is I don't have a choice. I need them. I need them to change me, to challenge me. I need them to teach me to become the woman I was born to be. They are my true north. They are my door to God. They hold me accountable to all my bullshit. They are my mirror that I can't ever craft an arrogant argument to counter. As I said in my introduction, my mission is to become their dream human. I do not need to compete. I do not need ribbons or a human following of any sort. I just need to allow myself to learn and adjust for the horses, with the horses.

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Theodore Roosevelt
It is not the critic who counts;
not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles,
or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena,
whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood;
who strives valiantly; who errs,
who comes short again and again,
because there is no effort without error and shortcoming;
but who does actually strive to do the deeds;
who knows great enthusiasms,
the great devotions;
who spends himself in a worthy cause;
who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement,
and who at the worst,
if he fails,
at least fails while daring greatly,
so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

This passage has been my guiding light for many years. I strive to be the (wo)man in the arena, not the one on the sidelines. This is were I come from. Blood, sweat, dust, broken ribs, I ride through it. As I get older I find that, although stubborn grit has served me well, true bad assery is not about hardening but softening. My mission is to allow the hardship and sorrows of life to transform me into someone softer not harder. This is resilience. This is strength. Daring greatly is just as much about submission as conquering. I find myself in the space between what was and what will be. It's a threshold I'm completely uncomfortable with. That is ok. I seek honest intimacy and truth. Hard perfectionism and superficial grit is the enemy of that. My work, my art, my horsemanship will never be about the arrival. It will always be about the journey. I want to lose my sense of desperation. I want all clawing at the dream to cease. But I also don't want to drop the beat. I want to ride hard (with soft hands), love thoroughly, laugh like an ass and really use up and wear out this life of mine.

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Introduction - Beth-Marie Gardner

When there are two forks in the road I take neither and find the deer trail. I’m comfortable with discomfort. What I am motivated by is the good life. Connection, freedom and bad assery are my core values.

I’m living the cowgirl dream. I have an off-grid, homemade house, farm , gardens, cattle, sheep, hogs, birds and eight horses. My man has been my best friend for 15 years. He is my anchor, my refuge, my pain in the ass. My family grows, raises and processes much of our food. Teaching our kids how to work with their hands and the value of good food and where it comes from has been central to our life. We raise our meat from birth through death and process it here on the farm. I remember when my oldest started preschool she asked if she could have a turkey sandwich and potato chips for lunch even though she does love bear rutabaga stew.

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I have ridden horses and loved animals my entire life. I can spend weeks without leaving the farm. I absolutely love my handmade home, although I occasionally need to go out dancing with my girlfriends.

For the last decade I have committed myself to becoming the best horsewoman I can be in this life. Whether I'm riding in the woods, pulling logs, starting a colt, silently perfecting precise maneuvers - I’m most at ease with my horses. I'm committed to becoming the dream human for my horses. I have trained and ridden through three pregnancies and the rearing of those babes. I have bartended on and off for 17 years so I can commit my days to my farm, my kids, on and off homeschooling, my horsemanship, and working with some of the finest horseman in the nation.

My youngest child will be 5 in March, middle is 7 and oldest is 10. I’m changing.. we are changing. For the last decade much of my life force has gone directly into my family and homestead. I’m really tired. I have too many kids, too many farm animals and too many unfinished projects. Farming is hard, there are a lot of sad stories I could tell but I will save that for another day. I recently found a poem I wrote when I was ten. It describes what I want when I grow up.... horses, sheep, cows, dogs, piggies, kids, a nice little house, a delicious husband. I have reached all those dreams. I’m ready to loosen my grip on my ideals and find a slower, more graceful way. I want to step out of survival mode. I have nothing left to prove. I'm already enough. I’m ready to walk the middle path, find ease, listen to the soft quiet voice, focus on joy, love more thoroughly and buy more cookies from Trader Joe’s. Although I'm not quite ready to give up on home raised cheese, pickles and prosciutto.

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