Monthly Archives: January 2012

Thirty Years at Sea

Therapy Girl is going to have some Feelings now.  Therapy Girl is embarrassed at how often in the past she has publicly posted about her deepest desires, thoughts, emotions, confessions, bowel movements and feminine hygiene issues, and so she has decided to create a new handle, Therapy Girl, in order to give you warning when she’s going to have Feelings.  So if you’re somebody who doesn’t want to hear about Therapy Girl’s past trauma, you may now run away.

Therapy Girl will do her best to speak in first person, too.

On to today’s Feelings. Some of this is excerpted from a Facebook post, for context.  You can search my blog for “island” and you’ll see it all over the place; those who have been readers here for a while will already know.

On an island halfway up the coast of Maine is an old farm, Thomas Farm, the mothership of the Ox family, where my heart resides. There’s a big super-old white farmhouse with an attic that used to be haunted by my grandmother, I’m certain, and a root cellar with a particular smell of damp cool rock and laundry soap; there are outbuildings, a woodshed, a barn, fields, and a beautiful salt cove that leads out onto the river and bay. Every single room and outbuilding and crawl space on that 180 acres of virgin pine and shorefront, and every dark saltwater inlet haven, is filled with memories, some of the best memories I have of my childhood.  I know what it feels like to be truly, deeply carefree and happy, because I remember a time when I lived on that farm and was surrounded by love.

Have you ever felt like your blood turns cold in your veins? That’s how it felt to find out that Thomas Farm is going to be sold.

My family can’t afford it much longer. I don’t know when it will happen; it could be five years, ten, or one.  It’s up to the uncle who takes care of the place. The surrounding land has already been given to the Nature Conservancy, years back, to uphold a family pact between our family and the original owners, the Thomases, when the farm switched hands, to keep the land wild, undeveloped. It just never occurred to me that I would someday not be able to go back.

I had a rough time as a kid. I left home at sixteen and moved halfway across the country to figure out who I was outside of that place.  For me Maine is both a precious gem and a bed of quicksand.  When I had been gone long enough, I figured out that I could someday go back and reconcile with Home, really face my past and maybe let some things go, but I never did.

I’ve moved around my whole life, like a sailboat pulling anchor during every storm, constantly aching to be brought back to home port, to her mooring.  She never left her anchor down for long.  Then she got brought onshore and hauled a thousand miles south to the desert – and that was Texas, where for years I was that little sailboat, born at sea, meant to be afloat, living on hot, dry land.  Instead of sea lavender and gulls I was surrounded by prickly pear cacti and scorpions.  And rattlesnakes.  And Texas red centipedes.  And cottonmouths.  But I digress.  Also women went topless at Barton Springs pool – that was a plus, and there was Tex Mex, and an amazing dance community, and people I love, and I’ll stop digressing now.  Eventually, after a decade, central Texas won my heart, and part of me is Austin now, big bright blue sky and all those bitey stingy things that are actually really cool, my point being and I’ll stop the run-on sentence that after ten years, even with my soul moored on an island off the coast of Maine, someplace like that could actually become home at least to part of me.

Letting go has happened without my knowing it, over the past 20 years – art school, college, friends and loves, sleeping on park benches, sleeping on countless Greyhound buses as every corner of the country rolled by out the windows.  Austin, career, partner, childbirth, children, big mistakes, redemption, art, healing that happened when I wasn’t looking. Transformation. A quiet redesign of the Home concept.

Here in Lebanucky, I’ve delighted in the springtime crocuses and daffodils, the miracle of ice coating and sparkling every branch and twig, fall colors, certain songbirds, things I left behind and yearned for that northern Kentucky has in common with New England.  And I’ve discovered that there are things to love that are, for me, particular to this place.  Being married to a community-oriented culture where family comes before individualism.  Growing food in amazingly dark, rich soil.   Living in a wonderful old house with enough room and hardwoods and a coal chute and a milk door, in a beautiful neighborhood – and being able to stay here, not because we’re making a crapload of money, but because good housing here is working-class affordable.  Forming relationships with people who are Not Like Me. Did you know that conservative Republican Christians and commie pinko Pagan homos like me can actually be friends and have great conversations about politics, religion, sexuality and gender?  For a gal who’s sequestered herself for a lifetime in oases of liberal thinking, this is very new ground.

My parents divorced when I was five and I left the island, and since then, any happiness I’ve felt has tugged on a deeply entrenched sense of loss as old as my soul.  On a deep level, for me, Home, happiness, can only be visited.  Every other weekend, and your mean stepmother will be there, and your dog and bedroom and father will now belong to her kids.

Here’s what’s going to happen.  When that place gets sold, along with the grief, I’ll feel like something inside me has been set free.  In fact, I’m already feeling that old barnacle-covered mooring tugging up, inch by inch, with each day that I further process the transformations that are happening in my family.  We’re leaving Thomas Farm.  We’re leaving the island.  My grandmother the matriarch died in 1978, and the exodus has been underway ever since.  The aging uncle who lives there deserves to retire and relinquish the house and its massive upkeep.

And then Thomas Farm will be the summer home for some rich person from southern California.  I hope she and her grandkids love it as much as I did.  I hope they create wonderful new memories to fill the place: the boathouse on stilts, the woodshed, attic, the Blue Room (that was once my bedroom), Thomas Cove, the little Toe islands, harbor seals, herons and egrets, Witch’s Cove, Cocktail Rock, ancient stunted windswept pines, granite ledges, Maggie the dog’s crumbling grave, Ben’s Folly, the outhouse that’s falling off the embankment, croquet balls lost in the mud flats, broken clam shells that cut my feet at low tide, old china shards and the very rare spectacles that can be dug out of Mill Cove, Uncle Steve’s campsite and beer cans, old Nellie’s booze bottles flung off the cliff, the tree we used to pretend was a horse, the mosquitoes and biting flies, red foxes, moose and bear, cranberry bogs, wild blueberries, red wintergreen berries you can find under the crust of snow, the osprey, sunsets on the bay, sea smoke, salt air, the Pink Lady or whatever tourist boats have taken her place, lobstermen and their maze of lobster pots.  Remember, about the marker buoys: Right Red Returning, and stay out of Hellgate in your small boat. Look for the phosporescent creatures that sparkle like underwater galaxies on black nights at full tide.  Maybe you’ll find a squid after a good storm.  Or a message in a bottle – maybe mine, finally come home after thirty years at sea.