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The Place of In-Between Part 2 ~ Tea and Certainty. And Biscuits.

Seems the “in-betweenness” of this time for me continues. As I start to write this it is the first day of spring, according to the astronomical calendar. The spring equinox, as well as the autumnal one, and the winter and summer solstices, is determined by the position of the sun relative to the earth in the astronomical calendar. At the equinoxes the sun passes directly over the equator giving us daylight and darkness of equal length. Can’t be much more in-between than that I suppose.

It also feels in-between because we’ve just had another snowfall, winter not yet releasing its grip. It wasn’t a huge one mind-you, but annoying nevertheless. It brought enough ice and freezing rain to cancel schools and necessitate snow plowing and shovelling once more.

I guess if we worked on the idea of the “meteorological” calendar, where seasons are determined by temperature cycles, we’d have already been into spring for three weeks by now (March, April, and May constituting spring in the northern hemisphere). Maybe that would feel even more confused as we like to equate spring with tulips and daffodils blooming and buds bursting on trees. I suppose in some parts of Canada this happens now (like in Victoria BC), but not on the east coast.

We in Nova Scotia feel like we’re between our idea of winter and spring, and some of us are getting impatient to move fully into the latter. For Edward and me, the idea of moving from winter into spring seems especially metaphorical too, as we have spent the winter preparing for a new beginning.

Too darn tidy to be our kitchen.

As I wrote in my previous post, I have been feeling a little anxious being in my own “place of in-between” with this moving of home that we are engaged in, still living in our house at We Are One Farm, but not feeling like it’s ours anymore as it is decluttered and staged for sale. We can’t relax fully into living here as we always have, fearing we’ll make too much mess to tidy up again for showings. So far we’ve had four potential buyers look at it, and one of those has already come for a second viewing. Plus a couple of agents came by to preview for an out-of-province client.

We keep mopping the floor and shining the windows, and putting every-darn-thing away as soon as we’re done with it (not such a bad thing really), while we ask the Universe to send us the right person at the right price at the right time to come and buy this property. We’re ready to move out of limbo and on to something more …certain.

Although Edward and I know where we want to be living when we sell this place, it could all fall through if the timing’s not right. We can’t control when the right buyer will appear, so it creates uncertainty not only of when we leave here but about whether we will be able to get the new home we currently have in our sights.

I am also feeling a little uncertain these days about what the change will be like for me work-wise. I wonder whether I will still feel the pull to do journey work and soul coaching without the particular environment we have both found and created here in this home. The outdoors is not a necessary part of this, indeed I can work with people over the phone or Skype if need be. But there is something about this place that has created a healing base grounded in the natural beauty and spaciousness. And it is far enough from neighbours that we can beat drums or have ceremonial fires when we want to. So at this point, I am not sure how that will change things for me, even though I know I can create a sense of sacred space wherever I go.

Another change will be not having Edward working from home as he has done for the past six years. Even though his new office will not be far from our desired house, it will feel really strange not to have him around all day, popping in for a cup of coffee or a chat, or attending to some chore around the house when there’s a big gap between clients. Plus he’s my best pal and I simply love his presence, even if we are quietly going about our own business most of the time.

I’m not sure how Alfie Dog is going to take it either, she likes to snooze under his desk for a little while most days. She’s more his dog than mine. Perhaps it will just make our time together that much more special.

A dozen muffins, two stressed people, a dangerous combination.

As this process of deciding to sell and move and declutter has all been happening during the winter months, it has coincided with what I might call “biscuit-making season.” A couple of years ago when the winter snowfall was extreme, I started making baking powder biscuits or scones or muffins as a reward every time Edward came in from plowing our long driveway on the old Massey Ferguson farm tractor. It’s hard, cold work on that old machine with no cab to protect him from the weather. I baked for moral support, because after all, he’d be chilled and hungry when he came in. Nothing like a mug of tea or coffee and a warm, buttered biscuit or muffin after being out in the snow. Plus we both grew up with mothers who showed some of their love and affection by baking treats.

The biscuit making became a ritual that continued through the next winter into this one, but took on a new twist. There haven’t been so many snow-plowing days this season but my expertise in perfecting a couple of recipes has expanded greatly, along, I think, with my waistline. Instead of just baking on snow days, I have realized I’ve been baking on a LOT of days, particularly days when I’m feeling that sense of uncertainty or anxiousness about our current situation.

I mean, how can anyone resist this? Apple oatmeal muffin with cinnamon streusel topping.

At first I pegged this as just an unhealthy addiction, using carbs to give me a little boost of serotonin, food as drugs, not just for the pleasure of the flavour but actually getting a chemical soothing. In fact, I have given up alcohol (red wine being my usual go-to) until we can celebrate a signed purchase and sale agreement on the house, so I thought maybe I was just substituting one type of carbohydrate for another with the biscuit eating.

And of course there was that psychological early programming equating sweet baked treats with love… even if I was giving it to myself.

But I had an “aha” moment a couple of weeks ago about another way in which my new baking habit was giving me comfort. Once I had perfected a few favourite recipes, a couple versions of scones and one for a muffin, I found myself reclaiming some certainty. They started coming out beautifully, every time. I knew exactly what to do, any variations were within specific parameters (would it be currants and cranberries or blueberries? lemon or orange rind?) Baking a batch of biscuits or muffins gave me something specific and focused to do, and I got predictably great results. And I could make them any time I wanted to! I felt …in control.

Blueberry-lemon buckwheat scones. Moist in the middle with a sugary crust. Perfection.

Realizing that I could control this one small part of my day with total success helped soften the knot in my stomach, (while softening my belly in ways less appreciated…. is it a muffin top now or a biscuit belly? Or maybe it’s biscuit butt?) I have realized I do need to find a healthier means to attain this feeling.

Or, maybe not. I mean, maybe, despite certainty being one of our basic human needs, according to Tony Robbins’ Human Needs Psychology, perhaps I don’t actually need to feel more certain about my life right now. In fact Robbins and others have said that the quality of our lives is in direct proportion to the amount of uncertainty we can live with.

After reading my previous blog post, my Nia dance teacher Kathleen sent me a link to a piece of writing by Danaan Perry called “The Parable of the Trapeze”, from his book Warriors of the Heart. In it he likens his life to swinging happily along on his trapeze bar until, at some point, he sees another trapeze bar swinging towards him, and he realizes it’s for him. But of course in order for him to grab it, he has to let go of the one he’s hanging onto. And there is where his version of the place of in-between comes. It’s that scary, uncertain, transition zone of “no thing” where you have to let go of control…frightening for sure, but it’s where one feels most alive, and where growth happens.

(You can read the parable at the link above or listen to this great video/audio version Kathleen also sent me.)

So maybe I don’t necessarily need to find a healthier way (or any way) to be “comfortable” with uncertainty. Maybe I need to learn to just surrender and open up to the faith that’s required to get across that gap from one trapeze bar to the next, even as it feels uncomfortable. Maybe I can simply appreciate the stimulation of being a little on edge for a while. Oh yes, I can hear it now….”life begins at the edge of your comfort zone…”  Honestly, I didn’t think my ruminating about biscuits and uncertainty would bring me all the way around to that worn-out aphorism. But it fits.

And like Danaan Perry, I have been here before, many times in fact, often in much more challenging ways than I am now. I’ve wondered whether I’ll catch the new trapeze bar, whether it’s the “right” one, or whether there will even be one to catch if I let go of the old one. And like him, “I have always made it.” And if you happen to find yourself in a similar state of in-betweenness, I’ll make a bet you’ve been there before too, in one way or another. And I expect you’ll make it too.

And because I have no trapeze pictures in my personal collection, we’ll go back to the winter-spring metaphor. Spring always comes around again, eventually, the snow goes, sun shines, plants grow, and all is well again.

The Place of In-Between

I’m sitting at my desk in the corner of our open-concept main floor at home, letting my eyes scan the room. I have a view of just about everything on this floor except the bathroom around the corner, and the end of the kitchen island, stove, and sink which are on the other side of the big central chimney and wood stove. I have a view of the entrance door, the staircase to our bedroom and loft, half of the kitchen and hallway, a little sitting area near the patio doors to the deck, the dining area (can’t really call it a “room” without walls in between), and the living area/sofa etc. And were it still daylight, I’d have views of the treed countryside to the north and west, and garden to the south, though big, bright windows.

From this corner I have sat and written and read and pondered and Face-booked and coached and doodled and edited photos, for almost 6 years since we built the addition that expanded this space. Before that I worked from a room in the smaller addition on the east side of the house that was built three years earlier to house my photography gallery and studio, and which is now my husband’s massage clinic.

As I look around in the silence of the evening, hearing just a slight crackle from the waning fire in the wood stove and some clickety-clicks from Edward’s keyboard in his office, I have a kind of unease in my belly and my chest, stemming, I think, from a weird new sense of un-familiarity with this place. The same furniture is still here, the same paint colour, the same rustic logs and wood panelling, the same art remains hanging where it’s been for years.

A couple things have changed, some external, some internal. It’s not just the shine on the refinished staircase that we’ve finally dealt with after 12 years in this house, though that’s part of it. The whole place has been significantly de-cluttered and polished over the past two-and-a-half months. It’s cleaner and shinier than I’ve ever seen it. Scratches have been touched up, some woodwork has been re-sanded and finished. The kitchen counter has been cleared off but for a few necessary items. Books on the once-crowded shelves have been pared down to create a sense of spaciousness.

There is of course the lingering absence in our house and hearts of dear Angus Dog and Jack the Cat, who both left this earth before Christmas. And certainly there is less fur and such to clean up after. But that’s not it.

We’ve been cleaning-up, refinishing, even renovating the bathrooms, as well as decluttering and purging possessions, in order to list our house for sale. Yes, we are selling We Are One Farm.

As guides to selling one’s home advise, we have “de-personalized” it a little by packing up family photos. We could have gone further, could have painted the terra cotta dining room taupe or some other “neutral,” and hidden some of our art, or our bits of “woowoo” paraphernalia, like the too many Buddhas, singing bowls, and crystals, and my feng shui “cures” like the money frog and bamboo flute chimes, placed here and there, but I’m willing to take the risk that they won’t be off-putting to someone of a different mindset.

We’ve done a good job of purging, and we’re still not finished. A few things are stuffed in a  rented storage locker for now, things we thought we’d still need later. But I am starting to wonder…if we don’t need them now, will we ever?

We’ve given building supplies from the workshop to a friend who can use them; some of my fine art photos and odds and ends to my nieces; household goods and books to the hospital charity shop; sold a few flea-markety items online; gave away my late mother’s vintage dresses, dad’s top hat, and my wetsuit to a local theatre group for costumes. Put my vest and robe and “tabs” from my former barrister’s uniform, which I’d dragged along with me on several moves since I left the practice in 1991, in the kitchen garbage. I was too busy to have a ceremonial fire for it. The attachment was long gone.

Edward has trucked all sort of useless remains from construction and garden projects to the dump and recyclers. Old car and tractor tires have been recycled through tire shops. Old built-ins that we’d torn out of this house during earlier renovations we offered up to the magic of the roadside vortex. What was put out in the morning had vanished by evening. A miracle.

I have thrown out hundreds of old slides and prints, and various old file folders of taxes, bank statements, early writing submissions, and more. I gave away hundreds of dollars worth of darkroom tools and accessories to a grandmother whose son was teaching his own boy how to take pinhole photos and planned to build a darkroom.

I still have thousands of old slides and negatives to deal with, but that will have to be a gradual project. A big box of images even got shipped across the country to my ex-husband. Sometimes it takes a long time to deal with our “stuff”. I still need to have a big sale of some of my remaining fine art photos, and I’d love to find a home (in return for some cash) for my studio lighting gear from a few years ago.

Then last week, perhaps one of the hardest parts of the Big Letting-Go of 2017, we re-homed our flock of 11 hens and our gentle rooster, Baby Roo, (who’s not a baby anymore). A sweet young family was kind enough to take most of them to add to their flock, and placed Roo and a couple of his girls with another friend of theirs. They are in good hands, for which we are most grateful, considering they are no longer spring chickens.

There were more than a few tears shed by both Edward and me over that good-bye. We’d had chickens for over 8 years and a daily routine had developed around them. Edward and Alfie Dog (and formerly Angus too) would stroll down to the coop first thing each morning, to water and feed them, and let them out to forage, weather permitting. And then the dogs and I would stop by to collect any eggs on our way back from our daily walk in the woods later in the day. And then one or other of us would shut them in at dusk, often stopping outside to appreciate the sunset at the end of another beautiful day. I would occasionally try to herd a wayward girl or two into the coop to speed things up, often a futile effort of playing silly beggars ‘round and ‘round the shed. Edward knew enough to just calmly wait ’til dark if they weren’t cooperating earlier.

There was a distinctive sense of life force in having a flock of chickens free-ranging on the lawn most days, doing their little two-step and bow, while scratching in the soil for grubs. And there was a jarring stillness outside in the days following delivery to their gentle new homestead down the shore. Something was definitely missing. IS missing.

And inside our house a sense of life force also seems strangely missing, in spite of still having Alfie and three cats and numerous plants occupying the space with us.

In order to “stage” the house for potential buyers to view, which has just commenced with our listing this past week, not only have we de-personalized by packing away family photos, but we also make sure all towels are clean and white, desks cleared off, counter tops cleared, toothbrushes and personal effects in the vanity out of sight. Our bathrooms and bedrooms look like they are in a B&B. The whole house does, but perhaps even more sparsely appointed. For a viewing we have to vacate the premises (unless Edward has clients in his clinic), and Alfie comes with us, leaving only the cats at home. We try to hide most evidence that a dog even lives here.

And there are fresh flowers on the dining table. And even in the bathroom. Who does that? People who are trying to sell their houses, that’s who. It’s lovely. But weird, except in summer when they are abundant in my own garden.

The only time our house is anywhere near this clean and tidy is when relatives from away come to stay, but even then, they don’t usually get the run of our room upstairs or the basement. There had to be a space to toss stuff out of sight. Not any more, the whole place is on display.

We have tried to make this property become somewhere that other people, as yet unknown to us, could imagine themselves living. There is still quite a lot of our own personality expressed here through colour, art, books, and our particular renovation choices. But it is becoming less and less…ours.

And then perhaps what has really shifted, besides the departure of the hens and of so much stuff, is the energy. Yep, the energy…of intention.

With my having studied feng shui and space-clearing, and Edward being a practitioner of various energy healing techniques, we are pretty attuned to what energies we are creating or projecting through our intention.  Not to say we (or is that just I ?) always project what would best serve us (that’s the “royal” us)… but we do both know better.

In this case, I have been working very intentionally throughout this purging process to let go of this house and land and “free” it for a new owner. Both Edward and I have done some small ceremonies of sorts to speak our intentions into the world…about releasing our connections to this land and house, releasing our desire to continue living here, and stating our intentions to move on, intending that the right people will find this property soon. And also expressing our deep gratitude for what this place has meant to us.

Creating a vision like this important. Making space, not only physically, but emotionally and mentally, for something new to enter our lives, usually requires letting go of something. It seems obvious that one has to sell one place to get another (for most folks), but this letting-go goes deeper. For us to be able to buy our new home we have to really be in a place of releasing the old one in our hearts. And to attract someone new to come and buy ours, we also have to release our attachment to being here. We have to make space for them to move in.

We have tried to intentionally withdraw our energetic connection to this place, to the extensive gardens we have built, rebuilt, and tended over these last 12 years; to the boules court where we have entertained friends with our signature “Provence party” every July filled with food and friendly competition and great conversations; to the patio we built together when I first moved in and where we were later married in 2008 surrounded by an intimate group of friends. There are so many wonderful memories associated with this space.

It was on this property I first told Edward I loved him. It is where I adopted my first and second dogs, the first of whom we also sadly buried here last fall.  Here is where I learned about shamanism and had the first of many profound experiences that awakened me to a spiritual connection I had not known before.

This is where I created my first photographic art gallery, later started practice as a soul coach, life coach, and Reiki practitioner.

And on a romantic whim, this is the place where I also planted over 500 lavender plants to create my small farm for a while, eventually participating for a couple of summers as a vendor at local farmers’ markets, where I built a lasting connection with some amazing people.

This is also the place where I truly connected to the earth and nature, not only developing a passion for gardening, but for appreciating the wonder of the sparkling night sky, the variety of sunsets and clouds, the awareness and joy of watching weather systems approaching and passing by. And this is where I especially learned to appreciate the comforting sanctuary of the trail through our woods with it’s rusty carpet of pine needles, the leathery shades of moist leaves in the fall, the delight in spring wildflowers, and the silent embrace of the tall trees at the back of the land. I even learned to love and appreciate a variety of frogs, toads, and snakes that became like spirit guides from time to time.

These past 12 years have been a transformative journey for me on this beautiful property, both totally grounding, getting me more in my body than ever, and at the same time, being spiritually uplifted.

As I have set out to withdraw my energetic attachment here to make space for someone new to take over, and for us to find the new home that we need, I have removed some of the hidden crystals I had placed in my sacred circle, the simple stone medicine wheel where I prayed and quested at the end of the woods trail. I also removed some of the special stones and crystals from the rock labyrinth we made last summer. This won’t change it for anyone else but me as it is more symbolic than anything. Crystals or no crystals, there is still much magic to be experienced here. It is all about intention in the end.

As I finish this post we have just received news that the folks who had viewed our home on the weekend will be back for a second look in the morning, with a chance for a warmer walk through the woods, weather permitting. We’ve decided to grab a bite in town rather than disturb my pristine kitchen both this evening and in the morning. I had to open the windows on this cold day to remove evidence of the fried sausages Edward cooked for breakfast. I understand that real estate purchasers are highly conscious of smells.

We are in that place of in-between. The property is still ours on paper, but whether the folks tomorrow make an offer or not, energetically this no longer feels like our home. The unfamiliarity I wrote about at the beginning is that sense that we don’t really own this anymore. We’ve lost the freedom to mess it up. We no longer view it with our own eyes but attempt to see it with the eyes of a potential purchaser, scrutinizing details that we were able to live with for years but lately have repaired or renovated judging it otherwise unsuitable for others.

When I walk Alfie to the back of the trail now I no longer feel like lingering to pray or just observe. I sobbed big, deep sobs from my belly a few weeks ago in the sacred circle when I retrieved my crystals, the reality of the shift catching me off guard. This is not “ours” anymore…. if it ever was. Edward always called us “stewards” of the land. I guess he already understood that it it is all a temporary state of being, and nothing is ever truly owned. I expect I’m not quite done with the tears, but in this state of in-between-ness, I am getting anxious to go.

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