The Long Division of Fear

Column 37 Published in the October 18th issue of the Warroad Pioneer

My dad saw a moose…a healthy one, here, at The Angle!

That statement, by the way, is The Angle’s version of name-dropping or celebrity-sighting.

But my little mind is on politics, not moose nor life at The Angle. How can I rest in the beauty of our changing seasons or delight in the wildlife on the move when there is a giant orange circus-peanut train wreck on every media outlet known to humankind?

My favorite sister gave me a huge bag of soft, fresh circus peanuts for my birthday one year. I ate Every. Single. One. Sickeningly sweet, ungodly orange and a spongey consistency defying all that is natural, I’ll always hold a cavity-like spot in my heart for them.

Speaking of holes in my heart…the three-year old in my life now routinely asks me to quit singing, tells me whatever we’re doing is BORING, and has taken over command of the car stereo. She is also newly in control of her own wardrobe choices, much to the dismay of the matchy-matchy dictator in me.

But like my long-gone love for high heels, I’ve learned to let the matching OCD go. After all, in the wilderness this time of year, everything gets muddy, and therefore everything matches.

Mud aside, I had planned a long, philosophical column about having compassion for the many millions of folks who live in fear, i.e., the Donald Trump followers of the land. They are my family members, my neighbors, my acquaintances and many more I’ll never meet. I wanted to lecture and cajole, shame and berate, and tell them the story of when I was sexually assaulted in almost exactly the way Donald Trump described.

I wanted to plead with them about reconsidering their made-up minds, whining about how my little girl would have to grow up in a country that elected a president who thinks it okay to grab women by the ***.

And then it hit me….

I’m acting just as fearful as the very people I thought needed compassion. In fact, every single one of us is afraid. And almost if not all of the time, too.

Better to write about the rain gauge.

Or the squirrel that drowned in the kiddie pool I am long overdue in cleaning out.

Or the gnome home we built near the road in hopes that people would interact with it, and finally they are.

Or the wolves and bob cat and bear and rabbits and deer and wood chucks and the majestic golden eagles I’ve been seeing lately.

Or the excellent crappie spots my favorite fishing guide has shown me.

But those are all distractions from the lesson at hand, which feels like another big one for me, and yep, here it is: What we perceive in others, we strengthen in ourselves.

I’ve been pointing the finger at Fear for some time now but without truly seeing my own fears.

One night when I was awake “wrestling,” as I’ve been a lot lately – six hefty books, a journal and my phone for research on my lap – I wrote down the baseline fears I found myself clinging to:

  1. Harming or “ruining” Iris (my 3-year old daughter)
  2. Not producing that which I am supposed to
  3. Never “knowing”
  4. Losing Tony

I share these only to show value in looking inward. If I’m seeing a fearful world out there, it’s because I’m holding on to fear in my heart in some form. For insane reasons, I must have thought fear would be a better motivator, a better change agent. I had put my faith in fear instead of in love. To me, this is epitomized in believing in the Devil. Our belief in his evil is the only nourishment he needs. Fear wants to survive, and like a malignant cell, it does what it has to do, grasping at anything to keep our belief in it alive.

My fear that I would harm my daughter’s free-spirit, self-esteem, and connection to Source is the very thing that kept me trying to be her dictator, which, of course, has only served to push her away into disconnection and independence.

My fear that I won’t create what I was put on this earth to create keeps me from getting started. It keeps me believing that nothing I do is good-enough, especially for the “grand expression” of whatever my life’s gift is supposed to be.

My fear of never “knowing” is what keeps me in perpetual Seeking mode, instead of resting into the stillness of peace that already resides within.

My fear of losing the man I’ve chosen to love turns my focus away from Giving to him and tailspins me into worrying about what I’m Getting from him.

A Course in Miracles teaches that anything that engenders fear is divisive. It divides us from our fellow humans and it divides us from God.

In the political arena, politicians who preach fear, i.e., “our country is going down the tubes and I alone am here to save it…” are not uniting us, they are dividing us and very damagingly so.

We can’t rest in the peace of God while we are divided, while we are hating Donald Trump, or hating anything, for that matter. The Bible says that God hates that which is contrary to love, but either I’m misreading it or frankly, I just don’t buy it. If God is One, God can’t know or hate that which is other than Him, because otherness, contrariness can’t exist in Oneness. Hate stems from fear, and God knows no fear. Fear was made up in our minds to keep us separate from God.

But whoa Nellie, let’s not go there just quite yet. I’m still new to the Bible and I probably shouldn’t preach what I’m wrestling about.

Hey, look! A moose!

To wrap up this not-so-round-about rant, I was afraid of Donald Trump winning, but I’m not anymore. Not because it seems less and less likely, but because I can choose to reside in peace. I can choose love over fear.

Whatever happens in the election, whatever happens regarding my four baseline fears I shared with you, I know that everything will work out perfectly. Fear may seem powerful because it leads to strong reactions, but it is in fact the ultimate weakness. Nothing built on fear can last.

Including presidential campaigns.

And circus peanuts.

 

(Photo by Lauren Garfinkle via her EdibleGovernment Project and Creative Commons content.)

The Why, the What, and the Wait

Column 35 Published in the September 20, 2016 issue of the Warroad Pioneer

I was sweeping out the garage when our kitty, Gypsy, meowed something unintelligible in Cat, waking me from my absent-minded reverie. “Come on, little one,” I told her. “I want to show you something.” Suddenly and randomly inspired to visit the fort Iris and I are building, I dropped the broom and walked straight into the woods.

All of my spiritual study lately has me much more in tune with what many religions call the “Holy Spirit,” even though a few of the more rigorous practices believe I shouldn’t yet have access to it, not having taking their prescribed steps towards salvation. In all my earthiness, I’ve often interpreted “spirit” over the years as simple intuition, and now, with a bit more awareness in the mix, heeding its call has taken on almost a game-like quality.

Dropping most everything to do what feels Loving and True takes tremendous fortitude, of which I usually have very little. But I’m becoming more trusting, curious, and playful. And, surprise, the Universe is responding. So, when something told me to go for a walk in the woods with my cat – a definite first – I listened.

Halfway to the fort, amidst rotting twigs and wet moss, was a still-blind baby squirrel chirping weakly and fumbling about. My cat and I walked right to it, and a second before she could pounce I cupped it in my hands protectively and looked skyward for the nest. Waiting quietly for many minutes, I half-hoped the parent squirrel would return and start scolding me. But somehow I knew I was supposed to find this little one.

The baby was defensive and scared, but with only soft claws and two tiny bottom teeth just barely breaking through its gums, it couldn’t yet scratch or bite. It was flea- and mite-covered, which I would later read means the mother has been gone for days. It likely bumbled its way out of the nest in response to hunger. Talk about fortitude and a blind leap of faith – rather than lay curled up, growing colder and starving next to its siblings, out it went into a world it couldn’t even fathom. I checked back many times over the next few days hoping to find others from the invisible nest but never did.

My own little one and I set about taking care of it as best we could. She quickly named it Herbie, and I shortly thereafter deduced it was female. Warming it, slowly rehydrating it and painstakingly de-lousing it, we bathed it gently with soft cloths trying to simulate a mother’s tongue, which even cleans away their urine and waste after each feeding while they’re this little. We bought a bag of pet infant formula on our next trip to town and started feeding it slowly. Eventually, little Herbie would grasp the medicine dropper with both tiny paws and drink desperately before losing her latch. One morning, she had an eye open. That afternoon, the other one opened as well. The cuteness factor multiplied exponentially, but we purposely didn’t spend a lot of time with her. She needed low stimulation, lots of rest and nourishing warmth. We were not growing a pet, and we knew it.

That Sunday afternoon, my Uncle John died.

As soon as we could, we took the trip down the quick gravel road to be with my mom. Thinking about his wife and two teenagers brought me to tears many times, but as You do, I did my best to explain to a three-year old what had happened and that her grandma and great-grandparents might be quiet and sad.

“Why?” slipped into my mind inadvertently several times, and in her little voice, Iris wondered it as well. Uncle John had been retired not even two years. His children were in huge transitional phases in life, his wife as steady and their faith as solid as ever. He was kind and good and worked hard for what he loved. It was hard not to suffer over the Why?

Byron Katie teaches that the only possible answer to “Why?” is “Because.”

I understand this intellectually and do my best to practice it, but then I forget and find myself demanding to know WHY from my three-year old about some perceived grievance, some mess she made, some instructions she didn’t follow. I demand to know Why of my man, my partner about some past decision that still hurts my heart. Is it my irrational need to blame? My unfounded belief that I deserve a different or better reality? My ego’s need to subtly attack or feel “special?”

Asking why about death is especially painful. It keeps you there, focused on death. Separated from life. From love.

Truly, the only answer to Why is Because. Yes, I can always point to the events leading up to a specific circumstance as the cause, even getting scientific if need be, but still, that doesn’t explain Why. Ultimately, things are the way they are because They Just Are. It is what it is. I am what I am. You are what you are. Reality doesn’t cause my suffering. It’s my wanting reality to be other than what it is that causes suffering.

A Course in Miracles teaches that the only proper question in all of humanity or at least the only one that will have more than one answer is “What is it for?” All other questions come from our ego’s unquenchable need for more and its thinly veiled attraction to fear.

But, what is it for?

In many cases, we won’t know the true answer until years pass, lifetimes even.

We spent until late afternoon with our grandparents, sharing stories and tears, apple pie and mostly quiet, together-time gently talking about things that mattered not.

When we came home, after far too many hours for an infant of any species, I found the baby squirrel cold and barely moving. While still damp from the morning cloth bath we awkwardly administered, she must have crawled out of our hastily assembled nest and fallen asleep from a full belly on the bare cardboard. I did what mothers do and took her to my bare skin.

I went to sleep that night with a tiny rodent on my chest.

She pawed and nuzzled weakly from time to time, but when I woke hours later, she was dead. I don’t know if I smothered her in trying to get her warm, or if she’d gotten pneumonia from fluid in her lungs – our initial feedings were less than graceful – or if the guestimate mixture of rehydration liquid and pet formula had seized her digestive system. Who knows?

But I wept. I had tried and I had hoped to do something that felt Loving and True. And it felt like I failed.

Of course the emotion wasn’t just for Herbie the squirrel. I wept for Grandpa Dale and Grandma Grace, losing a son at an age when life isn’t getting any easier. I wept for my mom, losing a sibling she had grown so close to in the last few years. I wept for cousins Brandon and Brianna, who would face so many new adventures and challenges without one of their two most important people in all of life. And oh, I wept for Kay, just into the slow-down and be-together-time with her husband of 26 years. It all felt so fiercely sad.

What is it for?

What is it for?

Maybe we won’t know for ages, maybe until our last breaths.

But the squirrel’s death, I knew what that was for as soon as Iris woke up. I told her that Herbie had died in the night. She was quiet and solemn; a few dramatic tears forced their way up, as if it were expected of her.

And then she said softly, looking at the squirrel she held in her small hands, “Grandma’s brother died.”

“That’s right, honey,” I whispered into her hair.

And when the Why didn’t come for either of us, I held on to her and I held on to the “Because” that was whispering itself in my head. I held on to the last images I have of my uncle, smiling as he worked on a driftwood lamp with his family hovered ‘round.

I held on to that love, that truth and togetherness, and knew that That is what it is all for. Lessons come hard in this life of suffering, but when I put the Why? away and ask What is it for?, the answer is always given. Even if we have to wait.

At First Dandelion

Column 25 Published in the April 26 issue of the Warroad Pioneer

 

These past many weeks have been a delicious yet over-long Saturday morning sleep-in here at The Angle, and now with the rains and winds of spring upon us, she awakens.

Angle Bay – the inlet – is free of her icy cloak and it’s only a matter of minutes before Young’s Bay and beyond will welcome its first boaters.

The sleepers are emerging as well.

Residents are spotting black bear and the frogs are once again serenading us at pitch-perfect volumes each dusk. My three-year old saw a snake warming itself on the gravel road, a creepy crawly, as she has somewhere learned to call them. The migrating birds rightfully steal much of the spring glory as they fill the skies with their trips’ end chatter.

We hermitting locals are sloughing off the thick skin of winter. After a shortened tourist season, fast and furious in its activity, it’s been a long and quiet thaw.

Even the lake is heeding the yawn and stretch of spring.

On Tuesday, April 19, the body of lost boater Keith Ayers was discovered in the water off Powder Island. Missing since October 3, his sad homecoming brings closure to a most determined mother The Angle had become too familiar with. I will remember her small hands clasped around the mug of hot tea she drank each evening after completing another cold and lonely day of searching for her son. The many agencies involved in the search for Justin, Cody, and Keith did what they could, and she did more, staying until the ice forced her off the lake.

How do you ever look at the lake again, knowing what it took from you?  How do you ever associate anything but grief with The Angle, remembering the time spent here? Miss Carol, should you feel the draw to come this way north again, I hope all of we Angle folk welcome you as you deserve. Your quiet reserve of fortitude makes you one of us now. Nay, more than us. The Angle wishes you well, and we won’t forget.

Life, in cruel fashion, goes on. We can tell apart the does carrying fawns now. The nest builders are hard at work. Wood ducks waddle to and fro, feeding from the flowing ditches and gathering soft material for their swampy abodes.

Nature certainly got the jump on we hibernating humans up here. I feel as though I’ve been indoors for a century. The gravel roads are drying out, though in places the frost heaves and boils its last reserve of moisture up from the depths, as if Hades itself were belching from its final heavy winter’s feast.

I’ve moved house and spent a straight month working and organizing whilst living in something of a construction zone. Outdoor excursions are back to a daily routine now that I have a compost pile to turn. We don our mud boots and find the puddles, my little love and I. The deepest tire ruts still trip her up, and the cold and wet beget screams that are placated only by a return to the warmth of indoors.

All that and she is still begging to go barefoot already. “At first dandelion,” I always reply. Bring me a bowl of dandelions just as I did for my mother, and then you may leave your shoes to their lonely summer selves.

Mine was a childhood of stained feet and toughened soles, and I wish that same joy, freedom and character for her.

Joy comes now for me in the simplest ways.

She still, at times, wraps her tiny fingers around one of mine as she sleeps.

My fingers get to make music with my father, a blessing I never knew could be so precious. Our loud band, The Knight Lighters, plays this coming Saturday, April 30th, at the Williams’ Liquor Store starting at about 8:30.

My hands gathered its first spring bouquet on one of our recent walks: bright red willow stalks, pussy willow buds and the dormant browns of an unknown shrub. We found a rusted watering can in the woods to serve as a vase, and voila, the perfect Angle arrangement.

Not everything is perfect, far from it, but the forgiveness of spring opens a hardened heart like the plentiful tree buds popping here and everywhere. Life feels big and grand and new.

And that first dandelion will mark a beginning, a perfection of its own, once again.

A Man’s World

Column 11 Published in the September 29 Warroad Pioneer

 

The Angle is undeniably a man’s world. It is a land of extremes governed by a hearty few who have toiled under back-breaking conditions to make it the civilized mess it is today. I have read the dry and distant history books of this place; I have visited on end with the old-timers; I have thrown myself into the community jumble as much as anyone can, and still I know nothing.

My future at the Angle is as up in the air as the wind-riding pelicans. I am still very much a newcomer, and now I may be a short-timer. There are less than a handful of single ladies at the Angle, and suddenly there’s a new demographic, one single mom, or as my weathered ex likes to say “a single mom at age 40 who still lives with her parents, has no job and no car.”

It’s all truth. I turn 40 in November, live with my parents in their large unfinished B&B, and my hand-me-down Angle vehicle barely runs; I have to air up the tire and reconnect the battery every time I want to use it. I’ve never really had a fulltime “job” here at the Angle, but I do make a sustainable income, and, unlike some, I keep track of every penny and report it on my taxes each spring. Normal jobs for women at The Angle involve slinging drinks, flipping burgers or cleaning cabins. Jobs for men are in fishing, heavy equipment and construction. There are exceptions on each side, of course, for the lucky few (or unlucky, depending on your vantage) who sit behind a desk at home or manage to be a Jill of All Trades.

Regardless, we keep busy in a man’s world. Everything and everyone is commoditized, especially women. In this world, our worth is measured first by our appearance, second by our helpfulness and third by our survivability, because yes, The Angle way of life can certainly be a test of extreme survival in a matter of moments if someone is careless or disregards intuition.

Driven by the desire to learn and honor, I’ve started to dive in to the stories of the amazing women who shaped The Angle. Earlier this summer I interviewed Joan Undahl, a gracious and lovely lady who can, but doesn’t, claim the title of The Angle’s first (and only?) woman fishing guide. She seemed completely oblivious to the power, leadership and compassion that came through in her voice. She is an islander, a more challenging life-style by far than simply living on The Angle mainland.

I assumed we were all one community, and that is how Mrs. Undahl told the story as well. But while the feminine unites, the masculine seems to divide. As I watched my recent relationship crumble, I heard again and again the words that I couldn’t get on board with how “half the Angle does things.” Apparently there are two different worlds up here: it’s not the stodgy landlubbers vs. the hard-living islanders as he might have had me believe. Rather, it’s those who want to keep themselves and The Angle growing forward in a positive direction vs. those who resist change and insist on the old ways.

Drinking and carousing seem to be written into The Angle rule book by the very men who built this place, the same ones who now complain about it following its natural evolutionary path that they helped kick start.

It was Marilyn Monroe, the most commoditized of all beauties, who said, “I don’t mind living in a man’s world as long as I can be a woman in it.” I came to The Angle and danced in my long pink hippie skirts. I let my hair go curly and natural. I brought a bubbly little blonde force of feminine energy into this world in my out-of-wedlock child. And we love it here.

Around the world, people are aware that life is changing. The feminine is rising into partnership with the masculine. And The Angle is no different. Human beings are undergoing a massive change and turning away from old perceptions and ideas. In 2009, at the Vancouver Peace Summit, the Dalai Lama said, “The world will be saved by the Western Woman.” Our natural gifts of intuition, healing and building community will be the foundation of that saving grace.

Some might say that airing dirty laundry in public is unbecoming. But once upon a time, we were all down by the river washing our rags on the flat rocks of love and connection.

Today, I prefer to cleanse mine through all manner of therapeutic remedies and then hang it out in the gale force wind to dry. For the most part, these beautiful, thick-skinned Angle folk would simply chuckle if the winds of change blew something unmentionable across their lawn. It might be a man’s world, but it does indeed need saving. Thankfully, some of us have the energy and inspiration to change our own lives and help make a difference outside of ourselves as well.

A Distinct and Perceptible Shift

 

Column 9 Published in the August 25 Warroad Pioneer 

The Shift occurred a week or so back. I was out walking the gravel roads, and for the first time in months felt the tiniest bit under-dressed and a keen desire to rush home and curl up with a good book. I love how subtle it can be some years. And I love how it announces itself with exclamation points other years. The nights are colder now. The dew seems heavier and of ill intent to our rain-stunted garden. The fast-growing trees are losing their first leaves and a back-to-school buzz floats on the winds of summer’s-end.

The hardier fisherman have arrived. The partiers and the raucous atmosphere they lend to our lives have mostly gone back to the default world. And all around the Angle, the fall prep work begins. We’re like squirrels gathering our acorns with a sense of urgency that wasn’t there mere days ago.

We’re watching new driveways take shape, and the well diggers have been here for weeks now, boring new access ports down to the iron-rich waters that feed this place. The spotted fawns, while still gangly legged and dependent, seem more confident and curious.

My first fall here four years ago, I reveled in the manual labor that seemed to me to define this lifestyle. Having just left a corporate desk job, commuting by aluminum fishing boat with a 25 horse tiller engine to move a woodpile on a Bear River homestead was the ultimate in mindful worship.

I remember walking the tree-lined streets of Seattle practicing awareness with purpose, with presence. One would think it would be so much easier here amidst the stillness, amidst the slow intentional way people live their lives here, without the push of in-your-face consumerism, without the traffic and the harried commuters. We have one 3-way stop on our Angle roads. Only once in my four years here have I witnessed three vehicles pulling up at it simultaneously. Each of us laughed and waved in disbelief, seeing it for the anomaly that it was.

Now I practice mindfulness with toddler in tow. We stop to move the still squirming mortally-wounded garter snakes from the road so they may die in the quiet of the grasses. We count the geese when they gather on our driveway. We name the bird calls. We loot the garden. We sing each step up to the top of the one-room schoolhouse playground structure.

We make-up songs of doing chores and cooking meals, and the bedtime stories she requests of late are about deer and frogs. “The baby deer don’t live with their papa,” she quietly pointed out to me as we watched a mama and her twins cross the road in front of us.

Each season is one of change, but the coming of fall has a distinct and perceptible air of necessary death. The arms of the woods will yield once more to our traipsing about, and I hope I can loosen my mind in the crunch of the leaves. I hope.

A Goulet and a Butler youngster head south to college. The newest generation amasses a few more with the arrival of the Carlson Schoen littles, the Anderson’s and hopefully the Edman’s soon. The Colson boys are alive and well after a close call with a vehicle and a black bear. My youngest brother and family are home from a three-year station in South Korea, and his wife and three children will be temporary residents for a short time. School teacher Mrs. LaMie will be as busy as a queen bee and that play structure will feel a lot of love.

If I had to choose, the fall is the most beautiful time of year at the Angle. Winter can crust the world over in harsh temper and hard tasks, if I’m not mindful, if I’m not seeing the beauty in a slumbering world.  But for now, a few more fall marshmallow roasts, a few more pleasure cruises on the cooling lake, a few more weeks of harvesting and canning and then the idyllic slow season will be upon us.

Suddenly, it will be fall.

The World is Too Much With Us

Column 8 Published in the August 11 Warroad Pioneer

It occurred to me some time ago, as I watched my two-year old run joyously up and down the grassy ditches of our driveway, that this glacier-smoothed prairie land isn’t flat to her. She has mountains to climb every day, valleys to explore, caverns and arroyos. There is no cellular longing in her for the great pines that used to anchor the soil and the wolves here. No ancestral guilt for the unchecked logging of a century ago that left us with only the fast growing birch, popple and balm of gilead. “Junk wood” as I’ve heard it called by the old timers. When you’ve survived sixty some winters on the sweat of your own labor cutting, hauling, stacking, and tending to the fires, I suppose you’ve earned the right to judge the wood that warms your family.

The land feels flat to me of late. I walked the road, and the curing crunch of gravel underfoot offered up only a minor healing tonic. “The world is too much with us, late and soon. Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers.” Wordsworth knew. He saw clearly the growing disconnect with nature. My distracted mind can’t see the summer moss and mushroom patches. The wild lilies bloomed and broke, and I barely noticed.

This place, this Angle drew me home four years ago this September and never have I regretted it. But the worldly world still pulls and tugs and busy-ness erodes the rhythm of deep, barefoot breathing. The sunrise and sunset of the harvest blue moon sang quietly through my window as I worked diligently at my computer, its ghastly light interrupting sleep patterns and dream therapy.

We’ve moved from one reactive happening to the next this spring and summer. Northerly Park grant planning, a friend’s death, a sibling’s wedding, a 300+ person community event, and oh  my  gosh, potty training. Why did no one tell me it’s so hard!? I read a how-to book, for goodness sake, and felt like a fool doing so, but I’ve been at my wit’s end too many times these last many months. Still it drags on.

Our Angle Days event will be behind me when this goes to press, but now, as it breathes down my neck like a disorganized dragon, I wonder how it always comes together like it does. Each year, we bite off more and more, plan bigger and broader, invite, advertise, market – all in hopes to share this place, this simple beautiful life.

And as the stress roils, the Angle works its silent magic to gently bring me back.

Today it was the east wind and a soft blanket of rain that reminded me, brought me home. I stared over a flat gray lake and let the mist meet my skin just as I used to in the monotone winters of the Pacific Northwest.

You have forgotten, the wind breathed to me. This is The Angle. This is the truth of life. Somehow, someway it all always works out perfectly. Everything is as it should be. Even the spending and getting. Even the flatness.

You have chosen to remember, it said, sweeping across the miles of rocky shorelines and untouched islands of Lake of the Woods, bringing the cleansing rain as easterlies always seem to do. Remember you are home. Remember you are whole. Remember you are enough.

Now go. Get up. Run with the wolves again. Show your little one just how majestic these flatland hills truly are.

No Mistakes

Column 7 Published in the July 28, 2015 Warroad Pioneer

We have a house full of visitors this week. The family has converged on the Angle for the wedding of the seventh sibling. I’m the fourth, if you go in order of age, and I’m the eighth, if you go in order of “having gotten married.”

Being single at the Angle isn’t something I’ve done for long, and, like backing up a boat trailer, it seems to gather an audience when you’d like one the least. Inexperience in any form here comes with a sharp learning curve, often costly repair work and either heartfelt empathy or a wizened guffaw depending on your chosen confidant. If, for example, a rookie housekeeper fails to notice a slightly cracked sliding door in the dead of winter on a condo that’s going to be shut down for the next two weeks. Or if a newcomer boats through a weed bed and doesn’t know to reverse and clear the prop. Or a new truck owner delights in the speed of his vehicle and the freedom of the gravel roads at the expense of the boat he’s forgotten he’s towing.

All true stories but only one’s mine, thankfully, or I may very well have tucked tail and headed back to the ease of city-living. Oh, there’s been countless other laughable offenses on my part since moving here, but if you’re a part-time believer in No Mistakes, as I am, these experiences should all be beautiful gifts, chances to grow and live life at a deeper level. I say “part-time” and “should” because life gets busy, ego takes over, and I forget.

I can hear one of our old rough necks saying it now, “there ain’t no room for ego at the Angle.” I think he might be referring to foolish pride and whether or not you’ve got capacity to swallow it when that time inevitably comes. Because it will.

The Angle is forgiving in some ways and utterly harsh and devoid of compassion in others. Make a “mistake” and people step up to help. You learn a lot. Build closer friendships. And then lend a hand in return. It seems the natural way of it.

Ever notice that there are no mistakes in nature? Not even the spotted fawn running in the opposite direction of its mother only to be mowed down by a beast of an RV is a mistake. The most valuable cellular memory a spirit animal can pass on to its kind is the fear of man and all our obnoxious trappings.

If nature could revile us and kick us out, it certainly has cause. We abuse the planet for our egoic gains and nature forgives and grows back slowly, persistently, and in more robust heartiness than before on the very scars we scraped across her back.

No, there is no inexperience in the plant world. They have it figured out. They don’t try to rally remorse when, for example, one of the signature great white pines on the way to the Angle, dying though it was, seemingly gets cut down too soon. There are no mistakes.

Or when small-town gossip teaches a lesson in advance of any probably-painful wrong-doing. There are no mistakes.

Or when motherhood, arguably the most difficult and important institution on this abused planet, becomes infinitely more complex when the label “single” enters the picture. No, there are no mistakes.

Abused planet? Nope. Not even that is a mistake.

We like to think we’re immune to most things here at the Angle. But in fact, we feel it all the more intensely, as is likely true of any microcosm. We have all variants of human kind in our midst, a check in each box on the social census, and at the same time we’re closer to nature and further from societal rules than most.

Does it make for easy living? In ways, yes. In ways, no. Does it ruin us for the outside world? Also, yes and no. It would be a great challenge to leave this place, embedded as I am, but we’re all as adaptable as the plant world, whether we know it or not. Grass will conquer pavement given time.

Does it make my visiting relatives wonder how in the world we can live here, just as I used to wonder? Of course. But then I see them raise an eyebrow at a real estate sign and I watch the wheels turn. Change doesn’t seem so awfully scary when I remember that there are no mistakes. And “mistakes” don’t seem so awful in general when I can view them with grace from a home like the Angle.