26 May 2010

The Desire for Hermitage

Bonus points if you can name the composer of this song. Extra credit if you can name the larger cycle of which it is a part. Without Google or a book. :-)
Pictured is my "study." It is my brother's old bedroom which has a sweet desk space with a great view. From this vantage point I can see lots of animals running around in the CRP, the airport, town, and various buttes including Black Butte all the way over in Regent. It's completely peaceful. With the window open I can hear all of the birds.......as well as my dogs barking. I used to sit on this desk as a little girl and "talk to" the meadowlarks on the electric pole when I was supposed to be in bed in the early summer. It felt violating to be in bed when the sun was still shining, and I always felt like my mom was treating me like a baby, so I would get out of bed and sit on the desk and sing to the meadowlarks and thought that they sang back to me.
I was an oldest child. I lived in the country. I had to find ways to entertain myself. Don't judge.
Anyway, I think this is about the best place in the world for me to sit and do A LOT of studying for my upcoming comprehensive exams in July.
The comps are two-three full days of testing. The instruction is "just know everything about music." My rule for myself is that I have to study for at least two hours every morning. So far, I have stuck to the rule for over a week. I have made my way through American, British, French, German art song, and now am delving into the "Short History of Opera" by Donald J. Grout. The "short" history is 785 pages of excruciatingly small print, but it is surprisingly fascinating.
Following the opera book, which should take me roughly 1.5 weeks to get through, I will move on to music history, to pedagogy, and finally to music theory. I will probably have just enough time to get through everything, and I will probably only remember 25% of it if I'm lucky.
I would never be able to do this if I were in Fargo because all I would be seeing is all of the "stuff" around the house that needed doing--and I would be constantly distracted. This is one of the many reasons why I am extremely thankful for this "temporary" housing situation. I have little to care for, a beautiful environment to study in, and a large amount of peace and quiet.
My desire for hermitage is finally being satiated. I get to spend several hours a day immersing myself in my subject, spending as much time as necessary trying to understand as much about it as I can. It is a luxury! I'm thankful I have the opportunity for this--to just let things really sink in rather than glazing over them or cramming the information into the little cracks in my brain.
I wanted to introduce some of the Skinny Bitch ideas for better health in this blog. This relates to studying as I am implementing at least two or three of the ideas during my study periods.
First--when you get up, don't eat breakfast right away. The body is in a cleansing period in the early morning since your body has been fasting all night. If the body is not digesting (which takes a tremendous amount of energy), it has energy to purge bad things out of the system. Wait until you are actually hungry to eat.
I love this rule because I never feel like eating when I first wake up.
Second idea--breakfast should be herbal tea (I do green tea instead b/c of the benefits) and fruit. It should be eaten slowly and only until you are actually full.
So, I do a small fruit salad.
The result: I feel very satisfied but clean after eating this breakfast.
The breakfast of champions? No. The breakfast of a would-be academic? Yes.
So, the comprehensives are the penultimate step in the completion of my DMA. The final task, then, will be to complete my dissertation.
The topic for that is two-fold and relates very well to our lifestyle change. 1) Rural and agricultural themes in vocal art music and 2) how to relate vocal art music to a rural audience. I am not sure that the second question can be answered, but I am going to attempt it. I am also going to implement the idea by giving a vocal recital here in Mott on July 11th. The program is all music on rural and agricultural themes and includes photos taken by my brother of the prairie, wildlife, etc that relate to the music and hopefully speak to the people who come to the recital. It is sort of an experiment in answering the second question of the dissertation, if you will.
What am I going to do with a doctorate in vocal performance in the middle of nowhere? I don't know. How does this serve me in my quest to live self-reliantly? I have no idea. Frankly, I don't really give a rat's ass about that. I just want to FINISH. I will figure out the rest later. I know that it is all happening for a reason and that I don't need to understand the why right now--I just need to be faithful to completing the work. Maybe I will do some online teaching? Maybe I will do some regional performing or teach adjunct somewhere close by?
I will not be teaching piano lessons or voice lessons or flute lessons to kids. That is for sure. I will not be teaching music at the high school. I do not have my ed degree, and frankly, I would rather clean toilets than do that for a living. Maybe I will write articles and do research for scholarly journals. There are lots of possibilities, and sometimes the most important possibilities are the ones that I will create for myself.

23 May 2010

Sunday, Naysayers and Skinny Bitches

Today is Sunday. As I write this, I am sitting on the front porch, listening to Neko Case, drinking some Cabernet, and enjoying a drop-dead gorgeous afternoon to myself and the dogs. The crop dusters are taking off and landing again at the airport a mile away. The dogs are playing dead in the sun. My herbs are growing so fast I feel like I can see them. The sky makes me remember why my favorite color used to be "sky blue."
Yes, isolation. Small town life can be isolating. Yes, it is true that we haven't had a plethora of social engagements this week. But, there are trade-offs that are maybe more valuable. Like, for instance, after church today, I had our whole family over to the house for pizza and wine. Usually we'd be getting back in the car to go to Fargo (much depressed, mind you) on a Sunday afternoon. To just be able to languish, to spend time with the family, and to do it in my "own" home felt healthy. Where one thing is missing (social life), another thing is taking over (family life).
Of course, there are ups and downs to that as well.
Despite the isolation, I am getting more time to myself these days, something that has been sorely lacking in the past three years. I would maybe NOT recommend smushing a masters and a doctorate into three year's time. It can have various.....side affects. Like NEVER EVER EVER reading for fun, never seeing friends, not having any money, developing a panic disorder, and know far, far, far too much about Gesualdo (Mara, this is you). It also has its benefits. Getting to soak up as much about one's craft as possible--focusing with a single-mindedness on ONE thing, and that one thing being something much loved. Being mentored by amazing academics. Finding the best and the worst of yourself and trying to make it better.
And now, I am getting to combine that musical focus with my rural life. I am getting to study for hours at a time about vocal literature while overlooking the prairie, the pheasants and ducks, my dogs romping in the grass.........while learning about the great song cycles of Schubert and Schumann.
I ask you, dear reader: what could be better??!!!
Answer: if you could do this without having to make a lot of compromises in other areas of life.
Therefore, I bring you the Eating Dilemma.
I just read this kick-you-in-the-ass "diet" book on a whim. I got it from a friend a few months ago, but, of course did not have time to read (see above, doctorate, etc). A few weeks ago, our realtor was having an open house, and I had to do something with the cat. So, I put him in his carrier, grabbed the Diet Tome and hauled all of us off to Island Park. And while the cat yowled continually, I read and read about things. Some things I knew before: don't eat crap. Bad food is bad for you and will bring bad results. Very common sense stuff--but said in a harsh tone that I think many need. Other things were news to me.
Now, I have read The Omnivore's Dilemma. I have seen "Food Inc." I know all about the problems in the commerical food industry. We try to eat organic as much as possible, avoid chemicals of all kinds at all costs. In fact, for me at least, this is a large part of the impetus behind why I want to be off-grid and self-reliant. If I grow my own food, I know exactly what has happened to it before it ever hits the lips or the hips.
But, Skinny Bitch (which by the way is almost a misleading title--the book seems like a diet book for L.A. girls, but ends up reading more like a PETA membership manual) brought to my attention some of the cruelty about the CAFO's and feedlots of which I needed to be reminded. It also brought to view some of the very gross practices of the food industry--selling rotten and dirty meat, for example (which the USDA is supposed to inspect, but they don't do a proper job). Which is one of the reasons why we have an e. coli problem in this country. It also did a very excellent job enumerating the various health problems that are now being associated with the various hormones, antiobiotics and chemicals that are used in the production of produce, meat, and diary. The dairy and the meat thing, for me, has been an issue where I have felt convicted of my own need to eat "clean." To avoid things with added hormones, antibiotics. I guess SB, for me, delineated very good reasons to even take my awareness above that level to avoiding meat or dairy that comes from large, commercial feedlots (i.e. anything from Food Services...so that means everything that we normally eat at restaurants).
Now, I want to be clear. I am not an animal rights activist. I am never going to join PETA. I love meat. I love dairy. The only source for vitamin B-12, a vital nutrient for humans, is from animal protein--so that in an of itself should tell us that animal protein is a necessary part of our diets (unless you are supplementing).
But, there is a problem when feedlot workers are abusing animals for the pure sport of it--doing awful, unspeakable things just for the pure "fun" of torture. Those workers have lost some of their humanity in doing those jobs and have become so desensitized to killing that they no longer feel anything about it--and thereby are able to becoming overwhelmingly malicious towards the animals.
This is something that I cannot condone. There is no purpose in it.
Thereby, my quest is to only eat meat if I know the person who killed it, and that the animal was grass bed and lived the way its particular species is happy to live, being fed things it is made to eat, and things that by the same turn, are healthy for humans to eat. I only will eat dairy that has similar qualifications--milked from pasture-raised animals, etc, etc.
Or, eating wild meat hunted by a family member that has been living *exactly* the way it was meant to live.
I don't think that's very animal-rightsy to think that way. I think it is common sense. Cows should eat things that cows are meant to eat and live in a way that cows are designed to live. Duh.
We have to stop thinking that all of these chemicals that have been put into our food, our animals, our water, our fields, our bodies for the past 60 years are "harmless." They are causing lots of harm....
The book goes into that, into the practices of the USDA and the FDA and the various levels of corruption therein, etc, etc. It's not conspiracy theory anymore, people. This stuff has been documented by a myriad of different researchers and is being brought to the attention of the general public more and more. We need to get our heads out of our asses and start using some common sense again. We need to eat food produced in the most natural way possible...and stop thinking that all of these safe "additives" are safe.
Blah, blah, blah. The book says not to get preachy. I don't mean to be preachy. I do mean to say that following these convictions is especially difficult in an isolated area where virtually all food comes from one of two sources: 1) You make/grow/kill it yourself. 2) It comes from food services of america--------straight from all of the commercial farming operations.
This brings me to the naysayers. You know who you are. You are the ones thinking "It is impossible to eat this way in a small town (or at all)." You are the ones thinking "She believes in conspiracy theories." or "She's too idealistic."
You go right ahead. Keep telling me I can't do something. That just makes me want to succeed all the more.
Why? Because I was raised in a town that is filled.........absolutely to the brim.........with naysayers. People who say "can't" before you are even done telling them your idea.
If Billy and I listen to naysayers, we will not even have the chance to live the lifestyle we want to. We will keep putting chemicals into our bodies. We will keep paying the electric company for something we could make ourselves. We will keep buying the sweetheart bread with the potassium bromate in it because we "couldn't possibly" make bread for ourselves every week.
I mean, I couldn't possibly succeed in this lifestyle, could I??!! I couldn't possibly be a near-vegan living on a farm in SW ND off grid on my own terms?
Why not? And why not try? God knows I have failed at plenty of things in my life. Failure is just another opportunity to figure out a better way to do something. Bring on the naysaying.
Over the course of the next few weeks, I would like to continue to discuss some of the basic principles promoted in Skinny Bitch as I think they are easy ideas that nearly anyone can follow.

18 May 2010

Home again, home again jiggety-jog....

This is part of a rhyme my mom used to say with us when we would drive our old white subaru from town and pull up in front of my child hood home.
A few days ago, I pulled my own subaru up in front of my childhood home and moved back in.
This is an incredibly eerie yet strangely comforting experience.
I know what the house smells like, where the floor creaks, how the sink sprays water everywhere, exactly how many steps it is from the bedroom to the bathroom in the dark (although my steps are considerably bigger than before). I know where my old climbing trees are, where the best place is to see the sunset, and that I will sometimes catch on the whisp of the wind the sound of Mott's noon whistle.
Even more fun is being here with my husband--showing him all my old haunts, showing him the tricks of the place, explaining what roads lead where, going for strolls in the twilight, sitting on the porch with a glass of wine.
So, here we are, after many years living in the "city" (read: Fargo), returning, quite literally in my case, to our roots.
What are we going to do here, in old Mott, you say?
Answer: organic flailing
This is where we hope to most fully implement all of our self-reliant hopes and dreams. Growing and raising all of our own food, canning everything, making cheese, making cloth, picking eggs.
Eventually, when we are moved more into our permanent living situation, it will mean getting the house off grid with passive solar heating, wind power, and making our own biodiesel and ethanol. It will mean self-employment as well as self-reliance. It will mean an assload of hard work.
So, this blog will continue in its original theme, but with more real-life application. I hope to show you, the reader, our quest towards self-sufficient living. The daily processes. The ups and downs. The successes, the failures....in the hopes that it might encourage you to...I don't now...learn to do something that your grandparents could do but your parents forgot: handwash your clothes, make your own soap, milk a goat. Whatever....
A quest to recover the self-reliant lifestyle without giving up modern technology (see: blog posts), wireless internet, 3Gphone, directv, etc, etc, etc. all while living green and healthfully with the things God has given us and the work our hands have made.