In December, I was ill –can’t get out of bed, focus enough to read, or watch a movie kind of sick. I was scrolling and not happy about it. Sick scrolling feels more insidious than regular scrolling. A trip to the bathroom broke the cycle. I surfaced and grasped for an alternative– I’ll try listening to a book.
I have never been an audiobook fan. I didn’t have occasion, like commuting, or I wasn’t a reader and wanted to be. These are the justifications I saw for not actually reading your own books. Though I’d avoided the arrogance of deeming digital books “not real” because there was nothing more miraculous to me than my friend Larry Prater’s gift of an iPad and access to books online when I was in the middle of freaking nowhere in Mexico. Audiobooks did not, however, escape my snobbery.
Fortunately, being pummeled by illness proved a good enough reason to listen to a book and a significantly better option than scrolling. Honestly, I may have continued to scroll, hating myself for it, had I been able to hold up my phone. This was a choice of submission, not valor.
Why did I choose The Secret Garden? Another egotistical endeavor. I had never read it, and it was one of those vexing omissions when taking a stupid “have you read these classics quiz.” I have read Aristophanes, The Clouds, which weirdly comes up on those lists, but not The Secret Garden. In my feverish haze, I decided I could include it on my have-read list if I had listened to it.
This is where I suggest careful consideration before writing a personal blog because you may feel compelled to share embarrassing admissions of affectation.
I downloaded the Libre Vox version read by Karen Savage. Her voice was soothing, and I promptly fell asleep. It was 11 hours long. I heard enough of the book to be entranced through my sleeping, waking, sweating, tossing, and covering state. When I felt better and could stay awake, I listened again. Wow! Who, other than the other millions of readers throughout the last 112 years, knew what a great book this is! I enjoyed it much more in good health.
Though I pay for YouTube premium, which has tons of audiobooks available, I thought I’d better spend more money and try Audible, at least the free week trial you never cancel fast enough not to be charged for. I already had a couple of books from Audible on my kindle. Neither had I listened to. I tried, but the readers were off-putting. The first, a nonfiction book, was a painful disappointment because it was read by its author, whom I admire. Unfortunately, I hated his voice. The other was read by an actor. This was worse. He used different voices for the characters, even adapting high feminine voices for female characters. I loathed it. Still, I tried the audible subscription and found more of the same, playacting rather than reading books there.
So, I went back to YouTube, and since have discovered hundreds of hours of listening pleasure of books I probably would never have read otherwise. Notably, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. Of course, I was familiar with the series but had never read them. I’m not a fan of mysteries, but boy could Sir Doyle write great characters and stories; he is my current literary crush.
I admit to sleeping through some of what I listen to, but that’s a bonus because I can listen more than once! It helps if there are timestamps on the chapters, but I will choose a good reader over a better format.
It confounds me why I thought listening to books was less than. I love being read to. I received the incomparable gift of the love of reading from my mother, who read to me before bed every night. Somehow, I felt I didn’t deserve that as an adult. I must do it myself. Earn it. I wonder how often arrogance hides insecurity?
Listening is not reading. That was my argument when I poopooed audiobooks in the past. And it’s true, it’s not, nor is it better than reading. It is its own wonder. We have the stories of the ages in the palm of our hand with a tap of the finger when we desire the luxury and comfort of having them whispered in our ears. It’s truly magical.
The first month of 2023 has been a whirlwind of work, windfalls of understanding, and, dare I say, wisdom?
I just returned from a six-week consultation at Vera Eco Resort. Last year I started my own business, Renegade Consulting, which was primarily for cheese making and butchery and has evolved into more of what my heart wanted. I realized a few months ago my purpose is to work for the earth’s well-being. My expertise: sustainable food systems are the perfect means to that end.
When I left the U.S. 15 years ago, self-sustainability was the goal. Note that self comes first in that term. My new perspective is reversed. Earth first. How can I best serve the planet? It may seem like semantics, but it’s a change in my thinking that created a significant shift in the way I feel and how I approach my life.
My grandmother, Alice Klinzman, counter-crossed stitched a series of angels for her five grandchildren. Each angel she created had a name, Angel of Hope, Guardian Angel–mine is Earth Angel. As a teenager, I wondered why, other than it was redheaded, she chose it for me. Now I know, she knew me before I knew myself.
In December, I intended to edit and repost some of my favorite posts. I haven’t gotten to that due to my consulting project, but I started thinking of it when I returned home last weekend. This post and its poem came to mind first. I am amazed when I remember how many of the phrases, though they seem like metaphors, actually occurred and how clearly the intent remains the same.
I met Pirate when I pivoted from the front of the house to the back. Which is to say, from the fancy life, in heels and dresses, to worker, where my uniform was blood-soaked aprons and scalded hands — trophies of mozzarella making.
Pirate took to me immediately. He was the mascot in the staff meal kitchen where my new meat and cheese program was located. My team and I fed the staff, butchered the farm’s pigs, cows, and chickens, and made upwards of 80 liters of milk a day into cheese. There were lots of scraps. What was there for a dog not to love? I resolved immediately not to adopt him. He was loud, demanding, needy and slimy. He was not underweight; everyone in the dorm fed him, and I did not need another dog.
But Pirate was insistent; I would love him! I would feed him! And eventually, I would take him home. When my part in the program ended, I couldn’t leave him there, aging and half-blind.
We came home together on the last day of October 2021, never to return to desarollo kitchens, his home of many years and where I had placed my heart for the last three. He was immediately at home in his new surroundings. I was desolate. My cheese cave was my happy place, but I was consoled to have Pirate with me. Also, just two months earlier, my partner of 24 years, Felipe, told me he no longer wanted to be with me. He wasn’t sure when he would leave, but he would indeed go. It wasn’t a surprise; we had been struggling to find a shared path for years. In February, we separated. And though by that time, it was mostly a mutual decision, I don’t have words for how painful it was. I will avoid revisiting that with an explanation. What I am here to share with you is what my relationship with Pirate became.
Twice a day, I walk my dogs on a beautiful forest path. Pirate, of course, went with my other two dogs and me, though he was slower because of his blindness. He also didn’t like to climb the stairs to my apartment. He lived on the first floor and spent a lot of time alone. I wanted to give him some special time every day, so at the end of each walk, I would sit with Pirate and sing him a song. For the first several weeks after Felipe left, I chose Goodbye, by LP, an empowering break-up anthem. Pirate would enter the gate and stand and howl, waiting for me to sit down with him, play his song, and sing. He pressed his body into me, and many, many days, I cried into him, unable to sing. He pressed harder.
After several months I was able to sing, and I changed the repertoire to Everything Matters by Aurora. I love to sing and have a decent voice. When I started trying to sing this song, my voice cracked. Though it was well within my range, I couldn’t hit the high notes. It sounded awful.
I realized, sitting there with Pirate, how profound this loss was. Not only was my range gone, I had silenced myself trying to please people, and hold onto things that no longer served me to maintain my sense of security. I loved these things, my marriage, my project, but with attachment, not freedom, the place that real love comes from. I sang on through tears, croaking and sometimes hitting the notes with deep satisfaction. Pirate appreciated it when I sounded great or ghastly.
In July, Pirate died, and I was pissed! Seriously, universe! I’ve lost my partner, job, and dog in less than a year! No fair! I sat with Pirate through his last hours; I sang to him with all my gratitude and hit every note except the ones muffled by tears. I let him go, and I helped him leave because it was what was best for him.
Dogs are magic. They come into your life and give you what others cannot, what you can not yet give yourself. They show you it’s possible. Thank you for giving my voice back, Pirate. You were a very good dog.
In August, I bought my first car (yes, my first car at 56 years old). It’s a beast, kinda stinky (it’s diesel), and worn, but powerful and reliable. I named it Pirate. I feel so free behind the wheel, belting out Everything Matters to Pirate in the ether.
For my long-time readers– Felipe and I separated amicably. He is still the superman you have read about here over the years. The nature of this blog will change without him, but I will still be writing about living in Nicaragua, and the complexities of the simple life. Though I don’t feel this way at every moment, life is still very simple, very easy, and very good.