Before I was born, my parents used to work for a few days each fall for a neighboring family who raised cattle. They’d go up to the back of beyond and break down fences. The fences would then be put back in place every spring. It sounds inefficient, but it wasn’t really. The heavy snows in our part of the world would destroy fences left up over winter, and labor was cheaper than new posts and new wire. How cheap? My parents worked for 2 lbs of butter or 1 gallon of milk/hour. So with two days’ work they’d earn a winter’s worth of butter and fresh milk. My mom still talks with longing about the taste of butter that had been stored in a freezer with the huckleberry harvest.
I moved back to the rural area where this all happened and where I was born about six years ago. Very often I wonder about that choice. When I couldn’t make it up my driveway two weeks ago and had to abandon my car and walk home through the snow and the dark and the cold I wondered why I was living here. The next morning as I cried in frustration and struggled to put chains on my tires with icy fingers, I wondered. But yesterday I bought a pound of fresh butter from the son of the people my parents worked for all those years ago. (Incidentally? It cost exactly what I make in half an hour.) Today I baked a loaf of bread, kneading it on the wooden counter my dad built. For tea I had warm bread slathered in that butter, and even though it didn’t taste of huckleberries, it tasted amazing. I felt connected to my life and my choices and the sacrifices I’ve made to live the life I want. It was nourishing in a way I needed, desperately.
How does this relate to writing? Well, it doesn’t, not really. Except that writing is one of the reasons I’m living this life in this place surrounded by these memories. Right now, at this stage, with nothing complete, I feel like I’m stuck on the ice, wheels spinning, going nowhere, fingers frozen, ready to cry with frustration and wondering why the hell I chose this. I want to get to the fresh bread and butter part of writing. My parents worked hard for their butter. I need to buckle down and work hard too. It’s waiting for me. I know it is.