An Extraordinary Life
Amy Lynn Reifsnyder
November 13, 2019
I am living an extraordinary life. On the surface – and to a recent ‘doctor’ – I have no stable life. According to her, because I have been traveling from state to state and living from hand to mouth, I have no support. She informed me – and I did not tell her otherwise – I have no family, no friends, no community, no life. I did not correct her because I know these things are not true. I also know she would not have heard what I could have told her about my family, my friends, my community, my life.
Yes, on the outside the particulars may appear unusual. The wind and weather have been fierce so the dogs and I sleep in the tent – in the living room – at night. The heat has not yet been turned on. In fact the fuel tank hasn’t even been delivered. So things get chilly on a blustery cold night. Three dogs, two sleeping bags, and a pair of overalls are all this girl really needs to stay wrapped up cozy.
We have no electricity so I am working out of the house of a man I’ve never met. He spends summers and autumns in Montana. While he is away, his daughter and son-in-law invite, with his permission, folks to use his house. I am just one of several who take shifts in the house, working, sleeping, eating, hanging out. The water is turned off, so I daily bring several gallons of water to use when cooking, washing the dishes, or flushing the toilet. I do this because, despite having no heat and electricity, I have water. Cold water.
The water is a gift from the local pastor and a number of parishioners of the First Baptist Church. I’m supposed to be paying the bill, but the plumbing needed repair. He came over and did the repairs – plural… there was the fountain outside, the volcano that took off the top of the water heater, the never-ending stream that flowed from the bathroom sink. There was also the puddle that gathered downstream in the laundry room when I washed dishes in the kitchen sink. It’s been, shall we say, a ‘process’. But now I have water.
For hot water I set up a camp stove – double burner, on loan from Ginny and Bob – in the back yard. That’s where I wash the dishes, heat water to use to clean the cupboards, make myself a cup of tea.
For showers, I have options: Valley of Fires Campground is four miles west. Ginny and Bob, have a bunk house with a shower. They’re out south. Laura is east, and I’m heading over there today to do my hair. In between times, I use that cold water – yikes – or body wipes to do the necessaries.
Shelter. Heat. Electricity. Water. All this and a house with my name on the deed. Go figure.
The dog water was only partially frozen this morning, so it wasn’t terribly cold last night. And, just for the record, it’s mid-November and I haven’t had my annual respiratory infection. Wonder what that’s all about.
Dr. Who Has No Clue informed me I have no family support. Well, Mom has Alzheimer’s, my two brothers are dead, and my sister is overwhelmed with her own family. It’s kind of hard to get help from the dead and (what’s the opposite of ‘lucid’?). What I didn’t tell her is I have two cousins who still love me and an aunt who is 93 (or 94?) and sends me letters at least once a month. These days she’s even using slang. I am a little concerned about this because I have never, in all my 58 years, heard the woman use the term ‘super’ except as the prefix to ‘market’. Where did my Aunt Shirley get to?
As for having no friends, I sorely considered stopping Dr. WHNC in her tracks, but that would have ruined her day, so I just up and left. On my way out to the car, I began the litany of names…Sure, they live all over the place, but that doesn’t mean I don’t care about them. It surely does not mean they don’t care about me. What kind of life does this doctor have that she thinks it’s necessary to live hand in glove with ‘friends’?
Shaking my head.
Yes, I need a new Primary Care Physician. However, the first one I ‘met’ was on a computer screen. No thank you. Not ready for that kind of medicine.
I have insurance. A fluctuating but steady income. A car that could use some attention.
I have a computer and watch the news, Netflix, and whatever youtube video I need to learn how to take care of my new home. I listen to music and occasionally sing along.
I visit via post, phone, text, Facebook, and Messenger. Sometimes I even go in person. No kidding. D’ya want to know what else? Sometimes I even get company at my house. Really.
I have the ‘fixin’s’ of a ‘regular’ life. But – and this is where it gets to be extraordinary –
I have frost on the window that sparkles in the morning, much like the grass in the back meadow of a New England home I lived in for 13 years.
There are clouds on the horizon that give the impression of a rainy day at a beach on the Atlantic Ocean. Sure, I’ve visited a few. But I lived at several for many years.
There are mountains on three sides of town, a lava pit and desert on the other side. I’ve lived with these before, so I am among familiar places.
Orion rises above my house.
The Big Dipper hangs low on the northern horizon.
The sun still rises in the east and sets – amid the most glorious of sunsets – in the west.
I’ve seen meteors fly – in New Mexico, Colorado, Maryland, New England, Pennsylvania, … –
Who says I don’t have a home? It’s just bigger than how many folks judge a home should be.
I get irritated by people who discard my experiences without even trying to understand. I belong to a gigantic circle of friends. I live on a beautiful planet in an impressive galaxy. And every day I see something amazingly beautiful and familiar that reminds me I am not alone. It’s hard to be lonely and depressed when the whole universe reminds me daily that I belong. Here.
So, sure I don’t have dish tv, a staggering bank account, or a cupboard full of chemicals known as ‘medicine’. But I have a life that I’d stack up against any of that on any day.
I’d start quoting a John Prine song here, but I don’t have copyright permission. Just join in on the chorus of The Spanish Pipedream….