Discover more from Beagle Voyage with Jane Liaw
The rival turkey gangs that live on the hill near my house mark territory using poop. That’s my best theory for why so many piles of doodoo litter the road, either gigantic green tubular shits or glistening wet poop-emoji turds.
One gang lives at the top of the hill, where most of the tubular shits are found, and the other gang, emoji poop gang, lives at the base. I climb that hill several times a day for exercise, and whether at the top or bottom, I have to watch my feet to avoid a bad shoe surprise.
The hill houses turkeys, deer, and some peacocks that I see roaming around occasionally. Throughout spring, a neighbor halfway down the hill puts out boxes of Meyer lemons from her backyard tree. We take some and make lemon cake, lemon chicken, and lemon ricotta pancakes. The other day as I was walking past, I thanked this neighbor for sharing her bounty and, the next time I doubled back on my hill climb, she was waiting outside for me with a whole plastic bag full of freshly picked lemons.
As I huff my way up, I listen to “Take On Me” by A-ha and stress a little about what still needs to be done before we leave for our time away. For years, I’ve been hoping we could start a more nimble, location-independent lifestyle, and now we’re finally taking steps toward one. The price of this nimble living is a lot of tedious and clunky preparation.
I’ve spent a lot of time in my life looking forward to the next big thing. Now I have another next big thing looming, and it’s something I’ve anticipated for a while. It’s hard not to look forward all the time. It’s hard not to think, ‘Life is going to be so great when we start moving.”
It’s especially hard when there are so many tasks to be done around this move that drive me to keep thinking ahead. Once one is done, the next task slots in to take its place.
But watching my daughter Beanie grow up in what feels like a minute—and sitting at the peak of middle age—has gotten me to see what is in front of me more than I have before. Hurtling toward the future only makes what’s around me a big blur. Being close to a small growing human really underscores the passage of time: Last year’s her is a different person from this year’s her, and next year’s her will be a different person still.
There’s no going back, and I know in a few years I’ll miss the Beanie of today as much as I now miss the toddler Beanie.
I don’t recall ever wishing the years forward when Beanie was very small—I never wanted her to be any older than she was—but I did wish the days and sometimes the nights would pass more quickly. There are a lot of tedious moments when kids are tiny. Then each tedious moment builds upon the next, and you catch yourself wanting that day to just be over.
I think it’s healthy for parents to acknowledge that it sometimes sucks and sometimes is very, very hard not being able to get away from your responsibilities to your child. And it does seem like in recent years, it’s become more acceptable to say that out loud. So much so that when Beanie was born, I was psychologically prepared for the challenges. I knew to expect highly interrupted nights and leaky boobs; I knew to look out for—and warn my husband to look out for—postpartum depression.
(Steeling myself against the challenges, it came as almost a surprise to discover that having a child was also fun. Kids are a joy and so entertaining when they aren’t being a pain in the ass [sometimes even when they’re being a pain in the ass]. Watching them try to work out the ways of the world is fascinating. All those neural connections forming at breakneck speed…it’s mad action in a baby’s brain.)
Though I never wanted to fast forward to an older Beanie, there are many of those tedious moments where I wasn’t filled with gratitude or appreciation, but a sense of trudging dutifully toward a finish line.
There’s no point now in looking back and wishing I’d been more appreciative. I don’t know that, even if I could do it all over again, I’d be able to hold on to a zen attitude for very long. At the first toddler tantrum, I’d lose my cool. I am what I am…and two-year-olds are quite frustrating.
I can only grasp onto the now, and try not to let regrets flower in the future.
Nancy and Pat are a couple who live on this hill and own a teardrop trailer; when we first met them, in pre-pandemic days, they invited us in to look inside the trailer and visit their beautiful gardens, which they designed themselves. That year when we went cherry-picking in Brentwood, we dropped off some cherries at their front door. In good weather, we see them sitting on their porch reading and nursing glasses of wine, and we’ll stop for a chat.
Overhead as I climb the hill, hawks circle. Down closer to the treeline are woodpeckers and hummingbirds. I hear the woodpeckers tapping during the day all over our neighborhood, and at night we sometimes hear an owl hooting close by. Around our neighborhood, we’re often stopped during our walks by neighbors and their dogs saying hello.
We are lucky to have this little slice of Americana at our front door. There’s a lot of foot traffic outside our house, and the Little Free Library on our lawn gets frequent use. We try to keep the Little Library neat, but sometimes we go away for a while and when we return, the people who use the library have organized it for us.
The neighborhood is the main thing we love about our house, actually—we’re kind of “meh” about the house itself, but living in a place where people notice when they haven’t seen you in a while, or text you when they see you’ve accidentally left your garage door open at night (this happens to us often) feels right and it feels healthy.
When every day is a routine, it takes some effort to notice all the good everyday things. Right now I’m thinking ahead to that thrilled feeling I have after waking up too early, jetlagged, and trying to get my bearings in a strange land with strange smells. But the familiar comfort and beauty of home that I take for granted now is what I’ll look back on with nostalgia when we’re on the move and surrounded by foreignness.
At the top of the hill, where I turn around to head back down, the view of other hills and the treeline is grand, especially at sunset. Up here, the top-of-hill turkey gang is always milling about on the street or somebody’s lawn (no doubt leaving unwelcome deposits everywhere). When they see me approach, the ones with more bravado will puff up their feathers and glare at me until I pass them by.
I can’t gaze at that view on the horizon for too long—don’t want to step in some turkey poop on my way down. I also don’t want to miss the hummingbirds and butterflies that alight on the bright spring flowers all around us right now, or my lemon-gifting neighbor waving at me from her kitchen window.
I’m here and I’m looking carefully at where I’m treading and what’s around me. But I’m not just biding my time. I am enjoying my walk.
Pretty Good Things:
A different kind of travel Youtuber
I follow a number of travel vloggers on Youtube, but Indigo Traveller stands out for the kind of travel he does, to places that are dangerous and rarely touristed—Yemen, Honduras, Venezuela, the slums of Nigeria. His videos don’t have or need fancy editing effects or a dramatic musical soundtrack. He talks to people who are living their lives under stressful, sometimes excruciating circumstances. Sometimes he raises money for local projects he encounters, such as a grassroots children’s meal program in a very needy part of Caracas, Venezuela.
Kids stories that won’t drive you insane
If you’re a parent, you’ve no doubt spent many painful hours listening to terrible and demented children’s songs and stories. Thank goodness for Story Pirates, a group of performers who create amusing ‘radio plays’ based on the story ideas their young listeners send in. I like listening to their podcast almost as much as Beanie does, and I laugh almost as much too.