Mo Bloggin'

A little o' this, a little o' that

Of condors and conservation, and life’s little conundrums

Sitting on the hill behind the house with my besties, writing.

The place where I buy hay for the sheep is a little mom & pop outfit in a rented pole barn the next town over. They’re based in eastern Washington, but truck over hay and other livestock needs (bedding chips, pellets, feed, etc.), as well as seasonal produce from eastern Washington farms at really good prices. Bonus: the hay they stock my sheep will actually eat. I can spend $5 more per bale at the local feed stores (which my wee gourmands think is nasty), but the Mitchells have a good product at a good price and I like giving them my business. One of the things Martha does is give you a “thought for the day”—a quote or saying, printed out on a little slip of paper—when you pay for your goods. This week it was the well-known quote from George Eliot: “It’s never too late to be what you might have been.” And it made me smile, because I have just been thinking about the path not taken…

Trixie can’t resist me – she always comes running to me if I sit in the sheep pasture.

It all started when I read an article recently about the woman who was instrumental in the team of wildlife officials, biologists, and government agencies that saved the California condor from the brink of extinction (and to be clear, we’re still not out of the woods – but there are 500 more condors now than the only-23-left-on-earth in 1987). The title of the piece alone had me thinking how lucky she was to not only be in the right place at the right time, but to have the wherewithal to follow her passion. I thought back to my youth and how ignorant and fearful I was about the opportunities in life.

Pal is the only one who will allow this, and Eloise takes advantage.

I was painfully shy as a teenager and our family was struggling. My mom, a single mother, was doing her best, but things were pretty tough. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, I took on the anxiety that permeated things, as well as the belief that life was a struggle. Maybe not all the way to “Life’s a shit sandwich and every day you have to take a bite,” but certainly “Life’s a bitch and then you die.” You were destined for a life of hardship, working to make enough money to keep a roof over your head and gas in your car. It wasn’t quite as dreary as all that sounds, but I watched my mom struggle so hard, hard enough that she ended up with serious health issues and, being unable to work, moving 3,000 miles away to live with her sister’s family. (I’d planned to go too, but ended up finding another path.) I had a really tough time coming out of my hard shell of fear (maybe this is why I adore my little box turtles? I understand…?), with a crippling lack of confidence. I was scared of everything – the idea of getting a job after school about paralyzed me (when I could have earned money to help with the family bills – I still feel guilty about this). As I neared my senior year of high school, the idea of college may have been mentioned. I just didn’t know how. I would have had to get a scholarship, which means that I’d have to actually make an effort at school. I skated by easily with a 3.5 GPA, skipping classes when I could, and I can’t remember what my SAT scores were, but I was never motivated to do more. Inertia based on fear based on anxiety based on ignorance. Or something. A nice heady stew there.

Indian plum, or Oso [Oemleria cerasiformis] – always the first to bloom.

Once out of school I began work. First at a fast food restaurant (mercifully brief), then paying a recruiter to get an entry level job at an insurance company (seriously, I had to make payments to the job agency for months, with each paycheck – what kind of f**kery is that? A life’s a shit sandwich confirmation, that’s what! Haha!). And so it began. My family was carless at the time, so as soon as I could swing it, I got a co-signed loan to buy a car (which I couldn’t even drive at first – we didn’t have a car for me to take my driving test until I bought my own car at age 19). And we no longer had to take the bus everywhere (the grocery store being the most arduous). And incrementally, life got better – my older sister was a big part of this, helping with her paycheck too, with her and her roommate living in the same house as me and my mom and brother.

In the work force and out of the public school system I became less shy, and actually made real friends for the first time in what seemed like years. But I never really had a plan; I just worked to keep a roof over my head and gas in the fuel tank, and never knew or planned where I was going, ultimately. I don’t think I’m unique in that, but looking back I do wish I’d been more aware. Day to day was about all I did, all I’ve done, for most of my life (the past decade or so being the exception, kind of). Again, not unique, and nothing “wrong” with this, but I guess it’s not enough for me now. It’s not like I never had an existential thought either – the old “what are we here for?” was not an unknown thought to me. But although I pondered this, I was never able to put it into action.

Now, later in life, I look back and realize that although the idea of college was very distasteful (read: scary) to me at 17, it would have afforded me so much in the confidence department, where I really needed it. I didn’t know what I wanted to “be” or do either, so it was another reason to avoid college – the suggested business degree (barf) and more classrooms sounded about as much fun as giving myself a root canal. I loved animals, always – the one constant in my life – but I didn’t want to go to vet school (after 12 years of school I was done – again, not realizing college is nothing like grade school – and another 8 years of school just didn’t sound appealing).

Over the years I’ve taken CE classes in topics that interested me – creative writing, writing for income, drawing, painting, and the like – but never more than that. In my 40s I went back to school and got my editing certificate and I found I LOVED college and learning. I loved the atmosphere, and even the learning process. It was an eye-opener – like, maybe I had missed out… But the once or twice a week classes after work weren’t easy, either, while working a full time job. And by then I was divorced and needed a steady income – there was zero safety net (pretty much always).

It’s the little things.

It’s only in the last 5 years or so that I’ve thought about what I didn’t do with my life. A product of aging, sure, but now the idea of becoming, say, a biologist, appeals in a way it never did before. Lately it’s the dogs again, and learning more about behavior and training. But as much as I find this stuff fascinating, and important (trying to get a bead on a rescue dog’s impetus – usually fear – for behavior issues), I’m a lousy dog trainer. I have good dogs only because they are good souls at their core, not because I’m trained them that way.

A recent rescue transport – a good boy who needs a new home.

I guess all of this rambling is little more than a bit of wistfulness at not doing more with my life – I feel like I have nothing much to show for the time I’ve been here so far. I think that’s why Rottweiler rescue work has been so fulfilling – it has meaning, and is something outside of myself that feels like I’m making a difference. I’m not saving California condors from extinction, no, but a few throwaway dogs are living much better lives because of what I’m doing. And that’s something. I have a fair amount of knowledge about the natural world (birds, wildlife, local flora), and dogs and dog behaviors, but nothing I feel I could do anything with. I’ve accomplished a lot that I’m proud of, but nothing I feel makes that difference that saving a species makes. (Yes, I realize only a few people have lives like this, who can go down in history or are remembered by name…but still.) I guess I’ll just wrap up these musings with a quote from one of my life heroes – Jane Goodall, who makes me realize there’s time yet, if only I make use of it: “What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” Don’t you just love her?

Me and Far just celebrated number 15 together! How lucky can a gal get? Love him to bits.
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8 thoughts on “Of condors and conservation, and life’s little conundrums

  1. Lots to think about in this post! Looking back and reviewing what I did, and didn’t do, and looking ahead and wondering what to focus on in the years ahead. We can’t all be a person who does something “big” and is remembered for the difference they made to the world, but we can all do small things that make a big difference for someone or something in our world. Love the picture of you sitting out in the field surrounded by your besties. Nothing better on a sunny spring day!

    • mcfwriter on said:

      Thanks, June! I agree – I don’t have any regrets over any of the choices I made, or the life I’ve led, but also realize it took a long time for me to figure out who I was. I am proud of my accomplishments – my little farm is a lifelong dream – and if I have any regrets it would only be that I wasn’t born into a farm family! Haha! I agree, the small things we do are important, every step of the way.

      The weather has been very warm here for the past week – it’s been a lovely respite from all the rain and cold. Rain is coming for the weekend though, so we’ll be back to normal soon.

  2. It’s always interesting to hear about another person’s perspective, their experiences and how they react to them. I’m not one to have regrets; I can’t go back and change the past.

    • mcfwriter on said:

      I don’t know that I have regrets per se, Michelle (although it may sound like it here). The choices I made and the life I’ve led are all good ones, and nothing I’ve done do I regret. It took me a long time to get my little farm, and I very proud of myself for what I’ve been able to achieve by myself. Solo farming ain’t for sissies! 😉 But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

      Mostly I’m thinking about the path not taken, and if it’s too late to chase that “new” dream now. As I said to June up above, my only regret is not being born on a farm. I’d be a few decades ahead of things by now. But my journey is still unfolding, and growing out of those terrible insecurities of my youth has been wonderful.

  3. I love this post- Thank you so much. It is good to reflect on the journey and the accomplishments ahead.

    • mcfwriter on said:

      You’re welcome, Donna, and thank YOU! I tend towards rumination of the mental kind, and sometimes it’s useful. It’s always good to remember there’s a lot ahead and we get to choose, even (especially?) when life is tough.

  4. Emma Finn on said:

    I love this post, Mo. ❤️ In my youth and even now (in my older youth), I have been so obsessed with next steps, trying to be the best I can to make my family proud – to make the best lemonade I can with the beautiful lemons they (including you and Grandma Marianne) grew for me! I live with this sense of urgency to “follow the path” that would lead to success (high school to college to working and working harder to get better jobs over time…til I die?). I was almost the flip side of what you experienced as a teenager – I can’t live presently because I’m constantly thinking about what’s next. The anxiety of that pressure built over time has been exhausting and scary at times; therapy has helped tremendously! I am inspired by your motivation to find purpose in the present, in the little things in life. It reminds me that (a) I’m only a wee human and (b) there is collective action we can take to make changes now – for me, I need to focus on a few things I deeply care about, and make strides where I can!

    Side note: Even with a university degree, I feel like I should know/want to know more about the biology and ecology you understand. I believe you went to the University of Mother Earth!

    • mcfwriter on said:

      Dearest Emma – I’m just seeing your comment now and am touched by your words. I’ve been in awe of you for such a long time – your drive, your willingness to work hard to achieve your goals, your brilliant light. You, dear one, are an inspiration!

      I think the desire to do good, to do something in life that holds meaning to us, is somewhat universal. I mean, we do what we have to to get by, sure, but there has to be something more that gives life meaning. It may not always be our work or our job, but hopefully it can provide the means to find that meaning we seek. We each find our own path, and it can be very winding at times, or overgrown with brambles in places, and usually a few switchbacks, but finding that meaning as we travel the path is so important. Life is so good. (it’s the title of one of my favorite books, by George Dawson and Richard Glaubman) Love you!

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