On worst-case scenarios

The pod people descend

You regular readers may have been noticing a decided lack of content-laden posts lately.  I apologize.  I have been up to my eyeballs in personal matters.

Lo these last few years it has been fairly commonplace for many bloggers to rue a flavor of the week doomer issue:  global warming/climate change, peak oil, global fiscal collapse, terrorism, whatever.  What to worry about, what to do about it, is generally the theme of those posts.  “Preparedness,” “sustainability,” and “adaptation” are very commonly mentioned terms made in response to these problems.  I certainly didn’t read (much less use) these terms with such frequency a decade ago.  Statistics show however that personal tragedies are much more likely to befall you, and probably a lot sooner, too.  A job loss, say, or a house fire, or a car accident, or natural catastrophe, or the illness or even death of a dear family member.  It is these common tragedies that we should prepare for, that we should…befriend.


One often goes through Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ five steps in things other than death.  “Acceptance,” the last step, does not mean fait accompli; often, the griever circles back again through the steps like some nightmarish carnival ride.  Personally, I think what hurts the most is the yearning for that time Before The Event.  You know:  your carefree miles spent in your gas-guzzling SUV, say, or life before the job loss/accident/flood/fire/illness/death. Life seemed so much simpler then!  Our problems were so few!  What could we possibly have had to complain about?

Grieving too is practically another world, a parallel plane to the one most of us walk about every day.  In the words of Iris Murdoch, “A real experience of death isolates one absolutely.  The bereaved cannot communicate with the unbereaved.”*

Becalming the bees

Our family is going through some changes.  My autistic brother has moved in with us; I have blogged about him before.  My mother is suddenly very ill and cannot care for him.  We, in turn, will be caring for my mother.

Honey Turkey don’t care

What in the world does this have to do with gardening?  Quite a lot, if we were to look at my garden, my kitchen.  The dining room table will be set for five, not three.  We will probably purchase the farmhouse across the road for my brother:  it’s larger than this one, and needs a bunch of work.  He will eventually live there with a few other developmentally disabled adults.  That house’s eleven acres will complement this house’s five.  And the old farmstead will be reunited (the houses and land were originally part of a 38 acre fruit farm, built by two immigrant Sicilian brothers a hundred years ago).  And, well…life will go on.

*An Accidental Man by Iris Murdoch, NY:  Penguin, 1988.  Originally published 1973.

28 responses to “On worst-case scenarios

  1. Your added burdens seem heavy, although it does seem you may have the recipe for lemonade.

  2. How is it possible to write so beautifully about uncertainty? Thank you.

  3. Sounds like a trying time, El. I agree you write about it beautifully. Hang in there.

  4. I hope for the best possible outcomes for you with this sudden change. It sounds like you have a good handle on it though.

  5. Wow. Big changes in your life. Best wishes for it to go smoothly and when it doesn’t, for you to be able to ride out the rough spots without too much grief.

  6. Your mother and brother are fortunate to have you there and willing to help out. I have a feeling you are well equipped to handle the change and uncertainty that these things impose. Lovely post.

  7. I identify with what you said about “acceptance” as a state of the grieving process and yearning for “the time before” – I believe that we are still grieving”over the damage done to our home, beautiful trees, and yard from the tornado last year. I believe we both have not come to grips with it in terms of “fixing” everything, because it feels sort of like “why bother – something else will happen”. And yet, on a whole other level, we keep on putting one foot in front of the other, making progress in other things. I keep trying to envision being on the other side of this damaged version of our once-beautiful farm – I know intellectually that it CAN happen, just don’t feel like we have the heart to MAKE it happen just yet.

    I certainly feel for you with your new family challenges and wish you well with all that’s ahead of you! I admire your will and willingness to take on such challenges, as well – perhaps reflecting on your courage in the face of what seems to be worse challenges is what I need to face mine! Best wishes to you and yours . . .

  8. Oh sweet lady, the biggest hug your way. Hard times and shifting to accommodate them is never an easy task. Tho when I read your line about setting the table for 5 and not 3, then later about housing other disabled adults…well, I just got to thinking about your path so far. How everything you’ve learned over the past 5-10 years has prepared you well to deal with these new changes. You have so much good, nutritious food and your *intention* concerning all life is so sincere and honorable… You’ll find the strength you need for these new, perhaps unasked for, but still incredibly important projects. Much love.

  9. That Iris Murdoch quote is one of the best quotes about bereavement I have ever heard. When my dad died, there was so much understanding in some people’s word, so much support and helping. And other people said the same words, but they were empty and just showed how little they knew. Such a strange thing, grief, whatever you are grieving.

    Sending you good thoughts and strength for the busy, chaotic, and distressing times ahead. I hope that there is reward and rest in them, too.

  10. So sorry to hear about your Mom being ill, you are in our thoughts. As a matter of fact I was thinking about you today while admiring the numerous offspring of the various alliums you so generously shared with us…stay strong.

  11. Funny how life sometimes throws you curve balls, and then later something good always comes from it. Best wishes for your mom, and hopefully happy times ahead for your whole family.

  12. Good luck with all of that.More land though gives you new things to try.I love that your daughter has her own beekeeping outfit and that the Turkey seems totally unconcerned in the background.You are teaching your daughter well though about the connection and the work of land to food something most kids are not exposed to.

  13. I’m sorry to hear you mum is ill, and I admire how you cope with what life is throwing at you. Certainly it is a lot to take on, and I hope you too will have some support in these changing times.
    Aside from that, the picture of you and your daughter in her bee-site is priceless, lovely – and great to see how you involve her in all you do (I know she is part of the reason you live the way you do, but it’s still great. Does she enjoy looking in on the bees?)

  14. Best wishes to your entire family during this time, it sounds wonderful that you are all caring for each other. Don’t forget to take care of yourself as well!

    The tiny bee suit is adorable.

  15. A well-written post. It looks like you have a really good plan. Developmentally disabled people can often do lots of things, gardening among them, as long as someone is able to guide them in what to do and how. I know the transition will be difficult but how would we appreciate the good times without the hard times to contrast it with. Hugs, Ilene

  16. Hugs to you El. I’ll certainly keep you and your family in my thoughts. You are doing what is best for your family. I admire you.

  17. Chiming in as a first-time commenter to echo the sentiments all ready expressed. Your dedication to your family is truly touching and I am certain that you must all grow closer still as a result of the new arrangements you are undertaking. Wishing you all the best with them, and your mother the best possible health.

  18. Sorry to hear about your mom! Hope she recovers soon. Having a brother will be a lot of fun ..esp for the little one to have an uncle close by. I am sure the gardeing work will be therapeutic for him. I always wanted a bigger family…long dining table full of people. I am glad your table will be full : ).

    Best of luck my blogger friend!

  19. Hugs El. It’s too bad this beautiful post came from such uncertainty and trepidation. I wish I could send you a smile and shoulder!

  20. I’ll add my wishes for good health and happy times to come your way.
    You’re setting a wonderful example for your daughter in the value of treasuring your family.

  21. Thank you everyone!

    I would love to thank you individually but I have a feeling I’d get a bit choked up! Thank you all, sincerely.

    I do have to send out a shout-out to Conni, though. I am so sorry to learn of the tornado. One foot in front of the other…but I know what you mean about feeling the other shoe is going to drop too. All the best. And: I might want a half a pig this fall…! I will be in touch!

  22. El, my first comment after a couple of years following your every post and finding nourishment there. As someone who has been thrown into the caregiving role for parents in the last few years, my heart goes out to you and your family. Now every time I read a post, I will hold you in my heart and and hold a deep wish that you will find the strength and optimism to meet every day’s challenges with grace. And that you will get the support you need to continue to experience and love life every day as it comes.

  23. El, I’ve been thinking about you since I read this post. Lots of changes! And all my best thoughts and intentions go out to you. One day at a time, eh? Iris has long been one of my favorite writers, and she is right on in that quote. Wishing you a yeasty and rewarding take on this life.

  24. El – best wishes for the 5 of you. It’s a big change, and a challenging one at that having to care for 2 family members. But with love and determination – both of which you seem to have plenty – miracles can and do happen.

  25. The part of you that wrote the turkey caption is going to be very important in the coming months. Do what you can to nurture it. And maybe all that extra land will mean that your CSA can turn into a real job like grown-ups have. Either way, chin up. I know you have it in you.

  26. *smiles*

  27. also. what Peter said. Honey Turkey Don’t Care! and that’s exactly right.

    Somebody gave me that t-shirt for my birthday this year (except it wasn’t the turkey and you know perfectly well what I mean 🙂

  28. so beautifully told. thx

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