Over the weekend we dropped everything to take advantage of the first day of PYO strawberries at Edgewater Farm in Plainfield, NH, about 45 minutes from our house. The plan was to pick as many pounds as we could and freeze them in order to offset the inevitable winter fruit shortage which forces us to buy frozen strawberries grown in impossibly far away places like Turkey. (And to answer the mostly rhetorical question posed at the bottom of the post: Yes, actually, the LLARCS apparently do have to do everything ourselves.) Our own patch, which will yield a fair amount of berries but not in such startling quantities all at once, will be eaten fresh for as long as they last.
In conversation with another parent, I explained the strawberries-from-Turkey dilemma, and she responded, “You guys always notice stuff like that.”
To which I replied, “you know, I really wish I didn’t.”
I’ve always been hyper-observant of the world around me. That’s not to say that I won’t miss a road sign or skip two steps in an instruction manual. But usually I miss the road sign or the two steps because I’ve been distracted by something else. Consequently I’m not very good at multi-tasking. But it used to be that I could compartmentalize the observations I was making, along with their associated connections, and essentially shut the noise off. Strawberries from Turkey? …shut up, I’m eating strawberries in January; where did you expect them to come from? Now let’s go watch re-runs of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
But I lost that door somewhere along the way. A new neurological connection bypassing the shut-off valve keeps these observation-connections at the forefront of my consciousness at all times. Now, I have to filter through all the noise just to decide on which kind of fish I will buy and where to buy it; “sustainably farmed”? (what about the escapees and what are they feeding these captive fish and what is the nutritional value?) hook-caught (from whence were these fish caught; what are the contents of mercury in this type of fish; were the fisherman compensated fairly?), “buy at the local CO-OP or the local fish market?” (CO-OP: Stronger Together! Fish-market: local! Fish: from same damn distributor no matter where I go!) not to mention trying to remember how much the suddenly hungry LLARCS hoard will eat in a sitting and which recipe to use so that they actually eat it.
And that’s just what’s in front of me. For added background noise there’s all sorts of issues pinging around in my head, almost constantly, every day, fueled by what I’m reading (Currently “Naming Names” by Victor S. Navasky), or what I’m experiencing, or bigger-ticket items such as climate change, the state of education and health care in our country, and the rise of the corporatocracy. Sometimes, they even bump together in giant connections that border on a grade-one, Dan Brownesque conspiracy theory.
I think most people are capable of these observations and connections and; to some extent, everyone is influenced by the actual world around them even if they aren’t consciously thinking of issues, scenarios and solutions. But these constant barrages of input, in the form of observing, reading, listening and the subsequent echoes of thoughts and memory are inherently stressful to the human brain, and most people just shut them off. They close that door. They go on with their lives, willfully and blissfully ignorant. There’s just way too much information out there to process it all.
Just buy the damn fish already; you’re running late.
Recently we’ve been looking around us and realizing that while the land we live on is rich and beautiful and unique, the town itself is in a powerful state of decline. Enrollment in the school system has gone down significantly in the last few years, and given my recent crazy gyrations trying to keep one of my children in the local school system, I can completely understand why, especially since, once they reach the 6th grade, they fall into the black hole known as Hillsboro-Deering. The crazy gyrations piece will soon be solved by the application of a game card known as “switching” which essentially puts Lionel in the big breadwinner seat and allows me to drop down to part-time, more sleep and a less crazy commute every day. But the educational dilemma still sits out there, a big dead end. The thought of sending college-level tuition payments to private schools 1 or 2 hours away from our house fills me with dread. Sending my children to an economically depressed, blue-collar populated, historically poor-performing school with limited options just seems wrong. So what do we do?
Naturally, the LLARCS try to stir things up and petition the school board to study the feasibility of alternative school choices for Washington. As if I didn’t already have enough chaos going around in my head; I organized my thoughts, researched the issue, wrote a lot of supporting documentation, pounded out some statistics, organized some parents and went to the school board, which promptly told us to go away because they were “too busy” and the issue we were raising was “too big.”
Essentially, they shut that door. That big door that everyone else has where they can take in a bunch of supporting documentation, possibly even read it, and get absolutely nothing out of it at all.
The Chair said it all: “What do you want us to do, again?”
Lionel is as stressed as I am, these days, prior to our big transition. So even though I patiently explained that the new automatic watering system that I had just purchased was leaking because I had neglected to use plumber’s tape or a wrench to put it together, but that if you turned it on halfway it didn’t leak as much, and that I was going to buy plumber’s tape and fix it the next day, this morning he called me to ask if the waterer was broken because it was leaking so much and did I know that and should he turn it off? I know there’s lots of stuff bouncing around in his brain too. In one ear, out the other. Or in one ear, out the same ear. Shut the door.
“No, ” I said, and decided not to go into the whole spiel again, and, understanding that it was stress that had made him tune out, tried not to be irritated that he’d apparently not heard anything I’d said at all, “Just turn it on half-way. I’ll fix it tonight.”
You know, after I pick up the kids, move the chickens, go to a laundromat because our washer just died, make a couple phone calls about said washer, buy said plumber’s tape,make dinner (fish tonight!), and deal with other unexpected issues. Meanwhile, my brain, having lost that door somewhere along the line, will still be going on and on, each issue, whether immediate or large, getting equal and scattered attention. You’d think with all that swishing around in there somewhere I’d finally figure out how to fix the damn door.