Based on a friend’s recommendation I am reading Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. It’s a great book about writing. I would recommend it especially to writers, but it’s so well written and amusing that most anyone would enjoy it. One thing she discusses is one’s ’emotional acre’ and I quite like this concept. In order to get a better idea of your emotional landscape, so to speak, imagine an acre of land to represent the whole of your emotional being. What does this acre look like? What grows there? What doesn’t grow there? Who is allowed to visit? Who lives there with you? Is there work to do? Is it beautifully landscaped? So, I took a few moments to think about my emotional acre.
If all of myself could be represented by an acre of land what would it look like? Well, for starters the whole thing is surrounded by a tumble-down wall. It is field stone and mortar, about five feet tall, there are stones and pieces missing here and there. The razor wire strung across the top is rusted and tangled and missing in many places. The high metal gate is also rusted and listing on its hinges – it doesn’t close properly anymore. The whole structure is about twenty years old and clearly hasn’t been maintained. I really need to tear it all down. However, for the moment I keep it, like an old sweater that has outlived its usefulness. What if I need that sweater again someday? I know it’s time for the wall to go, but I’m not quite ready to tear it all down yet. Though, I am letting more people into my acre. They may not know it, but they are welcome to come through the old gate. There are a lot of weeds and overgrown lilacs to wade through before they get to the heart of my acre. The wild place isn’t bad; it just hasn’t been tended recently. Few people have come through the gate – let alone over the wall – in more than a decade, so I haven’t tended to the wilderness around the perimeter. It isn’t a dark, frightening tangle of thorns and vines, it’s just a bit of work to wade through. I guess it’s time to cut a path from the gate to the heart of my acre. There is a faint path where a few people have found their way through the woods in the last few years. I have started to widen that path and I’ll lay down stones from the wall to make a proper welcoming route to the heart. Now, once you get past the wild place with its weeds and bees and flowers the area is a still a little rough. I don’t exactly manicure this acre. I tend it, but its kind of organic. I have some sheep and goats to keep the grass and weeds down. I’m pretty self-sufficient here – sheep, goats, rabbits, chickens, bees, tomatoes, peppers, Saskatoon berries, rhubarb. There’s a reliable source of fresh water. I do a bit of trading with the folks I let in – family and close friends. I ask them for help setting up my wind turbine or to bring me books and writing material in exchange for eggs and zucchini (just kidding – no one trades for zucchini!). In one, slightly less overgrown section of the my acre is an old play structure. It hasn’t been used in years and is in rougher shape than expected. I hope that making a proper path and tearing down the wall will invite someone and his child(ren) to share my acre and the play structure. But, I have to do the work of weeding and tearing down to make this a possibility. My ‘inner sanctum’ is replete with art, music, poetry, literature, dance, fun, pets and friends and family dropping in to eat strawberries from the yard. Within my inner sanctum is a log cabin with enough room for seven or eight, maybe ten, to live comfortably. Right now, though, it’s just me. I’ve become like an old lady, living in just three or four rooms, letting the others moulder and fill with dust. It’s been so long since I paid those rooms any attention I’ve almost forgotten they exist. I’m slowly going through them, opening the curtains and windows – giving them a good airing out. My daughter’s space will be the first to be repainted and made welcoming. Then, I hope to fill the rest of the place with new friends and family members. My little clearing on my acre sustains me. I know that once I’ve aired out all the cabin’s rooms, torn down much of the old wall and built a proper path my acre will thrive and so will I.