Luxuries and freedoms are on my mind. I write this, sitting as I am, in the air-conditioned computer area of the local community library here on Culebra, alone, with both of my children off fishing with their father and their friend and his father, at 11am on a weekday.
Many luxuries and freedoms here, for me – coffee in hand – beautiful, peaceful, all-enveloping silence surrounding me, cool air maintaining sweatlessness, barefoot, comfortable; and for each of my children and my husband too.
For it would appear that, for a modern day father and principal income provider, the freedom to take one’s children fishing in the middle of the day with your friend and his son, with no pre-arranged daycare discussions or negotiations with bosses or clients, is rare. In many cases, impossible.
This would, therefore, be a luxury.
So also would the car that we just bought. We caved. The heat and the distance from town meant that we were borrowing a vehicle more frequently that would ever be workable in the medium-term. We are now car-owners officially again. It is awesome actually. Guiltily, noisily, pollutingly awesome. We are, if nothing else, a family of extreme contradictions.
A very dear and respected teacher and theater mentor of mine, himself an incredible and authentic artist and vital life liver, once said to me that he gauges how intelligent a person is by the number of their contradictions: the more contradictions, the higher the intelligence. That puts us in the genius category I would say. Impossible to pigeonhole. Woot.
I remember also the assessment made of me in my final teaching observation during my post-grad teacher-training year. ‘Completely unconventional, yet utterly effective’.
I have always held onto that, especially during times when my ability, sanity, relevance, capability, methods and motivations are called into question from either the outside or from within.
And I have been battling with some of these issues lately – perhaps some of the reason for my absence from the word these past few weeks. Just processing, nothing amiss. Struggles with a strong-willed five year old. Mistakes made. Lessons learned. Have you discovered handinhandparenting.org? It is a great resource when you feel like you are sinking and your responses are off. Thanks to some of the insights of practitioners contributing to this online community, I feel we have turned a significant corner. Thankfully.
And then, as I find it always seems to go with children, once you DO hit on the right thing, the improvements are rapid, seemingly instantaneous. Improvements that is, not perfection – we could wait a thousand lifetimes for that illusive nonsensical life-wasting preoccupation.
Pirate Camp’s current little luxuries and improvements since my last entry include:
A donated washing machine – so fabulous and so welcome for all reasons obvious when considering raising two children (one of whom changes costume at least twice per day), outside in the dirt and heat, gardening and playing with animals.
A Toyota 4Runner – giving us the ability to drive around our island home without borrowing someone else’s expensive set of wheels. We are also now able to get on and off the ferry, which is a ridiculous, slick steel, 45-degree angled ramp: death to the underbelly of any car with low clearance; an adventure in tire-spinning and engine-screaming, amidst fumes of burning rubber, for any 2-wheel drive; a pretty challenging ordeal – you must mount the ferry in reverse, performing zig-zag maneuvers – for even an above-average driver; no problem for Our Red Beast (‘Cherry’/’la Cereza’) and SuperJustin with his nerves of steel. This addition also opens up exploring the main island of Puerto Rico to us in a major way. Kids, tent, dogs, provisions. Bonza.
A flying remote-control helicopter.
A five-pack of baby dolls plus outfits.
A raised platform made of pallets. Covered with blankets and cloth, strewn with cushions and sheepskins in the main living area.
An egg hatchery, complete with automatic egg-turners and 24 assorted chicken eggs across a number of breeds meat, egg and fancy/fluffy.
A sushi dinner on the main island.
An organic caterpillar killer to (hopefully) enable a squash crop to speak of. This is the fourth time I have grown squash on the island and, once again, we are plagued with the yucky green worms. Yes, I know, what is it that Albert Einstein apparently uttered or penned: something about the definition of insanity as repeatedly doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results? And I think I am intelligent?! Well, this time I have changed a variable, and this time maybe we will have a different outcome – a squash dinner, instead of squash plant compost.
We have okra plants thriving and looking gorgeous, lots of them, as I planted a load more given the success of the first lot.
Arugula coming up.
Tomatoes and beets and more arugula and kale and gandule beans planted in seed trays.
An expanded, much more workable, kitchen set-up, thanks to a recent re-jig and reconfiguration of our main living space (at the same time as the seating platform addition).
A large, secure, under-souplad dog house for such times as we are out and the dogs need to be contained with relative space and comfort. They hate it – it’s not a king-size bed, and there are no pillows. They’ll get over it.
Hanging solar lanterns lighting up play camp like a magical fairy wonderland. These are blue mason canning jars, with solar panels on the lids and an LED inside, illuminating the children’s collections of items found and foraged.
A few key dump finds to form part of chicken solution 2.0.
Still abundant tulsi and other fresh herbs for medicinal and delicious teas.
And then, of course, there are all the other intangibles and elementals that are worth so much more, like each other, nature, beauty, sun, sea, fresh air, freedom, friendship.
And there it is again: freedom.
I had a conversation the other day which made me recall a discussion with my then philosophy student brother on the subject of freedom and – moreover – the distinction, made by someone, between the concepts ‘freedom from’, and ‘freedom to’.
It is one of those discussions that has stuck.
I have just googled it now, and I find the two terms also defined as ‘negative freedom’ (freedom from) and ‘positive freedom’ (freedom to).
It’s a great guideline with which to assess our freedoms personal, cultural and legal. What are we and aren’t we free from, and what are we or aren’t we free to do?
Taking the example of our new Cherry the 4Runner and Beast, we are now:
Free to drive around Culebra independently;
Free from the anxiety of using someone else’s vehicle;
Free to roam and discover parts of PR, to explore by our own steam.
NOT free from the guilt of knowing that we are polluting our environment with our transport choices;
Not free to travel without using money.
It’s an interesting exercise and an interesting lens through which to examine our society and the choices we make in our lives.
Taking now, and the luxury of the moment:
I am free to sit and write in comfort and peace.
I am free from the responsibility (for this brief moment) of keeping my children safe and fed and watered and amused and from hurting each other with hands or words.
I am free to relax my mind and explore processes and thoughts that have been milling about my psyche for the past week or two.
My husband is free from the burden of traditional employment and able to decide how he uses his own time.
We are not free from the worry that comes at times of scarcity when clients fall away or new clients are not forthcoming.
We are free to organize our finances in such a way that we are less and less affected by the leaner times.
My children are free to build positive and meaningful, integral relationships with the natural world around them.
My children are free to vent their frustrations and explore and unleash their emotions in a safe and loving place.
My children are free from the rigidity of a timetabled existence, free to establish rhythms and rituals that are meaningful to them, not free from the boredom that makes self-reliance a necessary trait.
We are free to eat the fish from the sea around us.
We are not free from the feeling of disappointment when we fail to make a catch.
We are free from the necessity to eat government-sanctioned GMO foods and polluted and de-natured food-type products.
We are free to work through parenting issues as they come up, to establish a living family (Pirate!) culture that works for us.
We are free to homeschool our children.
We are not free from the judgments of others regarding the choices we make.
We are free to disregard them totally.
Something I saw recently on the internet that made me smile and inspired a lot of my recent process and thought; something that made me examine both my idea of self and the experience of the reality of myself – who I am, what I can be, what holds me back, what sets me free:
A Lion Does Not Lose Sleep Over The Opinions Of Sheep.
I love that. Utterly. Completely.