Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Happiness is a Compost Bucket

When I was young and imagined my life as an adult, I saw myself living in a big city like Paris, New York or San Francisco, doing deeply meaningful work, wearing stylish clothing, discussing politics and working for causes I believed in and going to parties where people said witty things. 

The urge to have children had not hit and I did not envision children in my life although I seemed to attract children to me throughout my life. I imagined this adult world as a grown up. My work as a midwife was focused on the mom- to- be and her partner.

Fast forward this picture through relationships with men who wanted to have children and fairy tales and a home with a hearth and settling down with one who seemed to share my values. Fast forward to the birth of my first child. Pregnancy changed my body each day in ways I never imagined. I ate with a hunger I had not known before. I feel asleep on the sofa after dinner. Basic need became primary.

Who would have known that becoming a mother would do that?

I remember the day after my first child was born. His dad had gone to work and I was sitting on the bed watching this new and precious being sleep peacefully. When I began to consider the enormity of the task that lay before me, I began to cry. This was a human being and my task was to introduce him to the world. About diapers and feeding and creating a home, I felt excited and capable. But his soul, I had no idea how I, a mere person would provide enough of the right thing for this child. I sobbed my worries out and  went on staring at him the way new mothers stare entranced with their newborns while they sleep, encased in a bubble of timelessness.

You may be wondering what does this all have to do with a compost bucket ?

I'm getting there.

When I was pregnant with my first child, I gave up coffee and carefully read all food labels for additives and artificial food coloring. These foods became repugnant to me and my body no longer wanted them. I even gave up M&M's. I chose the healthiest foods I could find and ate protein with every meal and slept early each night. I thought pleasant thoughts and was excited about becoming a mother.  I talked to my mom about mothering and grew closer to her through this.

When my first child was born, I knew that I would give my life to save this child if ever need be. I felt protective in ways I never imagined. I drove slower and more cautiously. I calculated risks that I had thought nothing about doing before like jumping off trestles and picking up hitchhikers. My life took on new meaning and purpose in such a simple and primal way. I drew stronger boundaries in my work and instantly realized the value of my time when it was weighed against caring for my child and homemaking. I realized that my mom was a really good mom and capable homemaker. I realized how large it is and how encompassing it becomes.

This past weekend when I went to the dump, I learned that the large compost buckets I had been waiting for, were in, the four gallon ones with the tight fitting lid. The dump man gave me one. My own five gallon bucket had split on the side and never fit right under the sink. My porch bin is full and it is too much to trek out to the bins with each meal's scraps with the snow and cold.

I am thrilled to find a compost bucket that is large enough to hold the scraps we produce and to fit under the sink. I am thrilled to be home with my second grader, homeschooling him. I am thrilled when my teenager asks me to sit with him and help with his homework. I am thrilled to go outside and hear the birds and see a cardinal in the tree. I am thrilled for the sunbeams poring into the kitchen this morning.

Now I live in Northern Vermont, in this small rural, agricultural state. It is a huge big deal to throw a party and most likely it is a birthday party or lantern walk or cookout in the summer. That's what I can manage. Grown up time is scarce and precious. It's been ages since I've been in the city and I find the bigs ones overstimulating with children. When I took my first born to San Francisco, he was nearly three and I was afraid he might step on or pick up a syringe in my old neighborhood. The neighborhood looked so different through my eyes as a mother, filthy and fast paced. No where to roam freely on the sidewalks.

I do miss the pulse of urban life and experience it vicariously through my city friends. And today I am grooving on my new compost bucket which means gracefully turning our food scraps back into the earth which satifies me in ways I never imagined possible.

Who would have known?



  1. It's the little (but meaningful) things that make us moms happy. Even though I was still in college when I realized I wanted a family, I never knew becoming a mother would change me the way it did -- I went through all the same changes you did, especially calculating risks differently.

    I also ever knew how much satisfaction I'd get through homemaking and creating a family home -- it's why I starterd my blog, Creating a Family Home! http://www.creatingafamilyhome.com

    And I hear you on rural living -- I just wrote about our brand new high-speed internet connection the other day. We finally joined the 21st century -- I never knew such things were worth writing about! It's the little things.


  2. Oh my, this post made me weep. I'm not sure why, the beauty of your prose, your memories, the way you so deftly conjured up the changes that life wreaks.

    Thank you for taking them time to share this.


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