Jim is about what you'd expect from a man nearing sixty living alone down a three-mile driveway in Fumbuck Nowhere, Maine. He's soft-spoken and somewhat shy but friendly, full of stories and awkward silences, shorter than I had realized at first. He gave animal attributes to humans and human attributes to animals, particularly his wolf-slash-border collie Angel, who he thought the world and more of. I stayed on edge the entire week, irrationally convinced I was not going to leave the farm at the end of the seven days. As he got friendlier with me, I became less worried about being murdered and more worried about being held hostage. Every compliment he gave made me more uncomfortable, and on Wednesday before I left, when he told me I didn't need to leave so soon, I actually felt my stomach clench. The truth of the matter is that he was perfectly nice and very much so wanted me to have a good time, I just have an overactive imagination and had been reading too much Game of Thrones. He sent me off with two jars of string beans and a blanket his mother had crocheted, for goodness' sake.
So. Last Thursday, when I got to Greenbush, I followed Jim's SUV as best I could down the driveway, poor George Weasley the Hyundai Elantra bouncing through the potholes and puddles. We pulled up to the house, a strange little thing made out of new wood, old doors, and maybe some magic. It almost could have been gingerbread. (Jim is a carpenter, and he'd built it himself from the ground up, except a man with one arm had laid the foundation. The kitchen and dining area and living room all shared one high-ceilinged space, and the library and bathroom and a couple bedrooms were down a short hallway. Above the smaller rooms was what Jim called a loft, but it was walled off from the rest of the house. For a week, I lived up the tiny stairs behind a moon door, where there was a couch and a bed and some leftover furniture and brand new hardwood floors. It was a sweet little room, shaped like a trapezoid because of the slanted roof, warmer than the rest of the house.) I hadn't eaten dinner, and Jim said he didn't have much food, so he sent me off into the garden to pick whatever I wanted. Bixby promptly ran away, and by the time he'd come back he'd lost most of his off-leash privileges. I ate nothing but vegetables that night, green beans and snow peas and cucumber and tomato cut up and salted next to squash I sauteed in a wok. The next morning, we went to Hannaford, where Jim handed me six twenty-dollar bills and told me he'd wait in the car while I got food for the week. I spent $64 on beans and rice and spaghetti and veggie burgers and sandwich materials, all the things I eat at home. When we got back, the routine started.
Every day, I'd work a few hours in the garden, eat lunch, work a little more, read, maybe take a nap or go for a run, shower if I ran, cook dinner, watch a movie, and fall asleep. We went to town a couple times, but otherwise the routine was unchanged. I made it through two-thirds of A Dance with Dragons, watched nearly all the movies I've got saved on my laptop, and found out I could run for twenty minutes straight (although I could not outrun the horseflies). My favorite chore was weeding; you'd start with a messy row and end with a clean one, and all you had to do was know which plants were the good plants, because all the others were bad. It's a very cut-and-dry task, no wondering if the beans are big enough or the paint is smooth enough. I'd start with a row overgrown with dandelions and horseweed and a million other weeds sucking the nutrients out of the soil and finish with a row of happy vegetable plants working very hard to make peas or broccoli or zucchinis. My second favorite task was picking blueberries, for obvious reasons, and my third was painting the Queen Anne headboard for the bed Jim had bought on one of our trips to town.
That was the week, really. It was slow and fast at the same time but more than anything it was quiet. Bix and I drove to Pennsylvania a week ago today, which I'll post about shortly cause HELLO I'm a little behind, to a bed and breakfast, and I am so excited to be here and talk to people and take a real shower. The skies are so big.