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Fighting the hobgoblins of consistency on Rusty Metal Farm

FORT KENT, Maine — People who know me, know my resistance to change.

Call it “being in a rut,” if you will, but here on Rusty Metal Farm, it’s been all about consistency.

Sure, according to Ralph Waldo Emerson, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds,” or, it is the “last refuge of the unimaginative,” according to Oscar Wilde.

Fine, I’ll own that.

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The fact is, on the farm, keeping things the same from day to day, week to week, month to month and year to year — especially since the death of my husband and more recently of my father — kept things working pretty smoothly, like being on autopilot. For the most part.

Take my morning routine.

Step one: Crack open the eyes and determine if it’s worth getting up or simply going back to sleep for a bit.

Step two: Wander downstairs and get dressed for whatever the day will bring.

Step three: (In the winter) build a fire to warm what has likely become a pretty chilly house overnight. Luckily, I would have pre-split all kindling needed the night before and stacked it neatly near the woodpile. If it’s summer, I jump immediately to step four.

Step four: Gather any and all chicken treats and food scraps and head outside.

Whatever the season, subsequent steps involve feeding dogs, wrangling chickens, filling the wild bird feeder and generally saying good morning to the world.

Back inside, the coffee is put on, Corky the Shusky gets her breakfast and whatever medication she happens to be on at the time, and I can settle in for a wee bit to read the paper, catch up on some emails and peruse social media before starting the serious business of my work day.

It’s my morning jam, and it has worked for a long time.

Until, that is, I have company. More to the point, company that wants to talk to me first thing in the morning.

At that point all bets are off.

If the steps somehow get scrambled — say coffee before outdoor chores — it can throw my whole morning into disarray.

Heck, I remember one time Corky followed me around the house for close to a half an hour before I realized I’d not fed her.

Evenings are much the same. I take Corky for a walk around the pond, let the chickens out for some free foraging time and then feed the sled dogs.

Pretty much like clockwork.

And it’s not like I did not come to this aversion to change or deviate from plans honestly.

Oh no, it’s totally hereditary.

If you were to look at photos of the interior of my parents’ house when they first moved in in 1960 and compared them to photos taken when we moved my father out in 2003, you would swear they were taken the same year. Furniture, wall hangings, knickknacks and rugs all in the same place for five decades.

I’m honestly not sure if that’s comforting or a tad disturbing.

Change, of course, does happen. It can be slow, glacial change that erodes things over time, or rapid, cataclysmic change that bring about dramatic changes.

Obviously, the death of my husband, Patrick, was one of those rapid, cataclysmic changes and, in the nine years since his passing, I found solace in keeping things pretty much the same around here.

For a very long time, tools he last touched were left alone in the shop, his boots stayed by the door, and his jackets were left hanging in the basement waiting for the changing seasons.

And yes, all of that was a comfort.

But then something happened, because it also was becoming an increasingly emotional millstone.

The friends who had so lovingly watched over me and indulged my anti-change eccentricities began gently suggesting switching things up in my life.

The “shake Julie out of her rut” movement began slowly at first, then took on some real steam, until last year I found myself — again under the watchful eyes of those loving friends — cleaning out the basement, sorting through old clothes, tools and Patrick-specific items, were ultimately were given to friends, donated to the thrift store or simply tossed out.

Traumatic? Yes. Did it shake me to the core? You bet. But within a day, it started to feel like the weight of the world coming off my shoulders.

All in all, that was some good change that opened up what has turned out to be one of the most change-filled and wondrous years I’d had in a long time.

And, when it comes down to it, I have to acknowledge that on a personal level I had been changing who I am over the years.

Once again, those same friends were there, shepherding me along, propping me up and offering endless encouragement, and I figured out who I was post-Patrick.

Thanks to them, for the first time in that very long time, the future and whatever changes it may be bringing along with it is not the long, dark, fearful tunnel it had been for so many years.

I’ve moved tools around, rearranged furniture in the house, changed up the woodland management plan on the farm, been given a wondrous new mission at the Bangor Daily News, taken care of some health issues and taken trips I’d never have imagined.

Yes, it’s all change, and deviating from my consistent routine here does make me a tad nervous still, but I’m really working on that — to a point.

I have promised Corky her breakfast will always come before my coffee.

Julia Bayly of Fort Kent is an award-winning writer and photographer, who writes part time for Bangor Daily News. Her column appears here every other Friday. She can be reached by email at jbayly@bangordailynews.com.


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