At Home in the World

3/8/20 Picked up by M at Bathgate train station, just a few past Edinburgh proper. We didn't have time to linger sadly- barely made our connection as it was. Hoping to have time to take a break from the communal living situ and get a ride back to the station for a weekend in the city. I'm speaking for J here mainly as I think I'll be just fine in the caravan learning about herbs from a witch/forager/herbalist, her Hungarian ex husband the distiller and her current boyfriend the mushroom grower.Vibe on the train: tense. 3/11/20 ½ of the people who signed up for the foraging walk didn't show. No rain, sunny, not too windy. Perfect The water was cold and there was a crack in my borrowed wellies (meant to buy a pair in London) so the north sea trickled in, soaking my only pair of wool socks. Which is a shame - I need them at night as the caravan has a few leaks of its own. The people who did show up were eager learners and knew many plants we found along the walk to the sea. Afterwards we stopped at a cafe for a warm lunch and I tried to dry my sock under the hand dryer in the bathroom. 3/19/20 Woke to the sound of the side of the van being pelted with rocks and the urge to pee. We were up late as M set up the projector and went through a lecture she gave on lichen, and we drank homemade elderflower wine in large glasses. The cat stared at us through the window while we put on our boots and said goodnight, demanding food or attention or both, not sure which, and even as a professional house sitter, I'm afraid to get it wrong with this one. I'm writing this by headlamp at the business end of the caravan. J was her usual thoughtful and foresightful self and procured a makeshift bedpan from the main house. 3/21/20 The door to the caravan iced over from horizontal rain. I climbed out the window to chip around the lock to get J out. I emptied the bedpan, washed up and made coffee for everybody although the house is dead quiet. The ancient cat is up with me so I feed her wet food and crack the surface of her water bowl. We head to the Edinburgh Royal Botanical Garden for a class called “Seaweedopedia”. The woman who runs the events tells us about the washing protocol in a tiny voice. Every dish has to be washed before use, even if it's in the drying rack. The tables and chairs need to be sprayed and wiped. The class goes without a hitch and I feel like a seaweed expert already. It starts to rain as I'm packing up the van. I watch M's concerned face as the tiny woman whispers up to her. Once on the highway M tells me that we just participated in the last class at the Royal Botanical until further notice. 3/26/20 We watch panic buying videos and go to Ikea to stock up on coffee. The parking lot is lined with myrtle berries, so we fill up a bag. We plant dozens of seeds in tiny pots that sit under glass on M's office window sill, and clear the polytunnels. The hungarian delights in reading American news to us at breakfast, showing us videos of stupid politicians saying stupid things. They read numbers to us while we clean up. The government tells us we can't go anywhere, can't see anybody. We find that the wifi reaches the caravan, and we spend more time there working and reading from the pile of foraging books M pulled for me from her huge library. Books about mushrooms and antibiotics and ecology and how to read water. At night the projector comes out and with it the elderflower wine to accompany the lectures on mushrooms and how to identify hemlock. 4/17/20 Friday night movie night saves me. The plants save me. I talk to them like I read about in Braiding Sweetgrass. They tell me if they want to be picked. I can feel their roots relax as I pull. I pick stinging nettle with my bare hands. I drink too much. We made gin and I learned only that I enjoy the tasting part. We weigh our options going forward. No flights out, visa expiring in 1 month. We can't go back as there is nothing to go back to. I dream of slipping off tightropes and getting tangled by the neck. Our seedlings didn't take in the polytunnel and those that do, the mice eat. We bait them with peanut butter. They die of fright and we feed them to the pregnant ferret. Everything is food for something. 5/9/20 Our housesits fall through as the borders refuse to open. The birds are the only things we see in the sky. I collect pine pollen and look for fairy circles in the fields. Our bonfire was seen from space if anybody was watching. We leap over the embers in an ancient ritual symbolizing forgotten rituals. We burn back what was. Smoke obscures what we will be. We argue about the way forward, eyes burning, tears streaming. We teeter and totter over apartments in Tbilisi or housesits in Mexico. Visa extension rejected. 5/21/20 EU borders closed to Americans. Turkey will take us. The flight there feels like the check before mate. Like the first and last flight we'll ever take. Like we are learning to be at home in the world.


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