cj millar life without a paddle raven and forest

I am not your dream girl. I am the sudden shouting of crows when you enter the part of the forest you shouldn’t have. That’s me. I live here.

Perhaps it’s because it’s easier to chase you away than let you in. To keep this serene piece of nature completely to myself, to save myself and my own sanity and let it heal me in the way it always does, if I let it. If I remember to come back here every day or at least a few times a week to let go of it all. Let the forest take the burden off my shoulders and carry some of it as its own. Let the forest do what it does best – grow, absorb, and heal.

I remember the first time I went to Gettysburg with Kelly on our way back from Rock on the Range. We just did a quick stop on the way through as the sun slid below the horizon of the early autumn sky. Neither of us had ever been there before, and I laid my hands on a tree. What I saw then stayed with me and serves as a reminder as to just how powerful a tree is – and even more so when it is part of a forest, interconnected in ever more ways.

Trees can both absorb and give energy, and tell stories if you listen. They are amazing storytellers of the past and everything they see. I am not your dream girl. I am the sudden shouting of crows when you enter the part of the forest you shouldn’t have. That’s me. I live here. I protect this forest, this forest that is home.

cj millar life without a paddle forest

Things have been difficult lately. Income is tight, work has been light yet stressful, and moving still a nightmare. We’re nowhere near ready for winter with horses, the shop still isn’t moved due to ongoing weather issues and challenges, and there isn’t electric or water out to the horses yet (just really long hoses and solar fence chargers). It’s functional, but frustrating and will become a challenge when real winter sets in. It’s hard to function some days, feeling as if I need to always overachieve, and any time I am not doing something, accomplishing something, earning money, I am a failure. I second guess myself constantly, feel like I am doing everything wrong almost all of the time, and then have to stop and say hey – wait – maybe I am doing okay. Maybe I am being productive today.

Today I fed the cats and dogs, tended to some big things in the yard that needed doing, balanced the hot tub, fed the horses, cleaned the stalls, checked weights under blankets, rolled out a round bale by hand to the old men, ran both Roombas, and sanded the shower so I can paint this weekend before Thanksgiving. All before coffee or breakfast, and still had time to get in a quick shower before starting work. I guess that’s a decent amount of productivity to start the day. Sometimes I guess I just don’t give myself credit.

This time of year can be magical. This year it’s going to be hard. Harder for me than most. Last year I had a plan and a vision and knew what to do to make things better – different – for our first family Christmas starting our own traditions. I planned a Harry Potter Christmas complete with a surprise trip to Universal in the spring. But this year will be hard. Sure, we’re living in a new place, and last Christmas I had already received the news of my father’s passing. But I hadn’t really had time to deal with it all yet or let it sink in. And truth be told, I didn’t know it then but I was only at the beginning of the hell that was to come. I cried every day after the holidays that I drove to and from my father’s house. Sometimes it was stifled choking sobs. Other times is was all out soul crushing wails. I don’t know if it was part of the hell or the healing, or the only way to get shit out that I had no idea how to ever put in words. Saying I struggled that hard nearly a year after it happened is the closest to words I may ever be able to come.

This year will be hard. This year, money is much tighter. Things are much more strained in a lot of ways. As I mentioned, we haven’t even been able to move the shop still though I am hoping to as soon as possible, however it’s out of my control. We’re not set up for the horses the way we need to be for winter. There’s a lot of work to still do to get ready and not a lot of time to do it. There’s no grand plan for Christmas this year other than to survive it. I hope to enjoy it some but I have a feeling next year will be better. Next Christmas for sure, once we’re really settled. Moved in. Things are how we want them to be.

Patience never was a virtue of mine. Nor was self-forgiveness. I am working on these things. In the meantime, if you enter my forest, just remember, I am even bigger than those crows shouting at you to leave. I am the Raven perched above, looking down at you, judging myself for feeling this way, silently watching everything down below knowing that for all that when I open my mouth and words come tumbling out there are a million more things left unsaid. A million more things I’ll never tell you. Because I don’t even know how to tell myself.

This is my favorite time of year in the forest – the time of year when things are still green and orange and red enough in all the rich colors of earth and change and low autumn morning light to still breathe life into to the forest and everything within it, while the crisp northern air at the highest of elevations ushers in daybreak snow to fall upon the ground in a patchwork blanket of white amongst the autumn colors. Life, just underneath the crystalline droplets, still there to envelop you and remind you that change is a good thing. Let it all go. Let the forest absorb it all, keep your secrets and wrap you in its white blanket of winter so that come spring you can regrow and finish what you started this year and start to really settle in home.