August Work Release–Real and Raw

August is finished (whoohoo!) Time to show our work. I am trying not to rush but ooooooh, how I love the end of summer. It hangs on too long here in Mercyburg; sometimes well into October. It does no good to get too excited just because the calendar thinks summer is over. I’ve been burned by this seasonal regional hocus pocus year after year but I can at least celebrate another August is complete.

A work release post is part confession, part obsession. It’s how we document the work of wellness for transparency and accountability. You’ve heard me say it a thousand times. Wellness doesn’t just happen. We have to work at it, and by that I mean practice. We don’t achieve it. We practice it. These are the significant ways I practiced in the month of August.

This first one could count toward several different wellness categories:  intellectual, spiritual, physical, maybe more. I live in a landlocked state. We have no coastline. However, 50 million years ago Mercyburg was covered by ocean. The ocean receded to become the Gulf of Mexico. What was once the ocean floor became a prairie. I went hiking there this month. Marine life left behind in the soil turned it black and silky under the prairie grasses and flowers, designating it a blackland prairie. Of course I loved saying it the French way, Terre Noire.

Texas has blackland prairies as well but Texas also has a coast. This otherwordly quality of which I will gush is partly due to no coastline here in Mercyburg. It made my sea life discoveries feel more miraculous.

Note the flowers are taller than I am.
A dizzying array of prairie plants.
An ocean of color lifting out of the blackland.

I found fossilized sea shells as I walked. I held in my hand the remnants of living things from 50 million years ago. The energy, y’all. Where are my words for this? Imagine standing on a metamorphosis. The energy was still there after 50 million years. Is still here, not was. It’s same damn Earth. She isn’t made only of matter. She’s also made of energy. It doesn’t go away just because time goes by. At one point I had to sit down, close my eyes, and just feel it.


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The curly fossil is Exogyra ponderosa. It’s a prehistoric oyster, now extinct. They lived here in our prehistoric ocean in the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. Now they live here on our blackland prairie. The one I found is just bigger than the palm of my hand. The ridges are worn down by 50 million years on the prairie and the process of fossilization. The photo below is an example of one better preserved while still a shell.


The area I hiked is open to the public but protected by The Nature Conservancy and the local heritage commission. The prairie is disappearing as humans want the land for more buildings and parking lots and farms. So far two big chunks of the prairie have been rescued and are being actively restored. In total there are 850 acres under preservation, surrounded on all sides by private property.

Prescribed burns to mimic natural wildfire rejuvenate the prairie. Invasive trees are controlled. There are some woodland areas as well. The dead tree at the top of this post was among the small pockets of tree-ringed meadows within the prairie. Many of the trees were scorched black from fire on the bottom portions of the trunk but blazed green and leafy overhead. This cicada shelled itself in a spot where charred bark peeled away. Old skin on new skin.

The next weekend we went to a different section of the prairie. Note how different it is. Green instead of yellow. Fewer flowers and butterflies but we found quail. And ticks. And a pond, to which I said, “Part of you is still the ocean.” Because of course the prairie can hear me. And understand me.

This part of the prairie was so hilly and vast The Chef and I got separated and had to use GPS to find each other.
Not shadows; these are veins in the Earth
Oh, the blackness. Almost makes the dirt seem elegant, doesn’t it?

Intellectual Wellness & Creativity:

I went to see a play with my friend Kristen (this one) and wrote some bad poetry this month. You read the bad poetry earlier this month. The play stimulated my interest in learning more about conversion therapy. If you’ve never heard of this, it’s the practice of using medical, psychological, or spiritual methods to reverse homosexuality. Although it isn’t depicted in the play it comes up in related conversation because part of the story includes sending a gay kid away to a Catholic boarding school to cure him. I don’t want to spoil the play for you but it doesn’t work. Conversion therapy doesn’t work either. I will definitely spoil that one for you.

Amateur photography remains a firm second place behind writing as a primary practice for creative wellness. I documented the dog days of summer here in Mercyburg with a portrait of Lord of the Shade.

I also had a big bunch of fun photographing my Yoga Joes. Their poses are sprinkled throughout this post. Play is an important aspect of wellness. Just ask this little guy:

Photo Aug 24, 9 11 22 PM

I managed to make two TINAS (This Is Not A Selfie) while out on the prairie. Mercy Among the Sky-High Yellow Flowers shown above and Mercy Stalking a Tick Bite shown below. Later in the month I made a double exposure TINAS from a similar prairie shot without me in it. I could not love it more.

Photo Aug 11, 8 38 20 AM (1)

I read The Tenth Island as a bedtime book and in doing so learned more than ten intriguing things about the Azores (islands), not the least of which is that the penchant for bullfighting thrives around the world, not just in Spain. The appeal of the sport continues to baffle me even though the writing was lovely.

To broaden my knowledge base of my ever-evolving vegan lifestyle I studied allergies and sensitivities to plants in the nightshade family. This led to a study in immunotherapy without drugs. Why?  Fresh tomatoes. I’ve been binge-snacking on them all summer. Overdoing it, I guess. I was plowing through about four or five raw tomatoes per week,in the form of tomato sandwiches. My skin is complaining. I’ve got to cut back, or at least switch to cooking them, which breaks down the protein making my skin complain. I don’t want any drugs so I educate myself and adjust how I feed myself. This is part of the practice.

Spiritual Wellness:

I mentioned before I will probably write less about specific spiritual practices. This doesn’t mean I don’t still have some things to say about it. This is what I’ve got to say for the month of August:

Financial & Occupational Wellness:

Photo Aug 10, 5 08 27 PM
Look up if you love firm support. 

I’ve transitioned from a Spending Fast to a Spending Diet. What’s the difference? On a Spending Fast one spends no money on non-essential items for a specified length of time. No money as in none. All money not spent for essential items is used to reduce debt. On a Spending Diet there is a spending limit for non-essential items. That’s the difference.

But don’t mistake this for as a budget. This is different from a budget because there are still only two categories of spending; things one needs and everything else. On a Spending Diet there is spending limit for everything else, no matter what it is. No breaking it up into dozens of sub-categories with a different allotment for each category. No re-appropriating unspent funds from one category into another so you can spend more on unicorn tears because you didn’t spend what you budgeted for rainbow dust. You also don’t get to roll over unspent funds from one week or month to another. Unspent funds go to debt or savings but become unspendable at the end of the spending period.

So what did I buy in my first month off the Spending Fast? A new mattress. Our old one was so old, awful, and broken down it was like sleeping in two canoes. I’ve waited almost three painful years, which means I’ve slept on mattress which needed to be replaced years before it became painful to sleep upon it. I told myself I had to pay off my debt first AND use real money (not credit) for a new one. I crushed the debt in July, but before you assume my new spending limit for non-essentials is $2000+, let me clear that up.

Upon the recommendation of the Frugalwoods I bought their internet mattress. I’ve wanted to try this thing for — you guessed it — years now. Ms. Frugalwoods published a five year update on her initial review of the internet mattress in 2017 and it became my dangling carrot. Mine cost even less than theirs because I didn’t buy the king. If I was a songwriter I’d write an ode to my relief. Instead I will simply echo the recommendation.

And let me also echo the rebuke and restate the rip-off of conventional name-brand expensive mattresses. When the old one was new we went the conventional route and paid way too much for it because the of the sage advice (fear) that we’d get what we paid for so we’d better pay a lot. Buy the best mattress you can afford, right? It’s an investment, right? Lies, lies, lies. I took the old one apart. In my carport. I’m not kidding. I saw for myself what a crock that was. We were suckers of the suckiest variety.

Photo Aug 10, 5 24 45 PM
Raise your hand if you’ve ever been an easy mark for retailers.

Our curbside waste removal service won’t take old mattresses. Ours was so awful I wouldn’t have donated anyway but charities and used furniture thrifters no longer accept mattress in Mercyburg. It costs $73.00 to dispose of any item at the local landfill even if you haul it there yourself and throw it in yourself. Whether it’s a paperclip or a queen-size mattress, the fee is $73.00. This may explain why I find so many mattresses and recliners dumped in ditches or tossed out in the woods when I’m hiking.

I said the hell with all that. I got a box cutter out of the toolbox and broke down the hideous old mattress myself. When I sliced it open I was truly appalled at how f-ing cheap the materials on the inside of the mattress really were. I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t taken the damn thing apart myself and saw what cost us thousands of dollars and hurt my back anyway. It’s almost made of nothing. The major component was air. The cheap-ass foam around the edges is the same quality sold in the craft section of a discount store. A handful cotton-poly batting. Some staples. The soft parts fit inside a garbage bag. With the foam removed from the edges the metal coils were basically heavy-duty slinkies linked together, easily rolled up and plunked into the recycling bin. A thousand thank-yous, Frugalwoods. Never again.

Physical Wellness:

Photo Aug 10, 5 23 16 PM
Lunge if you’ve ever eaten too much of a good thing.

Still vegan. Still a yogi. Still hiking, etc. Still cooking at home and growing our own edibles. Still sweating it out in Nature’s Gym (my yard). All the usual stuff, which of course means all the usual work. With one exception; I took my annual break from running for the month of August in the interest of heart health in the hell heat. I”ll start running again in September.

As mentioned above in the nightshade section, I took an interest in my immunoresponses due to lack of moderation. I won’t repeat all that but I will note that physical wellness doesn’t automatically become optimized just because one exercises regularly and eats plants. There are still fluctuations and aberrations and conflagrations. That’s a fancy word for flare-up, y’all. You can’t just phone it in with a 5k and a salad. You can still overdo it with too much mileage and in my case, too many raw tomatoes. This is why we call it a practice.

Social Wellness:

Photo Aug 10, 5 41 07 PM
Take a bow if you think guacamole tastes better in a group. Lift your legs if you think popcorn tastes better on the first base line.

Social work in the month of August was shared meals with real live people not related to me, shopped a street fair filled with real live strangers, saw the play with real live actors mentioned above, saw a baseball game with real live players and spectators, and carpooled to and from all these places to spend quality time with real live new friends and old friends. You have to work at this kind of wellness too, loves. Social media alone will not cut it. 

Emotional Wellness:

Photo Aug 10, 5 46 06 PM
If you’re happy and you know it elevate your pelvis.

Each aspect of wellness directly affects all the others. Emotional wellness directly benefits from the work we put in on physical wellness and intellectual wellness and all the others. I didn’t do any specific emotional work this month other than allowing all the other work to boost my emotional wellness. However, one of the ways I can always tell I’m feeling emotionally well is the posting of The Nope Files. I never post those unless I’m feeling good and I posted more than one of those this month.

And the post about the sexy pencil sharpener definitely couldn’t have happened if I wasn’t in a positive emotional state. And I sure as hell wouldn’t have been as active socially, although it could be argued that being so active socially may have made emotional wellness feel effortless this month. Either way, it’s all good.

That’s all for this month. What’s done is done. We start again tomorrow. And tomorrow is September!

— Mercy


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