An Ode To Aunts - Part 1

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Dear Reader,

If you’ve been following closely you will know that in May I moved into a tiny cabin homestead on a 120 + acres of family forest property. If you’ve done your detective work and read between the lines, you will also know that my Great Aunt and Uncle live on the property as well.

While there is plenty of breathing room, and thousands of trees between our two homes, I do see them multiple times a week. I most often see my Aunt Patty in her bright pink button up work shirt and thick jeans — the perfect defenses for the deep brush full of sticker bushes and stinging nettle — her hair pulled back and her hands covered in dirt and motor oil. She always has a tool in hand, if she doesn’t ride in on the tractor for brush-hogging, she’s pushing the lawn mower or carrying the weed wacker.

Yep, you guessed it, this woman is a total badass.

The first day I stayed the night in my cabin as a home, she got held up because she was changing the tractor tire, all by herself. No sweat off her back, no need to ask for help, she knew exactly what she was doing.

Over the nearly 3 months I have lived on property she has taught me how to change the oil in my car — a skill no man has ever volunteered to teach me, perhaps because they didn’t want to spend the time, perhaps because they wanted to keep me dependent. With grease on her nose and a hard hat on her head, she’s led me out into the brush and revved up her chainsaw; with all the confidence in the world she’s handed the powerful machine over to me with the words: “Remember, you’re in control.” She’s dug out my garden with the tractor and taught me to hammer in fence posts (not an easy feet by the way).

This incredible woman has managed this 120 acre tree farm for the past 30 years, making executive decisions, doing the research, getting involved in Fish and Forestry, maintaining forest health and building a homestead for our family that will remain long into the future. She has done so all while fighting forest fires with the Forest Service, raising an amazing daughter and hosting Thanksgiving for our entire family every year.

She is fearless, she picks up mice by their tails and shoos bats from my cabin as I attempt to be as brave as her while cowering in the corner. But her strength has begun to transfer to me, with her support I have braved situations I never dreamed I would. I too have picked mice up by their tails and just last night scooped up my playful kitten Meadow who refused the kill the bat flying around the cabin and shooed it outside myself.

She harbors unending energy, and works out on the property until the sun goes down. And I am right there with her, the same blood running through our veins. I have a part of her inside me, and the more time I spend around her, the more motivation I feel. Now, after a day working in the National Forest I come home to rev up the lawn mower and mow the lawn until the bats come out. A weekend of adventure, gardening, hiking and volunteering feels almost unproductive, with the fire lit inside me to go-go-go. She is a powerhouse, and I have realized, that same powerhouse lives in me too (and I can keep going-going-going because I am finally living a life I love, inspired by her no doubt).

There was a time in my life I didn’t know the strength within me, I didn’t envision a life for myself where I changed my car’s oil, where I hiked trails solo, and dug my hands deep into the earth to work on the land I love. But all along, this path has been written in the sand. I come from a long line of badass, empowered and capable women! Each morning I wake up grateful to live on the land my Great Aunt Patty has maintained for our family and feel excited to see what wild adventure she’ll find for herself today.

Next week, I’ll write about my great-great Aunt who traveled the world, didn’t marry until she was ready and danced around the living room in a coconut bra at 80+ years old. I can’t wait for you to read her story too!

Here is to strong women, may we know them, may we be them, may we raise them, and may we descend from them!

With lots of love,

Annalise