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Metaphorical and Literal Dumpster

I’m standing in a dumpster, knee-deep in trash, with a decomposing dead mouse a foot away from my face, holding back dry-heaves when I make eye contact with my husband and give him the look that says “I didn’t sign up for this shit when you floated the idea of a farm to me.”

We have this knack of trying to complete large, complicated projects during the height of our growing season. The time when we need to focus on marketing our products, growing them correctly, and being good parents -it’s like our brains turn to mush when it gets above 80 degrees and we are like Oprah passing out her favorite things to her audience except it’s just us passing out awful projects to ourselves and instead of elated joy it’s just me curled up in the fetal position crying because my body has sweat out all moisture and just dust puffs are coming out of my eyes instead of tears. 

In March, when the stay-at-home order was put in place, we were nominated as tribute by Illinois Ag in the Classroom to incubate chickens in our guest bedroom as 4th graders across the state wouldn’t be able to do so for their annual science project. Chris and Lincoln filmed educational videos about chickens and gave daily updates to the internet. We sat in complete wonder one morning as we watched 12 tiny, slimy bodies burst their way into the world. The gross, feeble, and deformed looking newborn chicks turned quickly into little poofs that bounced and peeped. “Awwwwwwwwwww” we said in high-pitched voices as our eyes turned into cartoon anime versions of eyes. 

Our current chicken coop is an old tool shed that came with the property. Chris has spent years fighting off various creatures living underneath it. There are actual boards falling off of it and the boards feel spongy when you pick them up. It still has the half-assed patch job on it from when we had a polar vortex a few years ago. We knew we needed to tear it down and start over. But then we still had homeschool, weddings postponed at an alarming rate, seeds needed to get into the ground, tulips needed harvested, new markets had to get figured out, did I mention the homeschooling thing? 

Months later, my father-in-law brought his tractor over to push down the old toolshed/chicken coop. It fell over like a tissue, it didn’t even put up a fight. There was wildlife underneath the shed – and that’s all I’m going to say about that. 

It took us weeks to pull all the boards apart, scoop up all the old pine shavings, roll a magnet over everything, and peel off 8 layers of shingles. We burned all the wood and finally rented a dumpster so we could dispose of the shingles properly. That’s when Chris announced we had a junk pile going in one of our sheds and we could throw away all of that stuff too. 

Horror that spread over me as I saw 5 years of other project demos, broken appliances, old ass landscape fabric festering in a dark corner of one of our sheds. How do we do this? How do we as humans go through so much “stuff” so fast?! So the evening before we have to surrender our dumpster, we take load, by load, by load over to the dumpster. We fill the dumpster instantly and still have a large pile of stuff to dispose of. I am the only one with pants on, so I volunteer to get into the dumpster, to compact the rubbish, so we can fit even more of our odds and end in there. 

I sink into landscape fabric that fills my shoes with dirt. Metal rods scrape my shins, a ceiling fan catches me when I lose my footing. I push and smoosh with my feet while activating disgusting smells that I didn’t know existed and regretting all of my life choices. 

There has to be a metaphor here right? Something like….you have to shove all of your fears and past mistakes into a dumpster while wafts of shame stink up the air, but the breeze of hope takes your regrets away. We have to physically and emotionally deal with our past to lay a new foundation for the future. 

Or there’s actually no metaphor and you’re just knee-deep, in a dumpster, full of shit, during a global pandemic with a massive project waiting for you in sweltering heat.

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