the hard fall
Instead I'm just in from working outside and trust me, you would not be talking to me in any bar if you saw me right now. I'm disgusting. I've been spending all afternoon and evening trying to get the new lamb accepted by the other hoofstock. It's slow work. No real violence but the little guy isn't being welcomed with open arms. It'll take time. What doesn't?
It poured like the dickens today and the ground shape-shifted into a putrid mess. A sour stew of feces, rotting hay, and mud sweating in 90% humidity. The air around the farm was so heavy you could take off your soaking-wet shirt and hang it up in mid air. It would just float in the ether. Too hot to let even gravity take it.
I've been warned by people close to me that I'm wasting the best years of my life by dedicating myself to this farming business. That tying myself down to animals and gardens is creating a social prison: a place I can't leave. They do not say this with anger, just genuine concern. Some are worried I've turned myself into a hermit and others get frustrated when I don't know what movie trailers they're talking about (I don't have a television or high speed internet). Mostly, they just think I'm in too deep. Too many animals, too many gardens, too much balance of work at the office and home. They worry I will burn myself out. And their worst fear is none of this will ever happen. I'll never be able to afford the land and start a farm. They tell me they don't want to see me build up this idea to the point where it becomes everything. They worry I'll be crushed.
I'm 27 and I wake up at 4:45 and I'm outside by 5. It's still dark, even in the loping end of summer, and I am outside. It does not matter if it's a downpour, sweltering hot, or 20 below. I am outside. Running a farm, even one as small as mine, is a constant equal only to taxes and bad sitcoms. I work from 8-5 and then once again am out in my wellies. I do all this knowing bears have destroyed my hive, a fox has eaten half my poultry, and a storm has destroyed the corn crop I spent my entire memorial day weekend making blisters over. You'll have this. It's what I signed up for.
So maybe I am single, and over-worked, and not getting enough sleep. Maybe I should be in Madrid or Stockholm right now. I have no idea what it is I'm "supposed" to do. I guess travel and bars and such are it. And I would be into that but you see, there's this thing:
I'm in love.
I am completely in love. It can not be helped. I don't know when it happened, or how, but somewhere along the way I fell for this farming gig, and fell hard. My heart is now a throbbing piece of meat held together with baling wire and fiddle strings. I fall asleep thinking about lambing jugs and creep feeders. I sit in meetings at the office and my mind wanders over to sheepdog trials and October pumpkins. I have it bad. I have lanolin under my fingernails and hay in my bra and I don't care because I am so goddamn in love with this. All the mud and rain and hours in the heat mean nothing. Nothing at all. I don't think it's the honeymoon sweeping me off my feet either.
No darling, I am in love.
I wake up every single morning with a purpose and a reason. I understand that purpose may be as simple as a small community of livestock depend on me, but as far as I'm concerned they're as legit as any board of directors. And I know farming isn't exactly an uncommon dream. I am certainly not alone or special in wanting my land and workng for it, but that doesn't matter either. I am needed here. I am of use.
I'll keep listening to these concerns, and I appreciate the intent. But what the wary seem to overlook is that it doesn't matter if I get this dream. It doesn't matter in the least. What does matter is that I tried and keep trying, because just knowing what you want to do with your life is gift. It's a breathing hope you crawl towards every. single. day. And if I never get a giant flock, or a farm, or a sheepdog, or any of my big plans—I still know that I want them. I understand this. It is a natural law, as real as Newton's own. And I think that is a fine way to live. You don't have to obtain dreams as much take ownership of them. It's good to want things. It makes the world make sense.
I will always be a shepherd—three sheep, three hundred sheep, or none at all. I stand by the photocopier at work with a crook in my hand and a black collie by my side and even if you can not see them they are there. And that reality of desire makes everything else small. All my worries fade in the plaid fabric of wanting, and makes every day of work I put into my farm another rung on the ladder.
It's a very tall ladder.
I don't go to bars. I don't have a TV. I have this farm. I am in love.