Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Beautiful


I am so sore I can not raise my arms up over my head. Dressing and undressing is a measured task, involving gritted teeth and black and blue welts that could throw a Social Worker into fits of speculation. I don't remember how I fell off that horse but I know it involved less horse than it did fence... In the shower last night I had to take care to remove the lamb and chicken feces that had gotten onto my arms and hair from cleaning a dirty-bummed lamb and giving him his tetanus shot. While alone with my naked self, I took note of how battered my body has become. You can not set a ruler ten inches across any part of my flesh without meeting a scratch, bruise, cut, or scab.

I usually go unshod, but if I have to wear shoes I need to make sure they are wide enough to spread my toes since they have been stepped on by two different horses in one day, and while nothing is broken it smarts when they get cramped together. Everything about myself seems to be off set, a body held together by work and stubbornness. When compared to those stunning renaissance portraits of a plump woman draped in sheets, well, I make a fine Picasso stained with streaks of lamb diarrhea...

And yet when I am on my small farm, tending to all the new life and the constant work, none of these things matter. And they are starting to matter less and less outside the farm as well. I no longer see my body as an object that needs to be judged by a jury of my peers. It is a vessel that helps me follow my dreams, actually make them happen, and allows me to live this messy life I love so fiercely.

I am starting to actually live in this body, love this body. I am getting dressed these mornings and taking on the day as a moving animal, not something for display. That doesn't mean I look like a wild woman, I am kempt and focusing intensely on physical health, but I no longer care what others may think or say. To me, comfort in my own skin—healthy food and exercise are what manifest beauty—Not make up and high heels. Darling, that is either theatrics or taxidermy, trying to be something you are not or trying to hide from age and death. Trust me, as someone who has caked on makeup for years to hide blemished skin and pimples, we know or own. I am starting to wear barely any make up at all, and soon, none.

I now realize that my own beauty is not up for debate. It has nothing to do with fashion, weight, or eyelash curlers. Beauty is the physical expression of gratitude, and the unabashed joy in living your life without fear. It is taking care of yourself and those you love. It can not be bought, dressed up, or painted on. It can only be worked towards in healthy fresh foods and jogs up a mountain road. At least for me, anyway. My body is not perfect. It will never be perfect. But it is mine, and despite the chubby arms, welts, scars, and thin hair it has delivered me a magical life, surrounded by supportive friends, animals, nature, and hard work that tires the body and enlivens the soul.

I used to cringe at pictures of myself because I didn't look like the woman I wanted to be. Now I realize that the woman I wanted to be was someone who didn't cringe at pictures of herself.

That photo make me feel beautiful.

photo by 468photography.com

51 Comments:

Blogger Knit Picky Knitter said...

Amen beautiful sister!!!!!

May 1, 2012 at 11:29 AM  
Blogger Knit Picky Knitter said...

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May 1, 2012 at 11:30 AM  
Blogger Knit Picky Knitter said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

May 1, 2012 at 11:30 AM  
Blogger Knit Picky Knitter said...

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May 1, 2012 at 11:30 AM  
Blogger Snickerdoodle Smith said...

Such a well written post. Thank you!

May 1, 2012 at 11:30 AM  
Blogger Knit Picky Knitter said...

sorry Jenna - I kept sending my comment cause I didn't see it get posted and didn't see the comment moderation message. I only meant to post it once but mean it 1000x over!!!

May 1, 2012 at 11:32 AM  
Blogger Fresh Eggs Farm said...

Jenna, as someone who has body issues...this is a great post. I wish I was to the point you are...but I'm not just yet. Someday...

May 1, 2012 at 11:32 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth from the Berkshires said...

When I turned 35 I decided I was old enough to start thinking of myself as eccentric instead of weird. What a liberating feeling! It's getting easier and easier to wear what I want to wear, even to work, because, hey, I'm eccentric! But I have to remind myself of it a lot, becasue I still do worry how I will come across. But more and more I get feedback from people that my differentness is attractive because it is who I am.
I think your sentence, "Beauty is the physical expression of gratitude, and the unabashed joy in living your life without fear," is such a revelation. Thank you for it.

May 1, 2012 at 11:38 AM  
Blogger polly said...

yes - couldn't agree more. nicely put jenna, and thanks for the lift! x

May 1, 2012 at 11:43 AM  
Blogger polly said...

yes - couldn't agree more. nicely put jenna, and thanks for the lift! x

May 1, 2012 at 11:44 AM  
Blogger Margie said...

You need to take of yourself, if you want your body to last.

May 1, 2012 at 11:51 AM  
Blogger TwoBlueHeelers said...

I really like that about feeling that your body is a means to accomplish your dreams. Mine helped me accomplish catching a Plymouth Rock pullet that had flown into a dangerous place, this morning. Mud in my shoes, grass stains, blue dog hairs all over me, and now the soft touch of her feathers as she let me put her safely back with her flockmates. I got a cluck of thanks in return. The chicken doesn't care what I look like! :) Thank you for your beautiful words to start a great day with.

May 1, 2012 at 11:55 AM  
Blogger seagoddess said...

Lovely!

May 1, 2012 at 12:08 PM  
Blogger Julia said...

yes. yes. and yes again.

May 1, 2012 at 12:48 PM  
Blogger Karen Rickers said...

I so agree with you! I wish I'd learned that lesson at such a tender age.

May 1, 2012 at 1:00 PM  
Blogger Elisabeth Black said...

I agree, and I think you are beautiful too.

May 1, 2012 at 1:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nicely said.

May 1, 2012 at 1:20 PM  
Blogger jules said...

Good for you!

May 1, 2012 at 1:24 PM  
Blogger Stacey said...

I love that photo - how happy you look, how content Flash looks, and how green the background is!

Thanks for making the careful, but hugely important distinction between not caring what others think and not caring at all. Good food and hard work will not always get you a model's body, but who wants that anyways? :) And I loved the line about theatrics or taxidermy!

May 1, 2012 at 1:25 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

Love this post!!!!

May 1, 2012 at 1:26 PM  
Blogger Jimmie said...

I couldn't agree more, Jenna. Now that I'm in the autumn (66 years old) of my life, I have found that I care more about my health, mobility and energy than about pleasing other folks. That's not to say that I don't care about looking really sharp for a special occasion from time to time. But I have let my hair go grey, I don't get manicures (never did - can't imagine how you work in the garden or with animals trying to protect a manicure), and I wear clothes mostly from Goodwill. I like myself so much better now.

Good on you at your young age for recognizing your true beauty! It took a longer time for me.

Diane in North Carolina

May 1, 2012 at 1:38 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

May 1, 2012 at 2:21 PM  
Anonymous Laura M said...

Jenna, thank you for this post. You do more good in the world than you can ever know...just by being YOU!

You are gorgeous, through and through. A couple of gems I picked up recently are:
1) place a post it on the bathroom mirror where your eyes will naturally fall on it every time you're in front of the sink, and write on it "I love you unconditionally right now" Make a point of saying it out loud to yourself morning and night.

2) when people are weird and I tend to hold on to the incident, I realize and say to myself "that says more about them than it does me." It has helped me let go.

For bruises: Swedish bitters applied topically can prevent bruising, if it's convenient. Perhaps keeping a bottle of it plus cotton balls in the barn or other handy spot might be helpful. I'm not as sure how it works after the bruise is already there.

I love your life!!

May 1, 2012 at 2:23 PM  
Blogger Robyn said...

Posts like this- why I read this blog. It's not all about the farming, but the journey. (and cute lambs, too, surely) Thanks for a great boost.

May 1, 2012 at 2:27 PM  
Blogger Maria said...

Beautiful indeed. Well said Jenna, and so wise..

May 1, 2012 at 2:32 PM  
Blogger Tara said...

You ARE beautiful. And to stop fretting over how you look to others is incredibly liberating - good for you!

Also, honey, get thee to a boot shop and know the protective miracle that is the STEEL TOE. You need those feet in working order. Sure, nothing's broken...yet. (I say this purely out of love and concern.)

May 1, 2012 at 2:35 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

Great post Jenna!! It took me to 40 to fully learn this... Although I've pretty much always "gone my own way" so-to-speak, that didn't always mean I was comfortable doing so. When I did realize this and learned to be comfortable and not so concerned with how I may look to others, ya know what? I think I became more beautiful (I mean in the deeper sense). You are way ahead of the game realizing this now, just how beautiful you are, from the inside (most important), out!

Thank you for posting this, you, as always, are an inspiration and a joy to read :)

May 1, 2012 at 2:57 PM  
OpenID domesteading said...

Love this! What a beautiful sentiment. Especially on a day when I am feeling totally off balance and overwhelmed with life. Thanks for reminding me that everything I have accomplished is what makes me the woman I want to be.

May 1, 2012 at 3:00 PM  
Anonymous Victoria said...

Truly! I needed to hear this today -- I was feeling rather unattractive, but the distinction between not caring and yet taking care of yourself . . . that's so true. Thanks.

May 1, 2012 at 3:44 PM  
Blogger Michelle said...

Amazing, inspiring post! I want to quote you on the part about it being theatrics or taxidermy. That was so perfect!

May 1, 2012 at 3:58 PM  
Blogger Kara said...

Well said!

May 1, 2012 at 4:04 PM  
Blogger Cassandra said...

Theatrics or taxidermy. I love it!

May 1, 2012 at 4:12 PM  
Blogger Peacemom said...

Jenna, from one not-model-perfect woman to another...you're very right. I'm 44 next week and I gave up make up when I was in my mid 30's. It's not that I don't care what I look like, but I've begun to focus on the health of my body as well, and how well it can get me through the day. It is inheritantly beautiful because it is the temporary housing of my soul, so I try to honor that.

And of this, I am certain...not all men like their women bone thin. My husband happens to love every one of my curves because he recognizes that they hold the soul he fell in love with, too. When you start to honor the whole of you, great things can happen. Just remember to wear shoes around the horses, broken feet slow you way down. Peace to you, ~Vonnie

May 1, 2012 at 4:32 PM  
Blogger KiwiGirl said...

Like your thoughts on this one, Jenna. When i turned 30, many people asked me how did it feel, as if they thought I was going to dissolve. Actually I had never felt more comfortable on mine own skin as I did then - which is wee while ago now. That said, I still love dressing for work, putting on some flasher threads and (yes) heels/wedges. I liken it to costuming really i.e. "how am I going to decorate myself today?".

May 1, 2012 at 4:37 PM  
Blogger Yarrow said...

"Beauty is the physical expression of gratitude, and the unabashed joy in living your life without fear"

hell, yes! this is a lovely post, and you are a very beautiful woman, Jenna.

May 1, 2012 at 4:58 PM  
Anonymous Kendra said...

After spending the last 16 years of my life caring for dogs and cats that were rarely well behaved I am covered in many scars that I wear with pride. Each of them tell a story and remind me that I can overcome fear and even heal from hurt. Each one is a reminder that yes I can do this. I've done it before and I have proof that it didn't kill me, but it did make me stronger. I can see that all your bumps and bruises may be teaching you that lesson as well. Keep it up!

May 1, 2012 at 6:09 PM  
Blogger Ngo Family Farm said...

YES!!!
-Jaime

May 1, 2012 at 6:13 PM  
Blogger Odd Ducks Farm said...

God, I wish I could feel the same about myself. Beautifully stated, Jenna, as always.

May 1, 2012 at 6:26 PM  
Blogger Gramma Phyllis said...

Jenna, you have discovered the secret to a well lived life, something that takes most people an eternity to find. Beauty comes from within and you are beautiful.

May 1, 2012 at 8:43 PM  
Blogger Gramma Phyllis said...

Jenna, you have discovered the secret to a well lived life, something that takes most people an eternity to find. Beauty comes from within and you are beautiful.

May 1, 2012 at 8:45 PM  
Anonymous Tammy said...

As for the part about theatrics or taxidermy. There are also those of us that feel beautiful gigging frogs, fishing, foraging mushrooms wearing lipstick and pearls. We can field dress a trout and look good doing it too. LOL. The idea of beauty is a very personal thing.

May 1, 2012 at 8:59 PM  
Anonymous Kimmy said...

"I used to cringe at pictures of myself because I didn't look like the woman I wanted to be. Now I realize that the woman I wanted to be was someone who didn't cringe at pictures of herself."

Amen! I haven't gotten to the point where I don't cringe, but I'm working on it. I used to think it was because I'm not photogenic, but now I really think if you feel beautiful, it will show in any picture. I'm much more confident than I was in high school, but I still need some work in that area ;)

And I totally agree with your philosophy on beauty. I've never been into the makeup scene all that much, but I've been using as little as possible lately, partly because I don't like all the chemicals it's made of and also because I prefer a natural look anyways.

I'm so glad I found you! I recently started reading "Made From Scratch", and I'm not done yet, but I just had to subscribe to your blog right away. You're an excellent writer and storyteller, and your great sense of humor is icing on the cake!

May 1, 2012 at 9:19 PM  
Blogger PansWife said...

So much of what we look like is programed into our genes that it's better to accept ourselves and aim for health and good character. I've know people who could consume huge amounts of food and never put on weight and others who ate with great delicacy and care and could never drop more than a pound or two. Our hair, skin and body shape is as complicated as our family tree. To think we can change these things with commercial products seems futile and a lesson in frustration. The greatest thing we can be is at peace with who we are deep down.

May 1, 2012 at 9:26 PM  
Blogger Deb Naydan said...

Yes!

May 1, 2012 at 10:38 PM  
Blogger Pam said...

You need a good hot soak in some old fashioned epsom salts, that will make you feel better! My Grandpap used to say, "if the barn needs painting, paint the barn." Sometimes a little makeup does make you feel good....so occasionally I paint the barn.

May 1, 2012 at 10:43 PM  
Blogger Lara said...

Yes! Well said stuff.

Never been a makeup fan. Never felt comfortable with it whereas most don't feel comfortable without it. I used to be self conscious about this, like there was something wrong with me for not owning a collection of eye shadow or mascara-now I just don't care and must say it did feel liberating to stop caring and do what was right for me. To each her own. Think it boils down to self confidence of a sort.

Watch those toes!

May 2, 2012 at 1:01 AM  
Blogger Paige Puckett said...

Wow.
"I no longer see my body as an object that needs to be judged by a jury of my peers. It is a vessel that helps me follow my dreams, actually make them happen, and allows me to live this messy life I love so fiercely. "

Thank you!

May 2, 2012 at 8:11 AM  
Blogger katiegirl said...

I like Thomas Jefferson's quote, "In matters of style, swim with the current. In matters of principle, stand like a rock."

May 2, 2012 at 8:30 AM  
Blogger greendria said...

This is an amazing post. You are such a gifted writer and thinker. I am so grateful for you and your blog. Thank you!

May 2, 2012 at 1:24 PM  
Blogger RamblinHome said...

It is truly wonderful to read this, as it mirrors what I've been thinking lately. I don't know if its just getting older or if its just this homegrown lifestyle that makes you more comfortable with who you are as a person (probably both), but I've felt more like me in the last year than I have since I was a little kid! Its nice to see I'm not the only one!

May 3, 2012 at 6:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for saying it so perfect. You really are an inspiration to many. I love your blog!

May 3, 2012 at 3:38 PM  

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