Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Running Into The Storm

I don’t like running, let’s start with that. It hurts. It’s hard. And it stirs up the same feelings in my physiology as a panic attack. When I run my heart races, I break into a sweat, and the stress wears me down until it stops being about making it the next mile and starts being about making it to that next tree. I don’t like running. It’s awful.

But I like having had run.

And so that is why I was running down my mountain road today. I was making good time and feeling strong, which is easy to do when you are running downhill. I was nearly sprinting and I liked feeling strong. It was early enough in the run to be romantic about running. It was 90 degrees on that road and sweat exploded from pours until I was shining like a Goddess from stories of old. The sky was blue. The wind was mild. The day was hot and the earth was dry. All this and I was an animal moving across the landscape and feeling a wonder.

My wonder ceased when I hit the bottom of the mountain and turned around to run back uphill. It’s not far, perhaps a mile and a quarter of winding road but it is relentless in its growling elevation gain. The joy of the run turned into the slow, dogged, crawl of a gal with a decent ass. I started the real work of the outing now, grunting upwards. With my blinders of determination on I didn’t notice how the sky went gray and then black. I didn’t hear the wind in the canopy of maples above me. I didn’t realize the storm was here until the thunder clapped. Then I looked up.

Without thinking about it I picked up my pace. A mile up the mountain, directly west,  and into the darkest of the clouds was my farm. And on that farm the small chickens being raised to feed friends and family were vulnerable. They would need tarps and wind protection if the weather turned fierce. There was a dog who I loved dearly that was scared of thunder and would be shaking next to his usual safe place, the dog crate, which was being used by a pair of sleeping goat kids with bellies full of milk. He wouldn't understand why the world became scary and I wasn't there. I wanted to hug that black fur and tell him he was okay.

There was a place I was needed and a storm was coming. So I ran faster.

I ran up that mountain. I ran until my chest felt it would explode and my feet slipped in the sneakers from the slick sweat. It was not a sprint, just the fast jog me and my decent ass could manage, but one that caused my sides to ache and frame to rattle. I ran into that wind, into the dark clouds, and uphill to the animals I had pledged my service to. Thunder rolled in louder and crows took off from the trees above me. My heart was swelling with a joy I could not place in the pain and concern the weather was invoking. And then I realized that this was all I ever wanted in my entire life. All I ever wanted was to have a place worth running towards. To feel a love worth making your heart explode.

If I am accused of anything it is being irresponsible. I am told I take on too much, follow my passions over the practical, and have fallen in love with my own mythology. Those accusations are 100% correct. I do take on too much. I do follow passion over the practical. And I am COMPLETELY in love with my own mythology. I wish the same for every single one of you. But those choices, however you may feel about them, have brought me to these 6.5 acres and I am still here. Five years of mistakes and success. Three years of self employment scratched out of a hundred disparate income streams from pork shares to logo designs. It is a Wednesday and I am home to run home to chickens and dogs and for that I am grateful beyond measure. There was a time I watched rainstorms behind office windows designed so that people could not open them from the inside. A better woman would have stayed there. I am not the better woman. I'm the better story and that is all I care about.

The heavy-handed metaphor of running into the storm isn't lost on me. For all the joy and satisfaction this life gives me there is intense anxiety over maintaining it. I never know how the next month's bills will be paid. Sometimes too many bills and repairs tumble together at once and it takes a lot to bounce back. I have had my truck threatened to be repossessed. I get scary yellow envelopes over late mortgage payments all the time. As I write this I am behind but I am not worried. I have the absolute faith of the far-too-stubborn that I will figure it out and the house will remain mine. I made it this far. And while it pains me to sell my only fiddle it would pain me a lot more to go back to a life where windows don't open. I'd rather starve under a bridge than go back there, and that conviction is exactly why I never will. This farm has been my Heaven, my Narnia, my Mordor, and my Hell. But that is a fiction worth making reality. It's something worth understanding and then shrugging off. What matters is that it's mine today. Keeping it mine is the real uphill battle.

All this and I am running. I reach my front lawn and the storm is almost upon the farm. I run to the Freedom Ranger chicks. I cover up their tractors and check on the rest of the animals. They all know the storm is coming. There is electricity in the air and energy in every feather rustle and tail swish. I had another ten minutes (I guessed) before the real storm hit so when all the animals were readied, this animal stripped naked, grabbed a towel, and headed into the forest. As I walked across the lawn I picked up the thick, black, plastic water bag of a solar shower that was laying in the sun all morning. The water was hot inside. I was as excited as a new lover in clean sheets.

I hung the black bag on an apple tree in a clearing behind the barn. I had the privacy of summer, all the trees and rose bushes made a fine screen from the road 100 yards away. I let the warm water rinse the panic off me. I grabbed the small bowl of goats milk soap I kept in a crook of the tree and washed my hair and body. As I washed I felt the wind pick up and droplets of cold rain mix with the sun-warmed water. This combination was pure exhilaration. No one could see me but Merlin, who was already in his pole barn. I laughed out loud there in the forest. Showering outdoors in thunderstorms makes you feel rich.

I crouched down to rinse out my hair and watch the dirt roll off my arms and into the soil. I felt beautiful there. These were the arms of a Storm Runner, a Chicken Protector, a Dark Horse Rider, a Dog Prophet, and Determined Direwolf. I love myself enough to make me laugh sometimes and if that sounds vain I suggest you try it too. Love yourself with abandon naked in the woods where only gods, horses and land wights can whisper about your antics. It's important to love your own story and I make no apology for it.

I looked up from my crouch and saw the back of my red barn the way a coyote or deer would, low and in the bushes. The new perspective made the farm look so much more beautiful to me. The kailyard being gently rained on, the barn and the goats inside, the stories it held and the hundreds of people who had travelled from all over the world to look inside it. People who came to see this mythical place where a middleclass woman without a clue made something magical happen. I smiled at the ridiculous thought and felt the poetry of warm water. Once again that feeling of utter wholeness of a goal reached hit me. The beautiful anger of a place worth fighting for filled me. Crouching naked in the rain, warm water down my back, a black horse to my left and a farm before me - built from five years of force and hope...

And it was all I could do to stop my heart from exploding.


Blogger jenomnibus said...

Beautiful! Don't forget to add "amazing writer" to that list!

May 27, 2015 at 6:40 PM  
Blogger Debbie said...

I. Love. This!!!!!! Thank you.

May 27, 2015 at 6:43 PM  
Blogger jodi said...

Fantastic! And yes, running sucks...

May 27, 2015 at 7:13 PM  
Blogger Tubaville said...

Beautiful story. I too am exactly where I ought to be. It took pulmonary emboli to get me to see that but I am thankful for them.

May 27, 2015 at 7:48 PM  
Blogger Sam I Am...... said...

You're a wonderful writer and although I haven't showered in the nude or have a farm at the moment, I do laugh at myself, alone with my animals several times a alone and fairly isolated I love it! Holding our own, regardless! You go girl!

May 27, 2015 at 8:02 PM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

Thank you so much for your comments. When I write things like this I worry sometimes that it is too personal, too much, for the blog. But I'd go nuts if I didn't share all the thoughts in my head here. I am grateful for the witnesses :)

May 27, 2015 at 9:02 PM  
Blogger Ngo Family Farm said...

Aw, truly beautiful, all of it. Thank you so much for sharing this with us!

May 27, 2015 at 10:46 PM  
Blogger Mary said...

This was so, so beautiful. A love worth making your heart explode speaks to me SO strongly.

May 27, 2015 at 10:51 PM  
Blogger wild rose said...

First time commenter here. Jenna, I LOVE this. I'm sure your animals were glad to see you! Your writing rocks, and you're making me miss the days a few years back when I was too dumb to make a solar shower and too poor or inexperienced to fix the plumbing in our old log cabin. Bathing outside is the BEST.

May 27, 2015 at 11:32 PM  
Blogger Mel Baker said...

You are a gifted writer, Jenna. Don't ever stop sharing.

May 28, 2015 at 12:18 AM  
Blogger Sprite said...

Jenna, you're awesome. Keep it up.

May 28, 2015 at 12:53 AM  
Blogger Malka E said...


May 28, 2015 at 1:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, very powerful post. I think your best writing yet. (and I have read your work since the beginning!) I am in the same boat on this little homestead. And the fact that there are more of us out there fighting for the same thing, the same freedom, the same life, makes it easier to have faith. Keep the faith, Jenna! The universe always conspires to help us.

May 28, 2015 at 8:48 AM  
Blogger Nushi said...

good gravy that was gorgeous. And so are you! I don't usually envy people of wealth but you are richer than anyone I've ever known and I am green with envy right now! Whatever hard times are on you right now I hope you do (but I'm sure you will) persevere!

May 28, 2015 at 10:04 AM  
Blogger 3 Dogs Barking Farms said...

Beautifully written one of your best posts! One of the many things I love about living in the country is the ability to be in your yard naked! The other day I watered the veggies in my underwear! Liberty!

May 28, 2015 at 10:08 AM  
Blogger bookkm said...


May 28, 2015 at 12:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That was simply a terrific piece. Bravo!

May 28, 2015 at 1:24 PM  
Blogger Beth Brown said...

So beautifully written! Love the country, love the self-reliance! Kindred spirits :)

May 28, 2015 at 2:39 PM  
Blogger Ann said...

That was an awesomely beautiful post,Jenna.

May 28, 2015 at 6:23 PM  
Blogger cjbstar said...

Your passion comes through in your writing. It's raw, real, and shows how life truly is, messy most of the time.

June 3, 2015 at 5:24 PM  
Blogger Katlyn said...

Wonderfully written! I was smiling the whole time. I could picture everything as I read it and I'm filled with envy! I'm privately waiting for the day I can go out in my backyard with a solar shower and bathe in my orchard or woods and not have to wonder if the neighbors are out too.

June 5, 2015 at 7:17 PM  

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