Follow Your Hart
It has been almost five years on this farm, a 6th of the time my mortgage contract will exist, and I am still here. The chickens are still crowing and the sheep are still breeding lambs. The horse is still swishing his tail and the bows and quiver are still resting against the corner. My hawk is fed and was flown a few hours yesterday and if the snow holds off I will take her out again today. It will be a nice couple of miles through forest paths and over icy trails. As we made our way I noticed that the usual trails I know so well from countless rides on Merlin were not littered with deer prints. These phantoms made no appearance during hunting season, but here was proof positive the beasts exist. The tracks were all sizes, from large enough to make me think it was a small moose to dainty as a ewe's. In the half-melted snow they looked like hearts. "Follow Your Hart!", I said aloud to Anna, who wasn't listening but I laughed in the woods anyway. We didn't see any small game yesterday, but we saw a lot of sign. Rabbit scat, squirrel nests, burrows and trails. We both got to use our bodies to traverse the landscape - by foot and wing - and that is good enough.
It is all good enough.
I got to learn what being haunted feels like. Anna Kendrick lost the last acorn bell on her anklet somewhere during the hunt and the silvery ringing sound I am so used to, that lets me know exactly where she is at any moment, was missing. It was as jarring an exclusion as if I owned a little shop and the bell that rang when customers walked in was gone. Us humans are so easily trained, aren't we? So Anna didn't have her alert and so as I walked I didn't know where she was unless I turned around and called. Then out of some far tree branch she would swoop and fly so close to my head her talons would graze the knit cap and then land on a branch behind me. I trust this bird so much. She follows me like a puppy and while I could not hear her I would always feel her. I'd walk wonder where she was and some branches would fall on my head and I'd look up and she would be 20 feet above me, looking down. If I stopped to sit on a log, she would land beside me. We sit side by side as long as I like, as long as no fat squirrel runs past her she will perch beside me as if we are Waldorf and Statler. Taking game is wonderful, but sitting in a forest alone with a hawk while the flurries fall around both of you and ravens call out in the distance is just as wonderful. I can't believe I waited until I was thirty to do this. What a fool I was.
I have been thinking a lot about wealth lately. As much as these past few years have been a struggle financially, not once have I felt poor. I have felt scared, stressed, and have had sleepless nights and panic attacks, but that all had to do with numbers - not wealth. If I'm not making sense, let me explain:
In a world of 7 billion people I have landed on six and a half acres on the side of a mountain. As far as the bank and the IRS are concerned, I still own it and probably will continue to own it the rest of today. The larder is stocked inside, with months and months worth of food and outside fresh water literally runs in the form of a bubbling mountain stream. It flows into s pond with fat bass and turtles. It is mine, too. The forest has deer, rabbits, trout, grouse (I know because one flushed when Anna landed on a branch and it gave both of us a near heart attack!). There are farmers all around me, so many. There are people raising dairy and meat, fiber and grains, hay and fish hatcheries. This is one of those weird pockets of the world where returning to early 19th century life would be possible. Where seasons come and go, rain falls hard, summers are hot, winters make you tougher, and I can attest for certain you don't need a thermostat and hot water on demand to make it work. Outside my little home are gardens, are sources of pork, chicken, eggs, goose, wool, fleece, milk, kids, lambs, horsepower and hunting partners. Inside the house are kind dogs that herd sheep, warm beds, and make me feel like a pack mate. I have friends that will be here within minutes of calling them, either to help in a crisis or to enjoy a Game Night or movie for plain ol' company. I have a Kindred that I care deeply for. I have a religious life that makes this crazy world make sense to me and accept it with a smile. I have never been cold too long. I have never been hungry too long. I have a roof, friends, and a body that while imperfect and doughy - can make her world her own. This is home. This is family.
This is wealth.
I know my bank account has double digits in it. I know that soon the foreclosure notices will appear again. I know all too well how hard it is to sell a book after your first five aren't NY Times Bestsellers. I know being 33 and single with a Hobbit house full of beasts isn't considered desirable. I know all the many things stacked against me involving logic, statistics, and plain common sense.
But I'm still here. And I have a good feeling today about selling a logo or a fiddle package, and if I do that might just cover the tow truck and repair fees for Big Red. And that means I'll be able to ride it to Orvis again for meetings and to train for new skills they need me for. And it means a little more independence, which might be the morale boost I need to land an ad sale, a book deal, a lucky break. And I will get that mortgage payment made, the truck repaired, and be onward to the next task - which is deep winter. Winter here is not like many others' - it is something to get through.
And I will. Just watch.