Tuesday, February 26, 2019

The Gallop

A few months ago, back when the world was a lot greener, I took Friday back to Merck Forest for a morning hike. The plan was to make it to a view called The Gallop. It wasn't as popular of a hiking destination as the other side of the vast property. People usually only go there if they are on a larger loop or with a group. I wanted to make it there just to see the mountains from a couple thousand feet in the air.

We ended up taking the wrong trails. The wind was moving clouds fast and I was worried about a storm nailing us five miles from the safety of the visitor's center parking lot where the truck was parked. It was a day hike so I didn't bring any sort of tent or shelter. I looked at Friday, who seemed to not mind the wind or humidity at all, and we kept making our way towards the look out. The whole time I was growing more worried. I wanted the view but I also wanted us to be safe. Why didn't I bring a simple tarp and paracord? I could make a lean to in minutes that could shed a downpour? Friday bounded along happily. As far as she was concerned we were safe and fine and she was with her Alpha and her heart was beating. Life was good.

The clouds parted. The storm passed us to the south. We skated and by the time we made The Gallop there were still winds and racing clouds in the sky but we were safe and resting. I poured Fri some water for her bowl. I munched on some jerky. All that worry, all that sweat, all that self doubt... And we still made the view.

What is the point of constantly struggling to keep this farm? Why put yourself through the constant anxiety? Don't you want to have a dependable income? It's okay to change your life? Please, stop.

These are the kind of messages I get regularly, and rarely are they sent without true concern and care. Some of you have known me for a decade. You've watched this farm go from 25-year-old's fresh passion on a rented property in Idaho to my everyday life as a 36-year-old. You watched me become and adult, really. And through those years my energy has moved between different activities and stories but always remained rooted in this farm and nature. I am a farmer, a hunter, a horseback rider. I am a shepherd, a falconer, a hiker. I am a runner, an archer, and river swimmer. I'm all of these things and they happen on these 6 small acres carved into the side of a mountain.

Every once in a while I manage to catch up. Not just financially, but emotionally. Usually in the summer when I am through the work of keeping the farm house warm and don't need to be inside to be comfortable.  And on those days when I am feeling sun-warmed and tired. When the grass is green on the hill and I smell like dirt and horse sweat and river water... When the bank has no reason to drop by and knock on the door and I realize I have all the food, water, entertainment, work, and worth I need... I am home. I am happy.

I think actual happiness is insanely rare. I have had it in my grasp here. I know it is real. I know if I figure out how to stay here I can have it again. And the best thing I ever learned from this farm was that there will never been an end of the rainbow. There will not be in inheritance or lottery win. There will not be a romance or partner. There will not be a spiritual enlightenment or overcoming of every personal demon. What there will be is the gift of remaining.

That is not a small thing. The fact that I have managed to buy a farm as a single woman, almost a decade ago, and have managed to remain here is what fuels me and refreshes me every day. Every day this farm remains mine is another shovel of coal in the fire in my belly. As hard as it is some times, I know that I have become a person who has taught herself constant resourcefulness and adaptability to make this place work. All of these scary days, like now, are what make those June nights so sweet. And in my deepest places I know I can find that safety again if I refuse to give up.

This farm has a few days to mail in a mortgage payment to stay out of the danger zone: the red area where the bank can choose to foreclose the property. I've been running just in front of this zone for the past few months. Unable to catch up, but able to keep my head above water. I am in that part of the summit hike where the storm is brewing and can either hit us or pass us. I don't know what kind of Gallop this will be, at least not right now. But if the past is any indicator I can quietly and secretly feel safe knowing I am the woman who made it this far. If statistics matter, they are on my side. Yes, we may be blown away without a tarp for shelter but we may also get by thanks to shifting winds. Get down from the mountain, add a tarp to the pack for future hikes, and keep walking.

I want to keep walking. So I will keep walking.