As I fill the coffee pot, wipe the sleep from early eyes, this is what greets me:
Quiet, enveloping mist, muffling sound and concealing all manner of flitting, swooping life.
Starlings and Robins, Chickadees and Stellar Jays in all their jewel-toned glory move deftly branch to branch, limb to limb, carefully collect stones for their gullets from the gravel road. The skinny wild cats mewl and loll in the grass outside my door, impatient for playmates and breakfast. My boy lays sprawled in bed, cozy in the cold room, sleeping soundly. The gas furnace in the kitchen ticks and clicks, reluctantly begins the day.
In an hour or so his tiny voice will call me, sleepy but insistent – Mumum. Mum.
My day will begin with oatmeal and applesauce and expressive stories with hand-gestures and sound effects and the limited vocabulary of a one-year-old boy. These stories will invariably involve a truck, and his Grandpa. The pleasures of small children are simple and absolute.
I am settling into this place, slowly sinking into it, leisurely, unhurried, a hot bath.
There is no rush; I want to savour this.
There is so much work to do on this old farm; my hands swell tight around my wedding ring, my wrists ache and my back, that spot right between the shoulder blades, is a constant knot. I’m not used to so much shovelling, chopping, sawing, pruning, scrubbing, painting. There is painting to do yet in the living room and I worry the garlic won’t get in the ground before the cold sets in.
Everywhere I look I see a mental to-do-list, unchecked boxes staring blankly.
And yet . . .
Despite the work to do, despite the physical exhaustion, despite the overwhelming urge to do it all at breakneck speed, there is something about this place that demands slowness.
The woods beyond the barn beckon little boys in wool hats with sticks and twigs, cats hiding in brush, birds as wide as Daddy’s arms. There are puddles to jump in, holes to dig, hidden pathways to explore. There is the train to listen for in the distance, a low, soothing rumble that lasts a long time, the sound of the whistle dampened by rain. You have to wait for it, quiet.
Instead of a rushed dinner on Friday night we sat around the burning-barrel, red-neck style, drinking a good glass of local wine, eating peanuts, watching the smoke float up and disappear into the clouds and mist of an October evening. My boy warm on my lap, the smell of damp leaves, woodsmoke and red wine clinging to me like a blanket.
We are just far enough away from town for it to be inconvenient.
I thought this a curse but I was wrong. What a blessing. Instead of hopping into the car to the shop for the smallest thing, I am making due. Saving money. Waiting. Doing without. One day a week I drive the half hour into town and instead of a chore it is an outing. The boy and I go to the co-op, chat with other shoppers, pick up chicken feed, give hi-fives to the feed guys.
I am taking the time to bake all our bread again, a habit this crazy summer saw fall by the wayside. We have chickens again, and finally a compost pile. The walk to the far end of the driveway to drop off the compost and check on the chickens is a daily adventure for my boy. He is learning to tell the difference between the Mama Bwok-Bwoks and the Daddy Bwok-Bwok, our first rooster.
The fact that we have no garbage pick-up is forcing me to even more carefully consider what we bring into the house, lest we have to carry it out again and pay for its disposal. This increased necessary-mindfulness is good for me, I’m certain of it.
In our family we have a saying:
A change is as good as a rest.
This move to the farm has been an living example. It is not a rest, far from it, but somehow I feel renewed.
Life is hard work. Parenting is hard work. Running a house is hard work. Running a farm is hard work. Running a business is too. Our culture and the media would convince us that life shouldn’t be hard, but it is, and it should be. Perhaps that’s why we have so much depression – the collective denial of the inherent nature of life.
What life doesn’t have to be is panicked.
We want this leisurely, work-free life, but we all seem to be doing the opposite, running around like chickens with our heads cut off in order to avoid the same. What’s the point of that? Why not find a lifestyle that accepts and acknowledges the truth of life, that it is hard, but that it is also glorious?
If we slow down, find our proper place – whatever that looks like, perhaps we can find our proper pace as well.