Sunday, October 21, 2012


Today we had a small gathering of people here - some old friends and some new friends.  Some had been here many times and some for the first time.  It's always the same story when folks drive up for the first time, especially those who weren't privy to our beginnings of this land, the house, this life.  First there are the questions about the house and choice of building structure, then the curiosity over the building materials inside.  Somehow we always end up out on a porch looking at whichever livestock happens to be grazing out front, rolling in weeds, or scurrying across the driveway.  People wonder - how did we choose this plot of land?  They ask - what are your plans with this place and for the animals?  They look us up and down, then they look the property up and down.  I always wonder what the conversations are like when first-time visitors are driving home (probably through the sad little town we live near).  It's better not to know and not to care, and it doesn't matter either way.

I don't have answers to lots of questions we get asked, particularly about the animals, and that's because our plans are squishy.  They are smashed between spaces in our life where they fit best.  They change all the time.  As a perpetual planner, there's been a significant amount of giving control away to whatever bigger forces will take it.  There's no other way around it.  I don't know what will happen with my grant-funded job in the next 9 months.  I don't know if the rancher behind me will decide to sell a parcel of his land.  I don't know how my (quite possibly pregnant) does will handle birthing.  I don't know if I will ever learn to efficiently milk a cow.  Or how to efficiently juggle things like cow milking and a full time job.  Or how to finish an unfinished house on unfinished land.  I just know that everything will forever be a work in progress.  I'm getting better at loosening my grasp on the control I hold tight in a fist but want to learn how to open my palm and let it blow away into the next strong breeze, like seeds scattering.  Wherever it goes, there it is.

There is only one thing for absolute certain that I know and that I can plan.  No matter what the circumstance, I will always have animals.  When people arrive to peek in at this life, they're seeing more than trees and grass and donkeys and goats.  The little hooves that gallop through the woods, the paws that pound down onto the black soil, they are the insides of my head and my heart displayed haphazardly across these 15 crooked acres.  I can't explain it better than that, and I can't accurately plan for what they will be beyond today.  I just know what they represent - have always, really - represented in my life.  

Kimberly of Star Creek Country recently went through a painful experience with her own buck.  Reading her story of the excruciating decisions we must make as caregivers and homesteaders, it knocked me square in the gut.  For many, attachments to any animal beyond a dog or cat seem foreign and strange.  Livestock are livestock, with ear tags and a distinct purpose in life.  It's difficult to fathom that our love for them could mimic anything that one might feel for a pet or loved one.  But for us, these creatures are the central characters in our own stories.  Her loss is a jolt for me.  Another reminder that I don't control everything anymore.  Her recent story could be mine just as easily, and so I take it out onto the porch where the breeze blows - this fear of the loss and pain and the unknown - I take it out into the wind and open my palm.  I have to let it go.  The truth is that owning land and animals you love so deeply - it opens your heart in the best and worst ways.  Most of us who live off our animals and live with our animals, pieces of us sit outside and are exposed along with them.  The truth is that it's easier to stay, and stay, and stay, and keep my fist grasped tight around everything that can be controlled and planned.  But in the end - no matter what it could mean - I'd rather go out into the wind, wherever it takes me.   

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