“There’s a Trap Door in the Country, Where We Can Disappear”*

I’d be surprised if many of you were waiting with baited breath for our Monday post, but if so, we’re very sorry.  We just ran out of steam this weekend.

I returned Sunday night from a trip to Washington DC to visit my oldest childhood friend and her new baby.  This was the third trip I’ve made recently to a “big city” (if Asheville counts as such) in as many weeks.  Of course, every moment I spend with friends and family has been thoroughly enjoyed and treasured.  I have been surprised, however, at my reaction to being back in urban areas after even a brief sojourn in the country.

Typically, I’m a city girl.  Bring on the tall buildings, the art galleries and boutiques, the historic libraries, old theaters, subways and public buses, ethnically diverse crowds, bike messengers, book stores, hot dog and newspaper stands and street peddlers.  I see the environmental and social challenges inherent in cities, but I also see great potential for cooperation, creativity, and solutions. Obviously, I have a deep love and respect for the natural world as well, and can spend good bits of time comfortably and enjoyably in remote areas. But I just somehow feel at home, more at ease in a city.  Sometimes small towns make me nervous, for reasons I’ve never been able to articulate.  I remember once hearing an essay by Spalding Gray about the personality differences in his kids that appeared to be in-born, not bred.+  One child loved parks, grass trees and plants, while the other would cling to his father’s leg in a forest.  But put the second kid down on a sidewalk in a city, and he would run off gleefully with no sense of any danger.  I kind of get what makes that kid tick.

So it was a surprise to find myself not reveling in “civilization”, but craving the simple, peaceful, ebb and flow of life on the farm.  Not that I didn’t love eating at a new restaurant in Asheville, visiting Kramer’s Books in Dupont Circle, or driving through Little 5 Points in Atlanta.  But something in me is changing, or emerging, which started before we even came to the farm.  This something needs the quiet, reflective space of the country; the amiable, non-judgmental companionship of our new friends; and the rewards of the concrete, pragmatic and earthy work we are doing here.

Part of the challenge in visiting our urban professional friends and family is how to answer the questions about what is coming next, after the farm – questions we haven’t quite figured out how to answer.  This is not only because we don’t know the answer, but also because we are making a conscious effort to be okay with not knowing for a little while.  Being okay with it is easier said than done, and insecurities pop up each time the topic is broached.  Since it is sometimes hard to convince myself of the wisdom of the choice, I still haven’t worked out a good way to explain it to others.  I sometimes find myself being impatient and short with very well meaning loved ones (you probably know who you are, and I’m sorry) who only want to help and encourage me toward a satisfying career, or at least financially gainful employment, post-farm.  This is more a reflection of my issues than lack of understanding or encouragement on the part of my friends and family.

Though I suppose for some, what we are doing is hard to understand, in large part because we are still learning how to explain it.  We’ve described this summer to many folks as mostly a transition phase, a way to move closer to family during a recession, a respite for a few months before easing our way back into life as it was before.  We’re also obviously hoping to learn some skills for a more environmentally sustainable lifestyle. But what we are also doing is experimenting with letting go of some of the things we had in life before.  Letting go of some material stuff, but also career paths, lifestyles, habits, ways of thinking.  Things that may not have truly represented who we are, but that we were doing by default.  Letting go of before to make room for something else.  Something else that feels more authentic, more mindfully chosen, more true to who we are and want to be.  I’m sure that there are things about our urban, professional lifestyles that we will decide we want back, that are worth maintaining.  But I’m also sure now that there are many things we will learn we not only can live without, but we are better without.

So, what about “after”? I haven’t entirely abandoned the idea of continuing in the profession I had in Albuquerque.  But I’m not entirely committed to it either. I’d have to figure out a way to make it more rewarding than it is draining, and that will take some exploration.  My dream is to get paid for something I love, something I’d be doing anyway.  My hope is that somehow, if we keep networking and trying new things and developing the things we are already doing, that we will somehow organically grow in to a new “career” path.  Right now I’m daydreaming about cobbling together a living with lots of little part-time or seasonal jobs.  How about part-time yoga teacher, part-time seamstress, part-time beekeeper?

There is something in the atmosphere here at the farm that makes this kind of exploration feel possible, that gives me hope I can tap in to my “truths”.  This evening we took Gypsy out to the pasture to have a good run.

T and Gypsy

The sun had set, but there was still a good bit of dusky light, and a nearly full moon rising over the hills in the east and the big trees in the middle of the pasture.  The pasture is the biggest piece of open land Gypsy has ever had access to, and man can she run!  Crouched low to the ground, ears back and flopping, eyes alight with the simple joy of running, she seemed to be accessing a part of her nature that had never been expressed.

Gypsy Running 1

Gypsy Running 2

Gypsy Running 3

My heart soared to see her so happy and free, being such a natural farm dog.  I really worried about how she would respond to all the space, and to the farm animals.  Would something wild and untamable be unleashed?  Would we be able to control her, to keep her from hurting herself or the other animals?  We’ve been so impressed.  The cows ignore her herding behaviors, though she tries anyway.  The horses run her off.  The calf licks her nose, wondering if she could suckle it for a little milk.  She catches the scent of something wild and runs in circles in the grass and purple clover, flops down and rubs her back into the ground.

Rubbing in the grass

But when we call her name, she comes tromping happily back, clearly wanting just as much to be with us as she wants to run free.  She’s the same old Gypsy-dog, but now able to show us something new about herself.  Gypsy.  Now with 30% more real dog.

Gypsy waiting for the "okay!"

And she's off!

I know I’ve been promising posts on our meals and our wild-edible hike.  Sorry to delay that once again…I’ll make an effort to do that next time.

More Gypsy photos:

Gypsy tries to herd me too

* The Silver Jews (David Berman), “Let’s Not and Say We Did” on Bright Flight.

+ Spalding Gray, “Morning, Noon, and Night” 1999

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5 Responses to “There’s a Trap Door in the Country, Where We Can Disappear”*

  1. Yay. I, for one, was actually hoping for a post this week and am so glad you had the chance to write.

    Yes, yes, yes! I’m a big believer in cobbling together a living with the various parts of oneself. Why not earn a living being part-time web architect and part-time beekeeper? Or any other combination? You two can do it, I have no doubt at all, and you’ll probably find it incredibly rewarding. In the meantime, those of us still attempting to create the meaningful patchwork life will learn from your journey.

    P.S. Those Gypsy photos are utterly exhilarating!

    • teeandzee says:

      Thanks so much for your enthusiasm and encouragement. We certainly have taken inspiration from your example! Thanks for your avid readership and comments, it is so nice to know that what we are doing is connecting with the people in our lives.

  2. I loved this post. It is so difficult to retreat when we are all so anxious for people to be “involved”. I think it is wonderful to take time out to listen to yourself (and God!) instead of others, and for some reason it is perceived as radical. There really is no substitute for time and quiet and solitude. Our lives are so short. It is important to reflect and examine every so often. And to appreciate the things we can’t take credit for — doggies, and nature and the sweet gifts of life.

    What happens when we give up being “busy” and “important” and “successful”? I am interested to follow along with both of you.

    • teeandzee says:

      You sum it up so nicely, Courtney! Yes, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my need to feel “successful”, to meet expectations (whose?), to achieve “my potential” (defined by whom?) – all the critical voices in my head that are the loudest, but not necessarily the truest. Thanks for sharing your words of wisdom, and for letting us know you “get it”.

  3. andrew says:

    the mid-run photo (4th from the bottom) is awesome! Looks like Gypsy likes the country life.

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