There’s nearly a foot and a half of fresh snow at the farm. I trudge through the weight of it on my way to feed and water the sheep. The garden looks like a snapshot of itself; sun spattering light from every drift and slope. I open the barn door and find the interior cozy and the sheep eager to get their ration of grain for the day. We huddle in the center of their stall, cocooned by the large stone walls and timber frame that has stood for 130 years. Time slows to the long, drawn breath of a sigh and I am aware I come here to escape the world. I come here to get grounded.
I am coming to recognize that it is not the farm that pushes me, the way I have shared in anecdotal stories about ducks and sheep and hens, but how we interact with the world as it exists outside of the farm. I retreat to the farm, not from it. I am drawn to the labor, the fierce bite of muscles as I lift a black locust fence post or a five gallon bucket of water, the sucking, pulling at my feet as I cross the boggy front paddock, the way the slope seems to increase while hauling mulch to the back field; it fulfills a quiet yearning.
Others join us to work. They share the same feeling, “I needed to get away.” “I just need to feel my body again, to work.” “Let me help; I want to help.” It all echos in my own thoughts about what it means to be in this space. What it means to feel a sense of belonging, to feel needed.
In this world of fanciful social media interactions that, when it comes down to it, exist often only in the pixelated status window staring back at us from our cell phones, we crave connection. We desire the earthen floor beneath us, the stone and wood that surrounds us, the sound of the animals as they eat and breathe and move about us, the struggle we’ve disconnected from through a modern era of convenience; it’s all offered up in a single stall. No electricity necessary.
Blanketed in a few feet of snow, I must walk in. I have allowed the farm to disarm me. To disengage. To shed the skin of should haves, what will happens, and am I good enoughs, long enough to re-member what it means to be. To just be. To get grounded. Connected with those webs and cycles that surround us in the vastness of the wilderness or the stillness of the farmyard.
In this we discover the hawk that perches beside the coop is not only predator, but messenger. The unforeseen brings about clearer vision. And the challenges threatening to overwhelm us, reveal us.
We are shepherd and shepherded here. And in leaving the barnyard, we discover this gift of awareness does not abandon us at the gate, but travels with us. No electricity necessary.