Home on the Farm
It’s been interesting going back through and posting my old writing. Such an incredible memory jog (the main reason I started sending travel updates in the first place)…but also a fascinating indicator of what I’ve chosen to focus on and share over the years. It’s made me realize I have done little to no writing about being on the farm and what it feels like for me here…but I guess some distance and perspective has made it clear that there’s a lot here that merits reflection, and since I’ve started a blog called Farmgirlsays it seems it only seems fair that I share some of it with you.
As I type this I’m acutely aware of where I am. My hands are dry and chapped from a long weekend of washing dishes for the cooking classes, and my forearms are scratched and cut from landscaping and sore from my first time on silks and lyra in many months and they are rubbing awkwardly against the edge of the computer. The rain (yes! RAIN! Finally!) is steadily gathering in the oak tree above me which occasionally it gets shaken up by a strong gust of wind and bombards the roof of my sister’s beautiful new straw-slip timber frame house that I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to live in this season. Shortly after finishing it she made the difficult decision to move in with her boyfriend on the other side of the valley and help start a pig and chicken farming operation—life works in mysterious ways and though it was sad for her to give up this space, she seems happier than I’ve seen her in years. My crotchety old dog Mika is restlessly pacing, trying to get used to her new home too. Today I think she realized I wasn’t going to just stay a few days and leave her again like I’ve been doing for the past few years. She got really excited when I came home from yoga but she’s still not sold on her bed being in a new location.
I’ve been here a week now and I’m feeling really grateful I had the opportunity to transition slowly and spend some time dancing and adventuring on my own and with new and old friends in the bay area before I came back to the farm for the season.
People keep asking me if I’m excited to be here and looking at me a little sideways, I think trying to suss out how much of this move was a conscious choice for me or whether I just ended up back here for whatever reason, a predicament I think many of us valley youth have found ourselves in at some point. I can honestly say I am excited, and it’s more of the former, but there’s always been a strange push/pull magnetism in my relationship with the farm that I may never fully understand. It’s family and it’s small town drama. It’s gorgeous and magical. It’s a shit ton of work and it pays off in ways that our society isn’t often taught to appreciate, but that most of us know, intuitively, is infinitely more meaningful and enduring. It’s a lifestyle and a culture and like anything else it has its challenges and its beautiful moments. It’s isolated yet sometimes feels like it’s impossible to get any privacy because it’s often overrun with outsiders. It’s home. Not many people can call a place like this home, especially as young adults, and I realize more and more, every time I leave and come back, what an honor and a privilege it is to have something like this in my life.
I feel grateful that I’ve been too busy re-adjusting to life here to really think about missing March Fourth, Portland, and touring. Little pangs of longing for the stage and the community and the fans come through but I think it’s the people and social stimulation, the diversity of cities, and music and dance that I miss if anything. It’s quieter here for sure, but not lonely, at least not yet. After all I’m constantly surrounded by reminders of the life that is buzzing all around me: the coo of the morning dove when I begin to rise every morning earlier than I have in years, the buzz of bees going to work in the blooming apple trees, the tree frog in the shower, the bleating of goats being milked, the army of ants taking over my arm as I pull weeds from the gravel, the incessant rooster crows as the son brutally ousts his own father from the flock (I’ve never met a rooster that only crows at dawn and I don’t know where that came from), the bark of the dogs at noises we can never hope to hear, and the chorus of frogs and crickets after dark punctuated by an occasional whoo-whoo of a barn owl.
All that sounds so romantic, and in many ways it is, but just as I notice all those details I am also surrounded and enveloped by the things that frustrate and annoy me about this little town. It’s tiny and everyone knows everyone’s business, and it’s far out here and there are a lot of back-woodsy people and ideas permeating the way people think. It’s not culturally homogenous but the community often feels very divided by race and by class, especially with a small group of relatively well-to-do folks that employs a large group of less affluent people. I guess you could say the same is pretty much true of most of the world on a larger scale but it’s harder to ignore or see past when everyone is forced to interact in one way or another because we are so dependent on each other to keep the local economy on its feet. It makes me wonder why we as people are so much better at seeing differences than similarities. I understand why it’s more comfortable and easier to gravitate toward people who are similar to us, speak the same language, or share our customs, but that just seems so limiting, so boring, and uninspiring, at least to me. If we are going to share this town, this country, this world, doesn’t it behoove us all to make a little extra effort toward understanding, accepting, cooperating, and connecting?
I’ve always thought of myself as a bridge person. Metaphorically I mean. I strive to pay enough attention to everything I encounter to be able to help make and facilitate as many connections as possible between things, people, places, ideas, and disciplines that might not easily recognize each other as related and connected. I’m still learning how to do that effectively and in a way that feels natural and inviting rather than forceful and encroaching. I try to always remember that it’s a luxury to even be in a position where I can imagine a bigger picture role like that for myself and acknowledge the ways in which that privilege can overpower other people and do more harm than good, especially if I let my ego get too involved. I’m finding that, often, just shutting up and listening, really listening, can minimize that. I’ve been thinking a lot about zippers and the way they feed into each other to create one whole, strong, connected piece. In an interview I did with The Grown Up Truth I compared my life and my adventures to a sort of rucksack that I keep piecing together and adding to using the various kinds of knowledge and experience I gain along the way as building materials, and I think maybe what it needs now is a zipper or two…something to help further integrate the different pieces and facets of my life in a meaningful way. Can one find the pieces and the tools to make a zipper in a small town like this?