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Fledgling Barn Swallows

Fledgling Barn Swallows

If I had a blog, today I would write about home. As I went about my chores yesterday I noticed the purple martins and barn swallows getting ready to start their migration to their winter homes in Central and South America. I will miss their cheerful voices in the barn and along the lane and I wonder if they miss our farm, The Greenwood, during their long journey to the south. What it is like for migratory birds, those who spit their time between two vastly different geographies. Do they consider one place home and the other a sublet? Do they long for one place over the other or does it matter as long as they fulfill their biological destiny? I think about these things not because I am a traveler, but because I am a homebody. I don’t like to uproot my life and flit from one place to another, like a hummingbird sampling the flowers in a garden. I am more like the chickadees and titmice, who stay in one place the whole year-round. I want a permanent place, somewhere I can let my roots grow deep, so deep that I am part of the land and it is part of me.

Mockingbird Hill

Mockingbird Hill

To those who revel in the new and unexplored, we homebodies are something of a mystery. They often assume we are dull, uninspired, and timid members of society. After all, we aren’t circumnavigating the globe or filling our Facebook page with photo albums of France, the Swiss Alps, and Antarctica. So what are we doing with our lives? I can’t speak for anyone else, but I can tell you I have discovered a world of adventure waiting just outside my own back door.

Blackberries

Blackberries

I don’t need to climb Everest or plumb the depth of the Marianas Trench to be fulfilled; my days are full trekking through the uncharted landscape of my own little world. I know my 200 acres like the face of a lover: I know the steep hills where dogwood blooms in the springtime, the deep valleys, hidden within the oak-dappled forest, where salamanders live among the rain-damp rocks. I know where to look for morel mushrooms in the spring, where to find blackberries in the summer, and where to collect bittersweet on brisk autumn afternoons. Each hill and valley have a name: Hawk Ridge, Turkey-Trot Pasture, Mockingbird Hill. They are the friends with whom I share my life, my solid ground in a world of ceaseless change.

Ancient Stones

Ancient Stones

Every so often, I’ll find something new: An outcropping of ancient stone, standing in the woods like an idol from a bygone age, or a the remains of an old spring-house, the rusted pipe still flowing with icy water on a summer’s day and I feel an explorer of old, charting unmapped territory, uncovering the stories buried by time. There is always something waiting to surprise me, even on the most common sort of days and I seldom return from my excursions without a new story to tell.

Blue Lobelia

Blue Lobelia

Every so often I question my need for the familiar. I wonder if I’m missing out by staying home. It’s true, I would like to see Paris in the rain and stand in the arc of rocks at Stonehenge, but somehow that isn’t in the cards for me. I wasn’t put here to embrace the world at large, but rather to be the caretaker of one small piece of land. In those moments of doubt, all I have to do is step out on my porch. I hear the wood-thrush’s tremolo from the forest and see the last of summer’s flowers blooming in the glade. The season is turning and there is much to be seen before the coming of frost. The Greenwood is calling and I must go.

Sweet Freedom

Our Home on The Greenwood

Our Home on The Greenwood

If I had a blog, today I would write about Freedom – my personal liberation from the shackles of landscaping. Don’t get me wrong, I love our beautiful farm and nothing pleases me more than to see it mowed, manicured, and abloom with wildflowers. I think it is only right to honor one’s home by keeping it beautiful. The thing is, its too big a job for one (or even two) people. In order to keep our lawn, the lawn at our guest house, the barn lot (front and back) and all the side lots and paddocks mowed, I have to mow every single day from mid-April to mid-October and then I have no energy for the things I really love to do. So, in the interest of self-preservation, I have hired a landscaping company to take on the grass for the remainder of the summer. They start Monday and I am now free to get back to my creative exploits.

Rain - My Dearest Friend

Rain – My Dearest Friend

In anticipation of my liberation, I committed a large part of my daily energy budget to working with my horse, Rain. Although I care for Rain every day by bringing her to the barn to rest and munch hay when it is hot outdoors, I haven’t played with her for almost a month and oh! how I have missed my girl. Rain is a big, raw-boned paint mare; one-quarter thoroughbred and three-quarters quarter horse. She is 15-2 hands (that’s 5’2″ at the shoulder) and is as laid back as a horse can be. I don’t ride a lot (a story for another time) but I love working with Rain on the ground. We are in a training program that sets out specific goals for horse and rider so they can work as a team, with the human as the leader. This is important for Rain and me because Rain is the leader of our horse herd and thus thinks of me as a subordinate. As an introvert and empath, I struggle to assert myself and this program is helping both of us find the right place in our relationship. If it sounds like marriage counseling, it very nearly is. Horses are complex creatures and smart, thoughtful, low-energy horses like Rain are a real challenge. As an introvert myself, I know where Rain is coming from, but finding the balance of power isn’t easy when you believe an animal is every bit as sentient as a human being.

Sure, I could make this a lot easier on myself. I could just treat Rain like a mindless piece of property – a motorcycle or ATV – and demand she do my bidding whether she likes it or not, but that isn’t me. I want to earn Rain’s respect so when she obeys me it is because she trusts my judgment implicitly. I want to have a partnership with this amazing creature. I want to learn from her as well as instruct her. There is much she can teach me, I am certain.

I will close with a quote from writer Monica Dickens (the great-granddaughter of Charles Dickens), that sums up my philosophy regarding horses:

“You and your horse. His strength and beauty. Your knowledge and patience and determination and understanding and love. That’s what fuses the two of you onto this marvelous partnership that makes you wonder, ‘What can heaven offer any better then what I have here on earth?'”

To that I reply, “Nothing.  Heaven is a life lived deeply, here on planet Earth, with a horse as your deepest, dearest friend.”