Taking the long way around

11 Jun

“Men were notched and comfortable in the present, hard and unfruitful as it was, but only as a doorstep into a fantastic future. Rarely did two men meet, or three stand in a bar, or a dozen gnaw tough venison in camp, that the valley’s future, paralyzing in its grandeur, did not come up, not as conjecture but as a certainty.

‘It’ll be—who knows? maybe in our lifetime,’ the said.

And people found happiness in the future according to their present lack.”

-John Steinbeck, East of Eden

Our dreams and other people’s dreams seem so beautiful and lush. It’s like certain people I am friends with on Facebook- what I see of their lives seems so perfect, so hip, and so fun that I can’t help but want to be them sometimes. When I set my mind to it, my own farm has trees, a lake, a cute farmhouse with a quaint kitchen, an herb garden with little benches and a trail. No crop gets eaten by those pesky fleas or goes to seed as soon as june hits. This is what I want everyone to think my life is like now; adventurous, quiet, and simple. But honestly, our farm is nothing like this. We live in an RV with no electricity, running water, and air conditioning. We got such a late start because of the snow we havent made it to market yet. Our RV that is our home has broken down in so many ways we can’t even name them, starting with mechanically, now we have lived without a stove for a week (a lot of sandwiches are being consumed), and it was 97 degrees yesterday and we didn’t have a fan, electricity, or an a/c. In a lot of ways, it seems like we are failing. Some nights I lay awake with that observation. But I know in my heart I am not- I don’t feel like I am in any way. I am just living the dream now instead of dreaming it.

Eastern Colorado to most Coloradans is a big question mark- towns are unknown and unnoticed, and if anything is thought of it at all, it is that it is in the opposite direction of where anybody wants to go in the state.

They are right. Our farm is dry, unbearably hot, and the closest trees to the entrance are about 8 acres away. Water is scarce and becoming moreso (I’ll give my full opinion on fracking in the area later). The creekbed cutting across the property has been dry since before my parents were born. Flies remind me of the Borg in Star Trek- resistance is futile. All in all, you can’t drive an hour east of Denver and find yourself on top of a mountain with a gushing waterfall, eating fine cheese and meat and enjoying cool breezes, like you can to the west. I get it. Some of my days here I have been in such agony from either wind, or sun, or bugs that I wonder who I thought I was kidding.

Our only tourist destination is a wildlife conservatory. When people ask if they can visit and I turn them down, it is not out of shame or doubt. It’s because it isn’t the mecca of a homestead that you’d find outside of Lyons or even in the nearer Brighton- here, we are truly at the mercy of the earth when it is most unintentionally cruel, and if you’re looking for a fun escape to pick vegetables and eat strawberries under the shade and not literally work to keep from pain, you will be disappointed.

But when the air dies down and the sun has not murdered you, and the grace of a single cloud floats right over where you are standing, and the hills before you fall and stretch and topple over each other in play, and a bird balances intself upon a single strand of wheat, and the well pumps water not born of you down the rows of your labor, you become sweet with thanks and humility. You taste of salt and you are alone for the hundreds of miles you can see before you. It is not easy to forget that you don’t matter except for what wills you to stay and toil- that success is simply surviving in a place that will not bend in order for you to do so. Everything has gone according to plan, but it was never according to our own timeline. Eastern Colorado is a complete compromise of self.

I can’t lie and tell you that I understood the difficulty of starting a brand new life I was completely unfamiliar with all this time. But having an idea of what something is like and actually living it are very different. I think we could all use this lesson- we can intellectually understand difficulty and hard work and getting beat up, but it cannot and will never be the same as experiencing it first hand. I’m shoulder-deep in a new world that is always confusing, always ridden with my own mistakes and bad decisions, and daily I am faced with things that, in the moment, I almost feel like I can’t live through. This isn’t an exaggeration. I had no idea how often I’d be crossing my fingers- and how often expecting the worse is actually expecting the reality. It isnt pessimism- it is knowing your flaws in and out and never feeling that you simply “deserve” good luck. Here, you literally reap what you sow. It is shaping me into a truly mindful being.

You would think itd be easy for me to forget what this harsh land offers me on the bad days, but I still haven’t forgotten. Though I am constantly reminded that I am small, I am also offered a chance to build a life from scratch that I can eventually deem personally meaningful, and perhaps that is what we’re all trying to do. I accepted a deal with existence in which the challenges are great, and the potential rewards the same. Do I have a homestead suitable for life and peace and relaxation? Is it anyone else’s ideal for a life? No, not yet. But I can have that. And I accepted the calling. I will accept all that I am given with grace, because here, i am learning, there is no other way.

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