September 20, 2008

"I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief... For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free." ~ Wendell Berry

Last night I stopped by the farm. It was before sunset and I had no real purpose there but felt myself drawn. I came home near tears. I told my husband that all I want is to be on a farm. I don't care which farm. I've always known I love cows. I've been photographing the cows of this county since 1985 and my best friend writes them into her poetry for me. And I spent plenty of time in barns as a teenager. But I never really understood, until last night, that I simply prefer to be on the farm. I want to live there. Forever. There is no possible reason to leave the farm. Just get to the farm and stay.

I wrote a letter to my mother when I was six. Dear Mom, I don't like people in the world. But you and the cat. Please keep this a secret. love, Katherine. Well, I pretty much stand by that to this day. People are marginal creatures, unimpressive, of passing integrity and allegiance. But animals, they are consistent, without ego, creative, loving, sane, completely free of call waiting. It turns out, way back when I was six, I was right. I'm not so impressed with most of the people I know. But the animals, they harbor solace in this world. "Later they break their gaze and swing their great necks against each other."

My daughter collects eggs every morning in the barn. Then she climbs into the hay loft and settles into her own nest. From up there, she can see the entire back pasture, the pond, the pig stye, the chickens and ducks waddling around, the sun striking the dew, the livestock grazing. My heart breaks every time she climbs that ladder. Henry joins her when he is done with the goats. Later, you can hear both children up there giggling. Thus, begins their day.

Raspberry has been trailing a lead rope, off her halter, in her stall for several days. She steps on the rope and pulls her head until she figures out to move her feet. It's a gentle way to halter break a colt or a calf. They fight with themselves, address their fear, figure out to move their feet, and then just settle down about the whole phenomenon. So today we made a small paddock and let Raspberry out. She trotted and bucked and kicked up her heels. But when I walked up next to her and took her lead, she was unfazed. She pulled back a little. But we stood together a while and then she let me lead her around. It went so well that we hooked up a cow chain to an outer fence and picketed her in the sun and fresh grass for several hours. She was so content that she never even encountered the end of the chain.

Tonight she's resting in a clean stall, her fur full of sunshine and freshly brushed, chewing her cud. She is an amazing animal and I am so grateful to have her. Here at home my husband is busy with We are looking for a farm. It will be a few years before we can afford it. But our priorities are shifting rapidly. It feels strange to be in my forties and suddenly know, for sure, exactly what I want. I could live on a farm, like Raspberry on her chain, unaware and uncaring of the farthest boundary.

In the winter, from their nest in the loft, the children will see their breath float over the pasture and they'll notice steam rising off the animals. When we get home, we'll have hot chocolate and study life together.