I like to think about this.
There was a dirt road that led out from in front of the house, past the barn, and down to the main road, which was long as ever, mainly empty, and always quiet. I had never seen places like this before. I suppose a part of me never knew towns like this existed. At least, not in real life. All I knew was all I had only known, which was my usual routine life, alive and unwell, and living crazy near the city. I never knew anything about small towns or small town life. I certainly never knew what it was like to be greeted by a stranger who said “hello” just because this was the right thing to do. As far as I knew, most strangers who say hello are looking for something. No one was ever kind for no reason, or so I thought.
At best, my only understanding of towns like this were from movies. Everyone knows each other. Sunday mornings are meant for church and church gatherings. Then there was the small diner, which all the locals knew about – and everyone who worked at the diner knew all the locals in town.
I recall early mornings when the sky was gray. There’d be a misty fog lifting from the ground, which looked tired and sleepy. This was peaceful to say the least; however, I was in the midst of an unpeaceful time. I was in the middle of a change or transformation; one, which of course was lifesaving. At the same time, I was experiencing growing pains and dilemmas which only came from my mind.
I was far away from anyone I knew. I was even further away from my usual comforts like, say, my own bathroom and my own bed. There were no distractions here. That’s for sure. No televisions or shows or anything like that. There was nature and plenty of it. Other than that, there was nothing else.
Safe to say that bunkhouse living was not always comfortable. Neither were the springs beneath the thin mattress and neither were the ever elusive hot showers, which dwindled down to a two-minute maximum. Another discomfort were the side-by-side toilets; and I mean, I understand that it was good to know the people I lived with – but as I saw it, this was knowing too much.
Mornings were quick. Everything was hustle and move. There were jobs to do and each chore was meant to be done quickly. There were time limits to everything. This is why the dorm leaders and barn bosses would scream, “Hurry up. Let’s go!”
You had to work here. There were no free rides.
Safe to say that I hated this part. Suffice to say that I was done with ice-cold showers in the morning after the barn crew. Suffice to say that I was done with the count up to 20 when the alarm went off, which meant that we had to be up and on our feet before the count of 20.
Suffice to say that I was done with crowded bathrooms in the morning and suffice to say, if I were asked, I’d have told you that this was the worst time of my life. I was done with the work and the constant streams of personal accountability. I was done with the confrontations of immature life; and more, I was done being told to “grow up!”
Suffice to say that I was too young to see the truth. I was too unaware that someday, I would look back with a sense of reverie and be inspired to use this place in my future life.
I never thought much about my future. Then again, no one thinks about this when they’re young. The future happens to old people.
But to the young, we have a plethora of tomorrows. We have plenty of time to plan or figure out our investments.
I never thought about benefits or 401k plans or healthcare. And why would I? This is for old people – and me, I made a promise to myself that I would never grow old.
I think about my time on the farm and I think about this often, too. Perhaps this is because life was simplified. There were no city-like distractions. There was no greed or reason to keep up with the Joneses. Life was simplified to a less-complex status. There was no internet back then. Cell phones had yet to make the jump to light speed (so-to-speak).
I remember hearing about a family who strung a white bed sheet across a wire and showed an old black and white movie on their projector.
People sat on the lawn in chairs, eating popcorn and drinking refreshments. I saw this and thought to myself, “What a concept!” – what a sense of warm regard for freedom and family; or better yet, what an amazing way to spend an evening when the fireflies come out. Then I thought, what a thing I’d never do, had I never seen this to be true – people can live, love, laugh and learn – freely, on a daily basis.
What a concept . . .
The barn and the bunkhouses and the fields where the cows roamed; or the hills where the sheep would run – or Kali, the barn dog and Josh, the little poodle that followed her around – and then there was the peacock, who was mainly unfriendly – and then there were the two white geese who were always unfriendly – until Kali the barn dog got one of them. Then there was only one goose, who was mainly alone and always afraid. The goose was alone because its partner was gone and the world was otherwise unkind, unsafe and unfriendly.
I understand this from a different perspective.
I understand the fear of loneliness. I understand the emotion and the drive for peace and I understand the worry that peace is/was/can/and will be illusive.
I understand the need to fight back and partner up and yet, I understand that sometimes we have to watch out for the barn dog, who bites if you are not friendly. When you’re not friendly, oftentimes, we find out too late that this is why no one invites us to the fair.
I am not uncomfortable sharing this. At least not uncomfortable as far as my usual discomforts go. Instead, I see myself as alone with my thoughts.
And possibly, I say this because I used to live with people who experienced the same place as me and our outcomes and our interpretations are completely different. Therefore, our terms of closeness are completely different.
I understand that we hold each other in different regards. I am me. They are them and together, we are only tiny pieces of the past. We are minuscule blips of a time that was long ago.
And I’m fine with this.
It’s okay. No, really it is because whether we are close with the remnants or the people from our past is less important to the warmth I feel in my heart.
I lost something on this farm, which I hope I never find again. I changed here. I lived here and I grew here. Maybe it’s as simple to me as this: I do not have many places which I regard as happy from my young life. I do not have many places where I can say that I lived and I achieved when I was young.
Most of what I see for us is an unsupported lifestyle. Everyone is at odds. Everyone argues. I have met more bullies in my adult life (and in the corporate world) than I’ve ever met on the playground, in the schoolyard or on the corners of my crazy little neighborhood.
I laugh at my idea. I know this is crazy.
And maybe you laugh too.
I laugh at the idea of building my own little Shangri La (if there is such a thing). I shake my head at the idea of a place, not unlike the farm where I lived; where life was simplified and perhaps less-fancy – and yet, this was one of the best times of my life.
There was no hatred towards me. There was no animosity towards anyone else. We did simple things, like sleigh rides in the snow. We learned about life here and more importantly, I learned to let go of the demons that keep us under.
Come to think of it:
There was a community breakfast at a nearby church that was unforgettable to me.
Know why? I was treated like family by strangers and celebrated by people who I’d never met before. I was accompanied by folks who said things to me like, “Peace be with you,” and shared food or encouraged me to “get it while its hot!” And I did too.
And there was Kevin. And there was John. There was Jim. There was Quinn. There was Dominic. There were the Tucks. There was Eric and there was Eddie. There was Chris and Paulie and then there was Timmy; and well, there was Chuck too – but Chuck is an entirely different story. There was Whaley and then there was Brad. There was Shane. There was Tony, who I admit to my odds with.
There were others too, like Darrel and then there was Rob who I’d seen different adventures with. And there was Bob. There was Susan. There was Robyn, There was Father Anthony. There was Helen and there was of course, Betty. And there was Dave. There was Brian. There was Mike and Brad.
There were more too and t’s okay if they don’t remember or think the same as me. Perhaps this is because I was at a point in my life where I truly believed that I had nothing else and whether this was true or not, at this moment in my life, I was unmarked by the scars of my past. I was unmoved by the dark thoughts which crept in. I was untouched by the sins of my trades; and more, I was set free here in a way that only a kid could feel.
And that’s just it. I never knew how to “feel” like a kid or felt “comfortable” enough to be me without worrying something might happen.
Maybe I thought to write about this because the morning sky is gray and overcast. Maybe this came because the streets are wet and quiet. For the moment, there is a connection to an old memory from whence I came. Or, maybe I am a person who enjoys nostalgia.
I will say that life can be an uncomfortable place to be. And I get that. I get that not everything works the way we want it to. I get that changes take time. And I get that dreams are not easy to pull off.
But again, I laugh at myself. I shake my head because whether my dream can happen or not, I’m blessed to say that at least I am still crazy enough to dream. I do dream that someday – this will all come true.
Oh and by the way – everyone is welcome here. Everyone is a teacher. Everyone is a student. And we can learn from each other. Or, at minimum we can set up a white sheet on a wire and get a projector to show an old film at sunset. I’ll make sure there’s enough popcorn for everybody.
Note: After my last lecture, a student approached me. Teary-eyed and young, she mentioned the farm. She asked if this was real to me to which of course I said yes. Absolutely. Then she asked if she could come work there. Of course she could. Everyone can work here. That’s how places like this are built – one dream at a time.