I am probably quite similar to a most women in the way I have not made taking care of myself a priority. I suppose we convince ourselves of our need to be somewhere else or to do something perceived more important; these ideas often takes precedence over caring for our physical and mental needs. I have been married for 31 years, raised three children, homeschooled, worked in a busy church office and participated in ministry most my adult life; I have been running at full speed for as long as I can remember. A person can only neglect themselves for so long before it takes a heavy toll. I made excuses for myself and allowed myself to believe I would get all those bad habits under control “someday” when life slowed down.
Five years ago we left California and moved to a rural county in Western Washington; my life seemed to go from 100 miles per hour to 10. It took a couple years to find the right property to build our future on, but we finally found the right place. I was in the place I had dreamed of for years surrounded by so much blessing; however I felt hopeless inside. I had no solid reason to feel this way so, I reasoned my emotions on hormones or pre-menopause symptoms. I was doing active hard physical work on the farm but I kept gaining more and more weight. I was exhausted , and depressed. I would look in the mirror and not recognize myself, I felt lost and trapped in a foreign body and mind. It is a frightening feeling to be so disconnected with your own self, but I worked really hard to portray my old self.
Fortunately, I asked my husband to make me an appointment with a new naturopathic Dr. in our area. Dr. Taylor found me to be low in vitamin D, a low thyroid production and obese. I faced the facts head on and embraced a new diet, began taking a thyroid replacement and vitamin D supplements. Within two weeks I began to feel hopeful again, as if someone opened the window of my mind and let the sunshine in. I share my personal story to encourage anyone who may be struggling with symptoms like mine to not put off taking care of yourself. I am so thankful to look to the future with a healthy mind and body so I can enjoy living on my little farm with hope and joy. I even decided to ditch the muck boots and work clothes for the day to get a a new hair style. Sometimes the best thing we can do for our families and our farm is to do the best thing for ourselves.
A year ago I had never experienced the deep love and friendship a dog can bring into your life. Sure, I’ve heard a dog is man’s best friend and I had seen numerous movies highlighting the bond between a pooch and their person. I am not an insensitive person by any means, I even teared up at the end of the movie “Homeward Bound” when Shadow limped down the hill to reunite with his boy, more than once I might add. Despite all this, the dog /human relationship had eluded me. If I am honest I will say there were even occasions I rolled my eyes towards those who willingly endured the hair, slobber, barking, and destruction in their lives without even the sense of annoyance on their part. I quickly learned that you have to be careful with holding onto your opinions to tightly.
Last October my daughter gifted me with a Great Pyrenees puppy for my birthday, and that not so tiny ball of white fur has grown and grown, not just in physical size but in the affect he has in my daily life. I have learned to move much slower and to contemplate my surrounding as I go. As a California native I was used to doing everything fast and getting things almost immediately. I grew up living in the fast lane, literally; I like constant motion but I don’t enjoy life moving so fast you don’t have time to enjoy the scenery. There is so much to be missed in a culture of immediate gratification, patience isn’t seen as a virtue, it is a means to cause frustration to those who want their answer or response, right now thank you! Raising a puppy requires patience, and a lot of it. For me, it also meant standing in the rain and cold while he learned to go to the bathroom outside and the diligent repetitive training it takes to have an obedient and responsive companion instead of an unruly terrifying beast.
This past year my patience has grown immensely and the bond I share with my dog has altered the perspective on more than a few of my former opinions; more importantly it has realigned my overall way of approaching life. Farmdog and I take a walk around our property daily, we don’t hurry, we stop and smell the flowers and he thinks it is important to smell everything else as well. We notice our surroundings and investigate the little changes that happen daily. Tonight as we sat at the top of the hill overlooking our little blue farmhouse and the valley beyond, I was overcome with the simple, gratifying contentment of being quiet and with doing nothing but enjoying the company of my furry friend. I am pretty positive we won’t be the subject of a heart warming book or movie but learning to slow down and enjoy the simple joys of life has impacted me deeply. I encourage anyone out there who is caught up in the busyness of life and needs to slow down; take a walk with a dog. It might not change anything but then again, it might change everything.
Autumn is not the easiest season to discover new things on my daily walks around the property, I could have chosen springtime and there would have been an abundance of subjects. I chose fall simply because it is my favorite time of year, I was born in October and I love the colors, pumpkins, crisp air and the smoke from fire places that hangs low to the ground. As I walk around the property I have to look a bit closer to see the changes but they are there. There are little decorations of the seasons that nature displays for those who care enough to look a little closer.
At this time of the year the tall grass gets weighed down by the rains and heavy fog; the leaves begin to fall from the trees revealing sights that had been hidden just a few days before. Our property was heavily overgrown when we bought it a year ago and we have worked to clear areas for future grazing; as we do, we uncover little hints of the past and those who were here before. One of my favorite discoveries is a set of two old -growth Spruce stumps with the marks of turn of the century logging. When you investigate closer, you notice a number of younger trees of different varieties growing in and on these stumps. The circle of seasons have no start and finish, they continue to come and go bringing with them death and life, new growth and rotting leaves and it all has purpose and value. The seasons of our lives affect us in much the same way, they add the depth and enhancement much the same way herbs and spices do for our recipes.
Living with a Chef, we have a very large spice cabinet and an herb garden filled with a sweet smelling variety to garnish and enhance our meals. The smell of sage recently filled my home as the dehydrator dried out a bunch to save for winter. This process got me thinking, “Are the seasons of my life seasoning me for the better?”. I honestly haven’t enjoyed some of the “dry” times in my life, sometimes I allowed them to make me bitter. There were other times I thought I would drown in a flood of tears during a particular hard season, it weighed me down so I struggled to pull myself up. Separately they often didn’t make sense but as I evaluate them as a whole, with the perspective of age and experience, I can appreciate the complex combination of seasoning that has brought the unique flavor of my life. I have decided to appreciate the complexities of each season and be like the Spruce stump that allows the dead and rotten things to bring new growth and life.
It feels incredibly daunting and a bit terrifying to finally begin something I have been planning for so long. I have wanted to write my entire adult life but busyness and lack of confidence has kept me from stepping out in a public way. I have written and journaled over the years but seldom if ever have I truly allowed myself to express my inner thoughts and opinions in a tangible way. Today, I am keeping a promise to myself to open up, expose my fears to the light and allow my personal failures and victories to possibly encourage others. On the cusp of turning 49, I can say my greatest achievement thus far are, the last 30 years of marriage to my husband Brandon and our whole-hearted investment in raising three wonderful, now grown and married children. We have poured out everything we could of ourselves to love and nurture these three complex, diverse and deeply loving human beings ,who in turn have each found their perfect spouse to share their lives with.
I will never regret the sacrifices we made so our children would be equipped to pursue their dreams; it has been my heart’s joy to see them stretch their wings and fly high in their own unique endeavors. Their needs required me to suppress the deep desire of living the farm life and keep that dream safely nestled deep in my heart for a very long season. In the last year that chapter of my life came to a wonderful close when we purchased 5 acres in rural western Washington and my baby girl walked down the aisle to marry her love. I may have an empty nest but it is on a farm! It is a new place so full of potential and promise that it makes my lonely mother’s heart overflow with gratitude and hopefulness.
So, I begin this literary adventure with an experiment: What happens when you finally begin to live out what you have only dreamed of for years? My hypothesis is that I will find something new to discover each day and I will learn to live a deeper, fuller and more abundant life because I do. Today, October 1, 2017, Day 1 of the “Smith Farmhouse Experiment”, I am sharing this specifically poignant new find of an empty bird’s nest. I found it in a young Alder tree as I was pulling down the overgrown blackberries vines from it’s branches. As I sit here with my full cup of coffee and the beauty of fall settling in, this empty nest compels me to consider this truth: in life we often experience the highs, lows, the beautiful and the ugly at the same time and that contrast is so richly poetic. Nature is an artistic grace, an ever alluring promise of hope which inspires my determination to find something new tomorrow and we all need something to look forward to, don’t we?