Monday, May 7, 2012

Fencing Out Beauty

The Fence
The last decade of my life I have prioritized things with form: development, growth, structure, stability: with our family, our animals, our homestead, our farm business, our careers. It has taken far too long to notice what has been missing in this time.

Beauty. The beauty hasn’t been missing - just my ability to notice it.

How easy it is to get caught up in the daily grind of feeding, cleaning, building and beginning. Somewhere in there I lost the ability to appreciate the beauty in my life. The beauty we can see, but also what we feel, hear, smell or taste.

What drew us to settle in the place we now live was the view one could see from the little log cabin perched on a hill. Framing the gently sloped valley of arable land was a hillside splashed with autumn colours, a golden September sky and a rainbow arching across the horizon. A friendly black dog that we would soon call our own wiggled and nudged against me while I took in the scene. I had found my heaven. As it turned out, it was our heaven.

We later hiked this mountain – our mountain – to discover rocky outcrops and small caves, mosses, fungi

Shelf Fungi
Lichens blanketing the trees, the rocks, the fallen logs, a stream, a very old beaver pond.
My Favourite Place on the Farm
We found out that we could see the Ottawa river from the height of the land.

How blessed were we to be able to call this home? How exciting it all was to have the ability to make life here. Plant and animal, furry, feathered, fronded and podded…and then human. The place was a Mecca for creation.

Plows upturned dirt, nails were hammered, boards were cut, chicks were hatched, foals were born, pastures were fenced, seeds were planted, weeds were pulled, fruits were harvested, straw was forked, manure was piled, children were born, fences were made, puppies were acquired, more fences were made.

Soon life became a series of fences and jobs.

Last week we took down a welded wire fence that surrounded our house. A fence that had kept our children safe from the road, and eventually our dogs as well. These dogs would go on to use the yard for their waste, chew and kill the apple tree we planted on our wedding day, dig up the hollyhocks, trample the lupines, break off the lilac branches, prematurely prune the raspberry canes and dig massive holes throughout the lawn. Soon we found ourselves avoiding the space around our house as it was no longer a pleasant place to be.

The Easter Egg Hunt

The children were too little to unlatch the gates themselves, nor were they allowed, as an open gate would have sent the dogs running off down the road. The kids were trapped inside the yard. Or worse yet, trapped outside of it unable to come back in. I began to feel trapped as well. Our children have finally reached an age where they understand where they are not to go.

Down came the fence. The grass has now been mowed where the fence had once been. The vast expanse of our lawn has now reappeared. Paths to the barn, the greenhouse, the field, the play structures are all easy and direct. The dogs now have their own fenced yard at a rarely used area in the back of the house.

A Dog's Yard

The children run freely in the new expanded space.

Something has shifted. Suddenly I can see the sun going down again with all of the hues of purple, pink, red and orange. I see the green all around promising new growth. The trees are one year older. I can visit my Jersey girl who is about to give birth any day now. The flowers are starting to grow, unthreatened by dogs.

I no longer see all of the work that has to be done when I walk out my door and shimmy awkwardly through that gate, keeping dogs in, letting children out, carrying buckets or wagons or wheelbarrows through. I no longer focus on the piles of barn boards rotting alongside the greenhouse. I do not see the cow fence alongside the road that is in desperate need of repair.

I see the space where my hollyhocks once grew and cherish the opportunity to plant the seeds again. I see a new apple tree, a pear tree and a plum as well that have taken the place of the wedding tree. We have a bench that I can place somewhere that will hopefully look out at the rainbow when it appears over the mountain one day soon.

I do love those dogs that have replaced the one we bought that day (who I always said came with a farm). I take my badly behaved black bundles of fur up to the gravesite where the original canine owner is now buried. I tell them about her. There also lies a horse there that we lost far earlier than we should have. Another dog. A cat or two. Sadness there, but still beauty in all that they brought to our lives when they were here.

Spring does this, I know. It brings new life. A better view. But something more has happened this spring. Our world has reopened. I suppose the children have grown and can now be trusted to wander with far less supervision. Taking down the fence that divided our yard and our farm has symbolized something for me. The beginning of a new era.

We will never stop building and growing things around here. But perhaps just now, just there now, I’ve reached a pinnacle where I can finally look out on all that we have earned in this space and take a seat on my bench and appreciate it. We worked hard to get here. The job isn’t anywhere near over. But it is time to take a moment, or many, to appreciate what we have.

We have committed to a year of tying up loose ends instead of taking on large, new projects – like barns, like babies, like businesses. Slowly we are reclaiming the rooms, the fields, the places that have gotten away on us. One space at a time we are taking them back from the fray.

Our lives are often surrounded by fences that we build ourselves. Fences that confine us in areas that don’t allow us to wander and expand anymore. Fences that keep us from seeing the leaves changing colour or feeling the breeze or watching the growing flowers. Fences that hold our children out, or keep us from walking freely to the places that we love.

Somewhere along the way I fenced myself away from the beauty of where we live. I lost sight of it. Right in the middle of it, I couldn’t see anymore.

And then I took down a fence. It seems to me now that it is every bit as beautiful here as the first time I laid eyes on the place. But someone must have come along in the meantime and made some changes around here. I think that someone was us.

I can’t say I was present for it every moment along the way. But I can tell you, I do see it now. I am going to make sure I set up a seat to get a better view. Because I plan on gawking a whole lot more in the future.

The Free and Clear

1 comment:

  1. Wow--licorice fern roots are STRONG. I love licorice, so I thought I'd try a root while out foraging last week.
    I think cooking with the root and not chewing it like the natives did might be the better idea... Thanks for all of the good info here!

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