Not taking it for granted

And so I write from the quietness and stillness of a central-Wisconsin farm, where the sky is vast and studded with stars; the nearest neighbors are so far we can belt out Engine Driver and Don't Stop Believin', accompanied by a twelve-string guitar, in the middle of the night, with no fear of waking anyone; the chickens must be protected from prowling foxes and raccoons at nightfall; the donkey requires an apple and a chat (or graceful conversation) each morning; and the eggs come in at mid-day, warm and golden.

We find ourselves here because this is the home of one of the professors in Justin's department, who has traveled abroad on vacation for a couple of weeks (to watch his sheepdogs compete in the world championship of sheepherding!). Because the animals need tending to, he has left them (along with his beautiful home) in our care.

Being here, in this place removed from the city and somewhat removed from the buzz of our daily lives, we've reflected a lot on rurality and on what it means to get away. The joys of country life, long so invisible to me, jump out with such clarity.  I grew up in the woods, with acres upon acres of trees all our own, with a big garden, with privacy from neighbors, with forest trails straight to the university that my Papa had carved to serve as his daily commute on foot. And although I loved these aspects of that life, they were also muted by the stunning lack of social and cultural stimulation, by the small-mindedness of a Bible Belt town, and by the lack of a community outside my family.  No matter how much my Papa would say, "But, Anna, look at the sky, look at the trees!" when I complained about being unhappy as a teenager, the rural wonder was something I took for granted.

Now, with that world so far away, and with Madison offering more social stimulation than I can even handle, the beauty and peace that always lay in the background of my childhood becomes all I can think about.

This is all not to say that I'd want to go back to just that life, or that I've forgotten the difficulties of small-town Southern living, just that these quiet moments on the farm remind me how easy it is to overlook the things that come to be seen as givens. It's a reminder to cherish what is so good in our lives, even if it has always been there, even if it is less stark than the difficulties.

Here's to celebrating the good, among the animals and trees and brilliant autumn sunsets!


  1. What a beautiful post, Anna! I often have moments of reflection like this when I go home to the west coast of Canada and walk among the cedar and Douglas fir trees. I have fewer moments of mindful clarity when I'm wrapped-up with PhD/TA work, but try to take a few walks a day with Sitka and enjoy the day/night/neighborhood/weather etc. Enjoy the farm!

  2. Thanks, Meridith! Finding time for pause amid the stress is always the hardest (but most crucial) part.


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