It must be the first day of hunting season. I’m sitting in my kitchen, drinking my morning coffee and I hear a gun shot – one very loud one. The hunting kind. Not the sort of “I got a new gun and I’m tryin’ her out” kind of shots we occasionally hear. One single shot. I wonder if it was our neighbor, Sam. I wonder if he got a deer. He aims for one per season – enough to fill his freezer and kindly spare a couple of pounds of meat for his neighbors, including us.
Teddy, our Great Pyr, is lying on the kitchen floor when the shot breaks the steady sound of morning crickets and cicadas. He should be outside with the chickens and cows, but instead he lays on the cool, wood floor inside. He has the biology of a guardian dog, but came to us before we had the workings of a farm, so we are his flock – his human livestock. The shot is enough to wake him and he runs to the door, barking his baritone that is enough to travel the back woods. I open the door and off he goes, at a pace that surprises me he was asleep only moments before.
We didn’t hear gun shots when we lived in town. We moved here and plenty changed, yet we still have traces of life in town inside of us. I heard a woman say, regarding a man close to me, “he has one foot in heaven and one on Earth.” I’d never heard anything that sounded so true. A life divided. Life on a farm, slightly removed from town but close enough to see the new, made-for-the-masses line of couture at Target. One moment, I am barefoot in the garden or gutting a chicken, the next I am typing on my laptop. These two lives can work together, it’s just trying to decide how the percentages split.
The humans on this farm, split between caring for the land and growing food and a grocery store that has it all waiting for us. Our dogs, biologically-wired to protect others outside, yet have known the comfort of a cool floor indoors. Our lives in this modern society, in the part of the world I live, are easy. Boxes delivered to our front door the next day. Groceries bagged and ready when we get to the market. I sometimes wonder what life was like to have the responsibility of survival on one’s shoulders – to not have the choice of either growing my own food or driving to the large building to buy it.
I do know this – the days when I do the work are the days I feel best. The mornings I get out of bed when it is still dark, my stomach muscles doing their best to convince me that I do not need to sit up from underneath the covers. And yet, I somehow gather the courage each morning to ignore them, to put my feet on the ground, to go outside to feed and water the sheep. Joe takes care of the chickens. The cool air in our lungs. The sun making its purple/red appearance over the tree line. My mind wants to talk me out of this each morning, but once I am outside, a feeling of resilience rises. The feeling that we are capable of more than we give ourselves credit for and that sometimes the inventions of man are more than we need.