These days, many people are seeking a farm or small holding of land to create a greater sense of freedom and well-being. And there is nothing better than spending more time in nature to soothe the weary soul. Farmwife Catherine S. Pond shares the mindfulness concept of "finding farm wonder" as a way to replenish your body, mind and spirit.
“That night she had a new consciousness of the country, felt almost a new relation to it...She had never known before how much the country meant to her. The chirping of the insects down in the long grass had been like the sweetest music. She had felt as if her heart were hiding down there, somewhere, with the quail and the plover and all the little wild things that crooned or buzzed in the sun. Under the long shaggy ridges, she felt the future stirring.”
—Willa Cather, O Pioneers!
These days it’s not hard to think about wanting to relax and decompress, perhaps even buying a farm or small holding of land to create your own sense of well-being. Events of the past few years have prompted many to do just that and country living has never been more popular, except maybe during the first major back-to-the-land impulse after World War 2.
My great-grandmother in her prolific correspondence with her nine children often sent poetry and shared bits of wisdom. One of her mantras was to always “take the ruthlessness to rest.” That seems a contrary statement because the words “ruthless” and “rest” are so opposite. I believe what she meant was that in the everyday stressors of life, one should safeguard and embrace the ability to take time for oneself and just pause. Fortunately, the country gives one plenty of opportunity to do that.
“Perhaps, after all, our best thoughts come when we are alone. It is good to listen, not to voices but to the wind blowing, to the brook running cool over polished stones, to bees drowsy with the weight of pollen. If we attend to the music of the earth, we reach serenity. And then, in some unexplained way, we share it with others.”
My grandmother, one of those nine siblings, bought a New Hampshire farm with her husband in 1946. They were part of the group of ex-suburbanites who wanted something better for their families in uncertain times (sound familiar?): a quieter pace, less people, and their own land spreading out around them and to provide both food and shelter from the world.
While their farm wasn’t always restful with chores and responsibilities, it was full of wonder if you took the time to notice. And my grandmother did: often writing and journaling, and publishing articles in magazines about her life as a farm wife with six children to raise. Yet she still very much needed her own time to reflect, write, and read.
Rest implies being still, a kind of recovery and repose. And we all need more rest these days. So if we focus on the concept of “rural repose,” there is no better place to do this where the natural realm can be the ultimate balm.
Here are some easy fixes for our weary world and how to readily find farm wonder:
1. “Always be on the lookout for the presence of wonder.”
E. B. White wrote that and it’s no wonder coming from the author of the classic farm tale, Charlotte’s Web. It’s not hard to do on a farm where you will see, daily, the presence of life and death, renewal and decay, and, in the spring, a miraculous rebirth. Learning to enjoy each season for what it brings has been a joy to realize on our farm. No matter what is happening in a family, or in the world, nature is a reminder of life going on around us. Take it all in!
2. Take a mindful walk.
Leave your phone at home, don’t worry about monitoring your steps, and certainly don’t have any music in your ears. Instead, listen to the music around you: the bird song, the rustling of the trees and grass, the seasonal cacophony of insects, or just the absence of human sound. Concentrate on each breath and literally breathe in the landscape around you. Pretend you are visiting your land for the first time and observe. My mother had a trail carved in the woods behind our farm and every day, no matter the season, she would tramp through it with her dogs and discover something new.
3. Take a barre class with farm gates.
Who needs an expensive studio when you can go right out to your own gate and do plies and leg stretches and squats with the security of your arms on a sturdy fence? And it’s a great warm-up to that walk!
4. Plant and tend a garden.
The health benefits of gardening have been widely touted. Just digging in the dirt and watching things grow, then eating them, or cutting flowers for an arrangement is the reward for hard and persistent work. So is eating what you grow and saving money at the grocery store. It’s also great exercise: both physically and spiritually.
5. Enjoy the task.
For as long as we’ve lived here, some thirteen years now, I marvel at how my Old Order Mennonite friends don’t dwell on things. If they do, they do it while they work. Not troubled by modern distractions or noises, they can be in the moment and with the task — hand work instead of head work. The Shakers had a saying for that: “hands to work and hearts to God.”
As a writer and a remote marketer and content writer via computer and smart phone, I can live too much in my head, on the Internet, or social media. So I am learning to enjoy those times when house or farm work needs doing and I can literally just turn it all off. Dishes, laundry, gardening, pantry organizing: it’s all productive. I just keep a notebook handy for those inevitable thoughts and ideas that might emerge — and, ironically, they do!
6. Open the windows.
Here in Kentucky there are two seasons a year when we are able to do this for long stretches, without relying on heat or air-conditioning: usually from April into early June, and again in September and October. Perhaps this is now why spring and fall are my favorite seasons instead of summer, when the southern heat can be too confining. I rarely play music during these seasons because I would rather hear the noises of the farm and the land around me. A whole day can pass when I’m working from home before I hear a human sound. This is perhaps the best gift of having one’s own farm or country holding.
7. Practice Resurrection.
The words of Kentucky farmer-writer-poet Wendell Berry say it better than I ever could:
“So, friends, every day do something that won't compute...Give your approval to all you cannot understand...Ask the questions that have no answers. Put your faith in two inches of humus that will build under the trees every thousand years...Laugh. Be joyful though you have considered all the facts....Practice resurrection.”