This weekend has been a strange one for me. I’m not sure what it is exactly. I feel like I’ve experienced all the ups and downs of life in a “fixer upper farmhouse in the country”. I feel them all weighing on me in a spectrum of emotions.
I find myself in one moment, swooning over the setting sun on the forsythia and the pure white muzzle of a new born calf at the fence. I stand back and watch as my 72 year-old neighbor, a man who was born in our house and now lives next door, slowly rolls his tractor into our yard. Using a two-bottom plow that he hasn’t hooked up to his tractor in more than fifteen years, he pulls it back and forth, slicing through the green earth and turning it over to reveal damp dark soil underneath that will be our vegetable garden. I sit on the back porch and stitch, while my husband builds bluebird boxes, and I listen to the faint squeals of my girls wading barefoot at the stream crossing.
I send a container of my oatmeal raisin cookies to the neighbor as a thank you, and throw brush on a burn pile–that Dan has cut back from a fence row in order to help the neighbor, for helping us. I stand outside and am struck that the only thing I can hear are the spring peepers and the ticking of our neighbor’s electric fence across the road.
But despite these obvious treasures that come with where we’ve planted our feet, I find myself also feeling frustration with some of the trials. I get tired of every weekend being sucked up by something that is broken, needing repair. This weekend–an upstairs toilet, leaking down into the kitchen ceiling. I want to take a shower, but have to use a wrench and a pair of pliers to turn on the water and adjust the temperature, because the handle has fallen off and there hasn’t been time to fix it. I get tired of always having to figure out how to do it ourselves because we don’t have the time or the money to call someone else up and get the job done.
I once again experienced animals being animals, acting on their ingrained instincts, and yet I hate being faced with the near-death and the worry and the trauma. I get tired of twisting ankles on rubber boots kicked off just inside the door and weary of a kitchen floor that is never lacking its collection of mud and grass and leaf litter. I get tired of working, working, working and figuring out how to make work-time into family-time. I wonder if there will ever be a weekend where there isn’t a major project on the agenda. I wonder if I’m cut out for this.
Late last night, when we were finally sitting down to dinner at eight o’clock, I know Dan could sense my weariness. And he said something to me that has not left the back of my mind for the rest of the weekend. It was something he heard Wendell Berry say. In so many words, Wendell Berry says that this life we are leading or striving for, so many people refer to as “the simple life” or “living simply“. But in reality, what we should be striving for, is actually “the complex life“.
It is simple to go to the store and get your strawberries in January, or call up the repairman on the weekend and get your toilet fixed and your shower handle replaced, or throw your load of laundry in the dryer. But what we think of as the simple life, is actually very complex. It is work and sacrifice and timing and waiting and figuring out how to make do. It is far from simple.
My mother always says, “this too shall pass” and those words are also ringing in my head tonight. It seems whenever I write a post like this, I find that the next morning, once I’ve slept on it, I have to resist the urge to go in and delete. I want to go back and add a footnote and say that I’ll be fine. That these feelings will pass. That there is joy to be found in a new day. That often, all it takes is spewing out all the thoughts and frustrations and emotions. And then they are gone. Weightless. Carried away.
And as I sit here in the dark, typing, I can hear the raspy breathing of a little girl asleep in bed beside me, in droopy, tangled pigtails and a flannel nightgown. And I hear knocking and banging behind the closed bathroom door and know that repairs are being made and he’s still working. And he’s okay with it. And he’s probably doing it for me. And I’ve married a good man, who works hard.
And I know that tomorrow this place will win favor with me again. And a good song will come on the radio while I’m sweeping the kitchen floor and picking up boots. And I’ll stop trying to figure out why my life isn’t simple and marvel at how beautiful a complex life can be.