What do they say about looking at something through the eyes of a child? I am having a similar experience these days on our farm with the guests we host at our cabin above the hay field.
When we first found this farm, it seemed it should be shared with other people like ourselves, caught up in cities, surrounded by efficient systems to make our lives easier, but also far removed from the basics of how things work. It’s also pretty up this little creek valley. Five years later we have our farm stay for folks to visit, either as a retreat, a family outing, or a chance to decide if they can visualize a similar change of lifestyle.
I see our place anew each time our guests accompany me to feed the sheep or check for eggs. It doesn’t matter whether they are adults or kids – there is a similar delight in doing something new and touching wool or feathers or horse hair or even having the donkey sidle up for an ear rub. Giving a lamb a bottle of milk probably has top billing on the list of things to do, but there are other experiences that are “firsts” too, such as “pooh sticks” played off the creek bridge, collecting turkey feathers, and picking up brown salamanders that favor muddy trails.
The barn is the best. It’s not the scary, musty place, in need of some serious repair, we found when we first moved here. It was our first project. Now, there are new stalls and lights, which only help to accentuate the original structure of beams made out of single trees, a steep pitched roof to keep the water running off the shingles, and a foundation set on rocks and old growth logs. The cathedral ceilings in the hayloft get the biggest “ah”, followed by 18 tons of hay “ah-ha”. But, what really excites some families is the basketball hoop and trying to shoot from the top of a 7-story tall stack of hay bales!
It’s funny, but without guests around, I see only vegetable and flower beds filled with weeds, and buildings and fences in need of repair. I see chickens and lambs on the wrong side of the fences and horses in pastures that are supposed to be closed off. It’s not that our guests paint a picture of the idyllic countryside, because they all comment on the work we have before us. It’s just that they can see what we now take for granted and, try as I might, it is hard to remember what that first glance looked like.
I am reminded of my email I wrote to friends when we first arrived here where I quoted Robert Frost’s poem about the “Two roads diverged in the yellow wood…” It was about the choice to go in a different direction, somewhat blindly, I might add. What isn’t blind, however, is the view from our guests’ perspectives. They allow me to see again, if only for a little while, something that is right before my eyes.
Top photo: guest Harper and Teddy the lamb (photo by her mom); Bottom photo: wagon wheel at entrance to our farm (photo by guest, Jo Ann Conway).
All Rights Reserved. Copyright 2008 Scottie Jones