What I Learned This Summer

 In Keep a sense of humor

An unexpected long stay at a goat farm changed me this summer. The Seventies-style farmhouse with shag carpeting, vintage appliances (freezer on top and a refrigerator on the bottom meant my back cracked reaching for lettuce), blonde wood beams, glass tables and a serious amount of wrought iron that included a wagon wheel light hanging from the pitched ceiling, all had some wonderful lessons.

Aesthetics were enhanced by fresh sunflowers, wildflowers I picked and delicious, fresh goat cheese!

Mary Ann, the owner of the goat farm said she took the television out because no one watched it. Suddenly, I did not know what was going on in the world. No daily news during my gym work out, national news at night with a quick turn to other news channels if there was an intriguing story/scandal, or Colbert/ Maher/Oliver late at night, which amused me but did not help my nocturnal sleeping habits.

Suddenly, there’s silence. What do we do with our evenings without watching a series, a movie, a special? We read. I read a book a week, we listed to audio books, I started writing my eighth novel, we summarized a play writing project, played with goats and Bengy, the dog who guards them, walked a giant labyrinth on the property, watched the sun setting every night and sat outside in the cool evening breeze marveling at the cloud formations. We also played lots of Scrabble, listened to music and just sat.

In other words, we changed our habits. We simplified our lives. We enjoyed quiet.

Since we were so far from town, errands took almost a day. Mary Ann sold her extraordinary goat cheese with lemon curd and herbed feta, brownies and milk at the farmer’s market twice a week. We were obsessed with the cheeses (we also tasted cheddar and mozzarella) and ate them for snacks on artesian breads with a slice of kumato (the ugly brown tomatoes filled with flavor), in our eggs and on salads.
We were spoiled with fresh! We even enjoyed eggs from the chickens on the property.

Our days and nights were filled with activities that enhanced us. I got through a stack of magazines I brought with me, I did research for my next novel about Rhodes, we experimented with cooking new recipes, etc. Not having a TV gave us hours of free time. Not hearing any news calmed our spirits. (I did glance at the scroll on the TV at the gym but it was the same cast of characters as when I left.) No drama. No upsets. Just soul-enhancing walks, breaths, prayers for the beauty of family, the earth and the goats that we delighted in every day, especially the five kids who were a week old when we arrived and had to be bottle fed. We developed relationships with Coco because she was the leader, Hercules, the stud for the farm and Gracie with her crooked lip that made her drool.

I felt close to G-d every day. I became more aware of where our food came from. We shopped the co-op and farmer’s markets except for staples. We lost any sense of fashion (except for concerts) because goats don’t care what you wear. We talked about what we were reading. We dreamed. We reminisced about our parents, our lives, watching our children raise their children, the places we’ve traveled and our connection to the land. Without the phones ringing with robot calls, no traffic and the quiet of a calm home, the silence gave us time to think, to communicate, to decide what was important.

We took a time out.
It was a very good thing.

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  • Susan Brooks

    As always, you are a great story-teller! I felt like I was right there with you, taking in the wide-open spaces and star-filled nights. Thank you for sharing your experience…reminded me to stop more often, breathe a bit deeper, and unplug much more often than I do now.

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