My grandma lives on a farm on the outskirts of a small town in Northeastern Oklahoma. Her little farm is humble, her own patch of land, 10 acres of dirt she calls her own. She is 91 years old, and still homesteads on her staked claim. I called her just last week and she told me how she spent her morning cleaning out the chicken coops, all while batting the hens away who wanted to lay as she was freshening up their beds. I shook my head as I was in the car on the way to sit through carpool and listen to a podcast; wow, are days look a little different, wouldn’t you say? Now, as you pull up the hill and around the corner into my grandmother’s driveway you are greeted by a flock of neon pinwheels, a gaggle of swinging bird feeders and a herd of black and white spotted guinea strutting across her pebbled driveway with their tiny blue heads bobbing in unison. To your right can you see emu grazing in a pasture peppered with chickens pecking and scratching happily, and as you turn to the left, a small magical play house sits just beyond her poppy patch. Her yard is adorned with spray painted antique farm equipment and she has flowers coming up in every crack and cranny they can wedge themselves into. Last summer we both planted “cocks comb”, a flower that grows in the late summer. My plants got around a foot and a half tall, while hers were over 5 feet tall. She kept asking if mine had grown any more and I kept trying to explain to her that I didn’t have chicken manure or her “plant whispering” abilities. At her house in the summers, you can pick a ripened tomato off the vine and eat it like an apple; she’s magic.
As a child, I would visit her home for several days at a time. As soon as our car bumbled up the hill, the rest of the world was lost to me. As if crossing my own bridge to Terabythia, it was all reverie, every minute of my stay was dreamy. I would dash through the door and dart to her spare bedroom to open the drawer of clothes she had set aside just for me. The drawer would squeak open, it was always jammed just a smidge, and instantly a waft of mothballs and cedar would drift up through my nose. Stuffed in “my drawer” were old work shirts, and t-shirts that my mom wore when she was little. She would keep a night-gown, with Mickey in his sorcerers cap covering the front, and possibly a few ill-fitting pairs of shoes that she picked up from the thrift store. I’d pull my city clothes off in one swoop, up and over my head, and jump into my farm clothes as quickly as I could manage. These are the clothes I would wear for the remainder of my visit because there would be no need for getting chicken poop on my neon-spatter-painted jean skirt, would there be.
Immediately after I dressed, the door would swing-to behind me and I’d hit the yard running. I was always in a manic search for all the new going ons on the farm. Where were the pigmy goats roaming, and were there new baby animals caged in her barn? Ducks were alway my favorite babies… their beaks were almost iridescent in the beginning, and their feathers coated their small frames like tiny cashmere sweaters. I would dig in the garden, and gather eggs at dusk; where at times I was met face to face with hungry black snakes gobbling up the golf balls she had left for them in the coops. Dirt would find its way under my fingernails and I would don a belt of chigger bites around my waist by the time my visit was over. We would end most summer nights while sipping sweat tea and swinging on her bench swing in the back while we watched fireflies dance over they pond. One time, when I was about 6 years old my grandparents were both sitting on the weathered bench swing, and I was sitting on the teeter-totter to the side of them. They were rocking forward, and I was rocking backward; backward then forward, forward then backward, then as they came back, I went forward, greeting each other in the middle with a wave and a “Hi there, how ya doin’?”. Suddenly, I pushed forward and no one came back to greet me. I heard laughing and looked down to see the two of them with their feet straight up in the air, laughing until they couldn’t breathe. I guess the old rusty chains gave way, and they flipped themselves over. This was probably the single most enjoyable moment I can remember of the two of them together. Not too many memories included them as comrades, laughing freely.
As I grew up and my visits stayed the same… flying through the door, jumping into my “farm clothes” and heading outside. My grandma was known for locking the screen door behind you until dinner was ready. “When you go out, you stay out”, she would say. Not even “bathroom emergencies” were allowed.
I was different when I was there. The city girl day dreaming through the pastures; stopping to pick grass and contemplate the blades; kneeling inside of the pigs cage and welcoming the warm mud beneath my knees; strolling through the garden and filling my mouth with hundreds of bitty tomatoes. I was free. Free to fully be me. It was where I found my stillness, in the silence.
Mother Teresa has been quoted to say, “Listen in silence because if your heart is full of other things you cannot hear the voice of God”. With the farm clothes on my back, all the white noise around me would dissipate, chaos would melt off my shoulders and I had permission to be my wild and unadulterated self.
This year I am living undivided and refusing to take the farm clothes off. I am saying no to negative self talk and saying 100% yes to the things HE has chosen for me. It is my utmost desire to find awe and wonder in the mundane again, and to shed the cynic’s scales. I am a realist, and the world has sucked me into a pessimistic rut that I have to unleash myself from; if not the negativity will consume me. I will embrace the mud under my knees and the dirt between my toes, I will swipe my windblown hair to the side and press into the work of motherhood and marriage, with a grateful heart. Listening in the quiet, I will hear the Lord, as I stroll through the pastures of my day. My prayer is to notice his masterpiece in the people I meet, or the kindness I see, while sloughing off the antagonist.
Every morning it is my choice to slip on those proverbial farm clothes, so I can greet life with vigor and wonder once more. My hope for all of us is that we each remember the way back to that drawer, the drawer that holds the permission to be completely and confidently YOU.
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