Category Archives: Rural life

Barefoot In The Grass

Let’s get this straight. There is no such thing as work/life balance.

When I hear the phrase “work/life balance” it elicits shame. I berate myself for intense and difficult spurts of work that leave me depleted, and also for vegging on the couch on a Netflix binge.

There’s a phrase that suits me better: “work life integration.” “Integration” seems more possible than “balance,” and produces a mental image of the scale swinging gently back and forth in easy flow, never tipping too far to one side or another. The swaying gives more grace for imperfection and seems more achievable than the tension of a perfectly balanced scale.imagesI’d had a rough week in my work as a lawyer. Clients were stressed, several cases arrived concurrently at court deadlines, and I was a grouchy document drafting, fire-putter-outer. I knew the scale dance was woefully out of sync.

I reached out to one of my special girlfriends, Dr. J  a wise and unconditionally supportive friend, bemoaning my need for re-calibration. Since she is also a physician she gave me a prescription. “Come to the farm and spend the day. It’s crucial for you to connect with nature.”

Her recommendation seemed underwhelming but then I took inventory. I’d been eating clean food, vigilantly engaging in my spiritual practice and getting 7-8 solid hours of sleep (sometimes falling into bed shortly after getting home from the office), but I was still out of whack. Since that usual list of de-railers was in tact, I decided to follow doctor’s orders.

I love it when God endorses a game plan as he so clearly did on the day I traveled to her farm in rural Iowa. The weather was perfect enough to put the top down on the convertible and I cranked classic rock tunes along the back roads through small Iowa towns and green fields eventually arriving at the farm.

convertible

My friend greeted me with a big hug, a glass of iced green tea, and a cozy rocking chair on the front porch with a front row seat to several hummingbird feeders in the nearby trees. We sat rocking, sipping our tea, watching and listening to an assortment of hummingbirds zipping around us. I remembered when I’d been a little girl and my grandfather had sat for hours watching birds and beckoning me, “Look Josie(his pet name for me), watch this one right here.” I’d thought he was boring, and I’d look at the bird mildly entertained never sitting very long.

That day at the farm, we sat in the quiet open spaces feeling the perfect breeze blow by, occasionally sharing things girlfriends share without interruption or distraction. At the suggestion of Dr. J’s partner “Good Dave” who was giving us girlfriend -bonding space, we strolled past the hens and baby chickens roaming in a vast corner of the farm. The rooster crowed and his voice was clear and strong and it thrilled me to experience the familiar cock-a-doodle-do happening live and in color. Dr. J often gifts me eggs these beauties lay and they taste wonderful and fresh and now I’d met the sources of this generous gift of nourishment.

.chickens

“Take off your shoes,” Dr. J instructed as we reached another area of the farm, “and run your toes all through the grass being mindful and really feeling it,” she instructed.

“The therapeutic benefit of this is tremendous,” she insisted although the skeptic in me doubted. I’ve since found that “earthing” is real, and research shows the body draws electrons from the earth benefitting heart rate, immunity, blood viscosity, the endocrine and nervous systems.

barefoot in the grass

We rocked and talked more, and eventually Good Dave left and brought us back a surprising lunch: bacon cheeseburgers and onion rings. Having my health guru there gave me permission to divert from my usual clean eating without guilt. The junk food was a reminder to not take myself so seriously that I missed the chance to have self- compassion when other areas of my life missed the mark of perfectionism. I felt my stress melting more rapidly then other go-to remedies.

golf cartAfter lunch we ventured out in what I called a “pimped out golf cart” parking next to the river deep in the woods nearby, where we simply watched the river run and listened to the water. My friend urged me to take a turn at the wheel when we got back to the farm and I did, driving all over with a stop to admire the vegetable garden. Ultimately we parked and walked to the farm pond throwing small pieces of bread into the water while groups of fish scurried to the crumbs in hopes of making a score. A bug eyed, green slimy pond frog pushed his head up out of the water striking a pose while I snapped a picture on my phone.

.frog

My trip to the farm had an incredible healing effect on my weary soul, dislodging it from it’s stuck position such that the gentle swaying back and forth of the scales was reinstated. I felt rested and whole for days after, even while dodging the demands of a high stress job. I was born and raised in Iowa and it took me until now to fully appreciate the healing effects of nature.

If only I’d sat and really watched those birds with my grandpa years ago, I might have figured it out sooner.

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photo-6There are times in life when nothing meaningful seems to be happening. You’re content but you wonder what is next, and when it’s coming.

I’ve heard it called “the in between.” My friend Alicia calls it “when God has you in the marinade.”

I’d been in the marinade for months, when my friend, Dr. J invited me to visit her in her hometown in rural Iowa. A new man, her perfect match, had recently entered her life. “Good Dave,” I’d called him for distinction because we both knew another Dave who hadn’t warranted the “Good” moniker. He and Dr. J were regulars with their friends for Tuesday night summer motorcycle rides to eat chicken wings at an outdoor beer garden. My invitation was to join them for chicken wing night.

I hesitated, resisting a long trip to the country on a “school night.” The idea of a motorcycle ride also made me uneasy. Dr. J’s gentle persuasion made me agree to step out of the marinade.

Tuesday came and it was rainy and cool and part of me hoped we’d cancel. Close to the hour of departure the clouds suddenly cleared and the bright sun popped up without derailing the cool afternoon.

When I got to Good Dave’s farm he greeted me warmly. His good friend Stormer would be my driver. Dr. J gave me a sturdy helmet and made me feel confident of Stormer’s capabilities at handling a timid passenger on a Harley. I followed in my car as Good Dave and Dr. J led the way to Stormer’s house riding Good Dave’s Harley “Puff.”

We got to Stormer’s and the group of friends welcomed me. Most of them had grown up together in rural Iowa and their rich history of connectedness was palpable. They even shared their own nicknames for each other and each nickname came with a story.

The friends all had on motorcycle regalia, most of which said “Harley Davidson.” I had grabbed a Lulu Lemon yoga jacket on my way out the door, and at my daughter’s insistence I’d changed out of my Tori Burch ballet flats and into a pair of suede shoes with a heel. My motorcycle outfit looked wimpy and out of place and gave away the fact I was a novice, and a city girl.

Stormer tenderly gave me instructions on how to be a dutiful passenger, reassuring me that he would drive safely. I told him he had come highly recommended, and gingerly climbed aboard his motorcycle, finding my place in the comfortable seat behind him. The motorcycles and one jeep without a top or doors began our caravan to the beer garden, which was 30 miles away, and deeper into the Iowa countryside.

Stormer cranked music that played from the belly of the motorcycle while leather handle bar streamers flapped in the wind. It made me remember the sparkly streamers I’d had on my bicycle as a little girl. I began to feel the same freedom I’d had when I’d ridden my bike only this time I got to look at the lush green Iowa countryside as Stormer took confident control of the navigation.

Our bike was number two in the lineup and I peeked in the rearview mirror and smiled as I saw the crew lined up behind us. As we passed farm houses and tractors plowing the fields, I wondered what it might have been like to grow up in a rural community. I began to relax in the country air and I leaned into Stormer’s strong body like my armor of protection.

The radio kicked into a familiar classic oldie, and I went back in time mentally retracing my steps since that era. I felt like God was showing me I’d had a good life, and that the simple parts of life like I was experiencing on the motorcycle had been the most important part of it. Being in the marinade had a purpose.

We got to the beer garden where I grabbed Stormer’s shoulder and hoisted myself off the bike, making my way to the outdoor picnic table. Once there we met up with other friends, more nicknames being gleefully exchanged, and a big group of motorcycles were all parked in perfect alignment out front. Soon we were eating greasy chicken wings and drinking cold beer from the iced bucket of long necks. “You are under medical supervision to eat this food,” joked Dr. J, my clean eating guru.

The lighthearted fun continued as the sun went down. I watched newcomers come and go from the patio, recognizing the same small town easiness in all of them I had admired in our group. I felt myself surrender my walls, letting go of my city attitude and giving freedom to my authentic self.

Soon it was dark, and time to leave.

The night had turned cooler so Stormer opened a compartment on the motorcycle and took out a heavier jacket that displayed “Harley Davidson” on the front. It was big enough to have room for three of me, but I put it on over my yoga jacket and zipped it up. I hopped easily into my place behind Stormer like a pro, and the caravan was off.

I was warm on the bike, contentedly full of wings and at ease with myself. Stormer skillfully maneuvered the bike on our ride home. We stopped at a stop sign and moved alongside Good Dave’s bike. He and Stormer exchanged nods, and the order of the lineup changed. On the last leg home, we were in the lead.

Our route took us deeply down Twister Hill. We were surrounded by a canopy of ancient intertwined tree branches shrouding us in mysterious darkness except for a glimpse of moonlight that barely peeked through. The music played and the bike engine roared as we began to climb back up the hill on the other side of where we’d come.

Suddenly we were in the unfettered spotlight of the most magnificent full moon I have ever seen. Bright, strong, and magnetic, it released a wave of joyful night energy that pulsed within me as it guided us home. Stormer was mesmerized by it too, and we commented with awe at it’s amazing beauty.

I took a mental snapshot, wanting to remember the moment forever because it was perfect. The moon, the night, the company, the ride, the serenity, and most of all the reminder from God through the beauty of His creation, that as life moves forward, everything is as it should be.

Moonlight and Motorcycles

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