The east-facing window of our bedroom looks out onto a just about unbroken view to the horizon. In the early morning, glasses off, half awake, I’ll peer blearily out this window and see the earth, open and empty, and in the distance a thin strip of sky on fire. It looks like the apocalypse has finally come. Great, I’ll think, sinking back into the pillows and blankets, now people can finally stop writing trilogies about it.
Even in the light of day, corrective lenses in place, the view out every window in the farmhouse is stark. I like it for reasons that aren’t easy to explain. Anyone can admire mountains, forests, oceans, or indeed the towering spires and glittering lights of a cityscape. It takes a different mindset to appreciate emptiness, to get something out of not a whole lot of anything—not color, not shape, not movement or change, at least not that can easily be discerned. It isn’t a beautiful view, or an interesting one, but there are some big things here: Light. Air. Sky. Vastness. When’s the last time you experienced that?
When a storm comes, we see it coming, all of it, and when it hits the house, it isn’t just an annoyance; it’s a force. During the last one, K told me he saw a huge sheet of corrugated metal go by via a roughly 50mph gust. We found it on the edge of our field the next day, having traveled a good quarter mile. “If someone had been standing out there when this thing went flying at them, they’d have been cut in half!” K said. Of course I suppose anyone standing out in a field in the middle of an electrical storm is kind of asking for a dramatic death one way or another. You can imagine the poor sucker bracing for electrocution and instead getting sliced like so much pumpernickel.
Today was not like that. The morning was sunny and warm, perfect for relaxing. Or not. We have an old farmhouse on four acres; we may never relax again. I needed to clear ground for my planned vegetable garden; K needed to build a new chicken coop. Yes, we have chickens now, six of them. They produce a staggering amount of poop and a slightly smaller but still formidable number of eggs every day. You know, you can top just about anything you’d ever want to eat at any meal with a fried egg and it won’t be the worse for it. Trust me on this.
We worked in the sun. The dog wandered around the yard, sniffing things, woofing occasionally when she felt lonely. The macaws circled overhead, every so often a brilliant flash of color breezing by me as I tilled, weeded, and shoveled compost. We worked, kept working. We got bug-bit, sunburnt, dirty, sweaty, tired. It didn’t feel bad at all. When we got hungry I fried up some leftover corn tortillas (homemade), scrambled them with a half-dozen eggs (home raised), and topped it with cheese (homemade, believe it or not, and amazing) and salsa (from a jar—gotta wait a few more months for the garden to yield). When the sun went down we sat our achy bodies on the sofa and prepared not to move for the length of several episodes of whatever happened to be on, even if it was dreck. Neither of us wanted to exert the energy it would take to change the channel.
This was a good day.
I full well realize that part of the satisfaction I felt came from the novelty. It’s different from the stuff I usually do, from anything else I’ve ever done. Maybe this isn’t everyone’s idea of a fun Saturday, much less an enjoyable life, but life has a vastness of its own, enough for many ideas, many experiences, many ways to live. This is one way, and it’s not empty but full, of light and air and activity, filling up the sky. And there’s so much sky.