No Guts No Glory
Sunday morning we took a walk in one of many creek beds that slice through the valley portion of the new land. Like all of those 50 acres, it is wild country. There’s no vestige of civilization, no splintered glass, no rusted metal, no balled up ancient plastic tossed onto the ground 15 years ago. Its virgin status so opposite from the original farm that came to us tattered and limping. For six years we watched that 50 acre wood from the porch and heard the hoot owls call from somewhere in the folds of crowded timber, saw eyes glow fierce at night. I knew someday we’d tear down the fence that separated our little farm from the expansive woods behind us, and I always wondered How the hell will we ever start or finish clearing that land? the kind of question that didn’t really need an answer since adding the woods to our farm was always a hypothetical situation.
But then suddenly, it wasn’t so hypothetical. Suddenly Jeremy snipped the fence without ceremony, rolled the tractor over the imaginary line that used to differentiate between us and theirs because now it’s just, well, ours. That first weekend he made a sizable dent in the new property, creating a few paths to help us navigate the perimeter and a few paths up the middle. For weeks now we’ve been traversing the newly opened paths because they’re clear and safe. After a night of torrential rain, we decided it might be “fun” to walk through the damp creek beds – just to see where they led. The terrain down in the belly of the creek beds was treacherous, and we dodged thick, wild grapevines, and crawled over downed elm that didn’t make it through the drought. I stomped through knee high bushes that sprang up between the rocks and reached to push one aside when an out of place, geometric pattern caught my eye. It looked like a rope, coiled around the branch of a bush, distinct diamonds laced across the top. I peered in for a closer look at this mysterious rope so expertly coiled, in a place so devoid of things like trash – or ropes. In that instant a black tongue darted in and out, so quick it was nearly imperceptible, except I perceived it – leaned back shakily, “Jer, hey JEREMY!” Upon further (and more distant) inspection we determined the “rope” to be a juvenile rattlesnake that had wriggled up a bush likely during the storm and remained coiled in its perch at the top of the bush just at waist height – just where I nearly placed my hand to push it aside (I am still shuddering). We stood silent momentarily and surveyed the situation: us, a creek bed, a jungle of overgrowth that suddenly felt claustrophobic as the reality of venomous snakes IN TREES AND BUSHES began to sink in. Carefully, we re-traced steps on tip toe until back on the cleared trail, stepped over one more rattlesnake (already dead, luckily) along the path, and walked/ran all the way to the safety of our concrete porch.
I sucked my thumb and rocked back and forth the rest of Sunday while Jeremy bravely ventured back onto the new land to continue clearing. This epitomizes our approach to everything. I go in, headfirst, find something scary, retreat. Jer just keeps on going. Keeps on going. Keeps. Going. For a while now I’ve taken a break from everything that’s scary in order to focus on some medical messiness that needed some attention.
I’ve watched a lot of Designing Women, I’ve walked past the shell of the terrifying dairy building with only a sideways glance, I’ve patted lots of cow heads lately but have not milked them. And that’s ok, in fact sometimes it is necessary to step back, take stock – watch the world from the front porch, as it were. But then you gotta get off your ass and get back to work. So today I spent all morning with the builder making rather permanent decisions about the guts of the dairy that is still so intimidating. I crouched down beside Winnie and milked out a blocked teat. I mucked the goat barn. Then I took a walk in the creek bed that cuts through the wild land, not in spite of but because of those coiled rattlers. Finding a way to co-exist with fear, no matter what form it takes, is a small victory – it is a stake I’m claiming on the new place and in the middle of that damn dairy. No guts, no glory, y’all. Say it with me now.