June 29, 2010
Nostalgia! What is it about by gone days that tugs at our heart-strings and makes us yearn for a more simple way to live? Our lives are filled with busyness that keeps most people’s heads spinning. For many of us our days can’t begin without extreme java jolts. We are in constant motion trying to keep the hectic pace that has been set by “THEM.” My friend yearns for three days of sleep. I wish I could help her, but all I can do is nod in sympathy. I feel her pain.
On a recent road trip I had the pleasure of staying with my nephew and his family. Even though they live in a medium-sized city, they too hit the ground running, working long hours, keeping a large house, yard, and raising three children. I was exhausted just watching them.
I was thrilled when my nephew, Alex, took time out of his fast-paced schedule and prepared a bountiful breakfast of sausage, eggs, potatoes and toast. It was our time together as adults rather than aunt and nephew. The early morning sun had already taken a bite out of the chilly air as we feasted on his deck overlooking the Wide Missouri.
Our conversation turned to his recent move from his farm to the city. The constant pressure of working long hours then returning home late in the evening to feed cattle and clean the barns had taken it’s toll. Even though he missed the open spaces and the feeling of freedom, he admitted he was not free of the enormous burden of endless chores and the amount of extremely hard work that it took to keep a farm running and working a 10-12 hour a day job.
For Alex, the adjustment to living in a city and having several days off a month had been difficult for him but he admits that he needed to learn to relax and enjoy life. He seemed more at peace.
As a child, Alex was the ever curious George. He wanted to know everything about everything. His questions were unceasing. As we began to discuss his work it was my turn to ask the questions. In doing so I discovered his remarkable ability to instinctively apply Harvard Business School principals without a business degree. He oh shucked his shoulders and modestly revealed that he wasn’t quite sure what he was doing so he had his employees gather round, made goals, set deadlines, achieved both, resulting in a complete turn around of a failing company. Not bad for a farm boy.
We waxed philosophical and explored the depths of painful life experiences and lessons learned. As he recounted his most profound life altering incident, I was deeply touched by his openness and willingness to wear his heart on his sleeve. His recognition of how external events forced him to look within and alter his ways, was more than most people recognize after 20 years of therapy. He is a rare man among men and I feel privileged to have him in my life.
As the sun lingered, warming our spot , we gathered dishes and left overs preparing to go our separate ways. I was lamenting that even though we had spent over 6 hours together, I didn’t want to stop talking with Alex. Our time together had ended and I had to get back on the road and he to work.
Remembering our shared childhood on the farm and all the hard labor that life style entails, we both agree, there is a beauty and connection to the earth that binds us beyond familial ties. Working with and in nature is tremendously labor intensive and exhausting, but the most gratifying of all things I have done.
Pastoral scenes eclipse the memories of the hardships of life on a farm and yes, we become nostalgic for a simple way of life in the midst of a chaotic, buzzing, megacity, where we earn a living, but not necessarily a life.