The exciting thing about travelling and living in unfamiliar environments is the tendency it has to challenge your thinking and perception of ways of ‘being in the world’. Having to adapt to different ways of doing things, respond to different experiences creates new neural pathways, new ideas, and for me, the building of greater resilience. Being out of my comfort zone impels me to examine what’s really important in my life.
Being aware of the ‘measure of our days’ means we can appreciate every one of them.
Last week I wrote about my ‘soil sister’ Donna, who lives in the Bega Valley, in south eastern New South Wales, Australia. Her lifestyle is very different from mine largely because of our contrasting environments. Her home is rural while mine is urban. Her garden is vast, while mine is tiny. Maintaining her garden is definitely more physically demanding than my tiny courtyard could ever be.
So visiting her requires an adaptation on my part. Each morning at her place I would awake to a different dawn chorus, different weather patterns, wider horizons. At night the bush can be deafening with the cacophony of insects and frogs and other nocturnal creatures, the night sky a vast star-studded dome unseen in urban areas.
Aching from heavy digging and barrowing the day before, I had to draw on a deep well of resolve to rise up again each new day and get the job done. The spirit was willing but the body less so. I was far more embedded in Nature than is possible at home. Nature was even more embedded in me – beneath my fingernails, on my feet and in my hair!
I delighted in the proximity of Nature. A thrush was raising babies in a pot-stand on the veranda, unconcerned by the human comings and goings.
And there were dogs of every shape and size.They’re a vital part of life here. Some are working dogs and some are fond companions.
Snakes go about their business unremarked upon. Kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, echidnas and various other wild life are evident but not always seen. I won’t even mention the spiders other than to say they were commendably discreet.
Once, I shared a shower with a large tree frog quite unconcerned by my presence, or I by hers. Horses and domestic livestock added to the sounds and smells of farm life and the fecundity of the soil. Then of course, there were the ubiquitous chooks who, along with the vegetable garden, provided my bountiful breakfast each morning.
But living in the country is not all hard work. Every day we shared hilarious moments. One day we created a ‘fertility goddess’ for the vegetable garden. Inspired by her overstuffed shirt we decided she was pregnant rather than overweight and her rather droll, un-scarecrow-like appearance would not serve to frighten anything, especially the cheeky choughs who scratched up the mulch and our newly planted seedlings.
I found the experience of sharing a different lifestyle to my own, similar to a framed camera lens effect: firstly for focusing on the numerous ways there are to make a meaningful life; and secondly, for bringing into sharp relief the many things we have to be grateful for.
And I am grateful.
What are you grateful for?
The title of this post, ‘Number Our Days’ is inspired by Barbara Myerhoff’s text of the same name and the significant contribution she made to Social Anthropology by ‘seeing the world through a framed narrow perspective [which] deeply moved her to begin to think about the significance of isolating, attending to, and framing a piece of life.’