Bill and I planned to live out our lives on Harmony Farm. When we contracted for long term care insurance, we insisted that it cover in-home care. We built a separate building, “the studio”, with our elder years in mind and even investigated whether it might be possible to be buried on our property.
I cherished living in harmony with the seasons. During summer months we slept with windows open, falling asleep to night-time sounds of owls hooting and awakening to our rooster’s loud crowing. We gardened, swam in the pond, walked in the woods, gathered herbs, picked fruit and harvested food. As weather cooled, we moved more inside, yet stayed connected to nature by eating food reaped from our gardens and continuing to care for the land.
As yearly cycles progressed and I anticipated turning 70, I began re-thinking our earlier plan. While Harmony Farm’s natural setting served us well during years of vibrant health and boundless energy, our bodies’ creaks and groans had become increasingly louder. Activities such as chain-sawing fallen trees and shoveling snow had once felt deeply satisfying. We enjoyed the physical work and felt smug about our useful accomplishments. Now inner wisdom screamed “caution,” warning of their price.
It took a while, but we finally admitted that we no longer thrived on the challenges of caring for our land. Swallowing our pride, we hired others to plow the driveway, shovel the snow and handle heavier jobs on the farm.
Concurrently, I began realizing that while the solitude of our home provided respite from the hectic pace of modern life, its isolation might prove too lonely in the years ahead. On my walks through the woods and while sitting by the pond, I reflected on what the future might bring and opened my heart to the possibility of change.
On one of my daily walks, I stopped, breathed in the earth-pine smells and looked around. I noticed abundant ferns growing on both sides of the trodden path beneath the canopy of trees. Light filtered down, nourishing the green world and me.
All of a sudden, a thought flashed into my mind. Like plants and trees, whose roots support and interconnect with one another, I need to live in community during my elder years.
Stunned by the enormity of this idea, I sank to a nearby log. And sat. Just sat.
Enveloped by the aroma of mossy dirt, I contemplated what this change would mean. Moving away from Harmony Farm – could I bear to separate from this beloved land? Adopting a different life style – what might that look like? Downsizing – how to choose what to keep and what to release?
Waves of emotion coursed through my body. The idea of moving, and what that would entail, hit me like a rock. Filled with panic, my heart thumped rapidly
Searching for safety, I hunkered down further to feel the solidity of the log beneath my buttocks and legs. Supported by the log, I focused on my breath, consciously breathing in and out, in and out, in and out. After quite a while, the surges of feelings slowed, then stilled.
I calmed and decided to tap into the earth below my feet. Sending tendrils of awareness down, I sensed the vast network of mushroom mycelia running underground – between roots and rocks, hither and yon, connecting plant to plant, tree to tree, spreading out like a spider’s web, reaching far and wide.
Reassured by the reminder of interconnectedness, I realized that no matter where I live I would remain connected to Harmony Farm. And wherever I go, I will always be able to connect with nature.
I finally roused myself and slowly walked toward home along the woodsy trail. Passing the pond, I again felt pangs of what would be missed if we were to pull up roots and move. Yet as I watched the water trickle and bubble its way downstream, I considered entering life’s current and seeing where its flow might take me. Anticipating what living in community might bring, a tinge of excitement sparkled deep within.
Returning home, I decided to wait a few days before discussing my insight with Bill. I sat with my feelings and imagined living in close proximity with other people. What might that feel like? Where might that be? What kind of community?
Ideas percolated, feelings bubbled and then I checked in with my gut. Yes, it felt “right.”
When I shared my thoughts with Bill, he initially refused to consider moving from Harmony Farm. Over time, he gradually opened his heart to embrace the wisdom of living cooperatively with others. And so began our next chapter.
Oh, Lesley, thank you for sharing this (and on my birthday!) I remember particularly the walk around your pond, how wonderful it is, and the ground and plants around it.
I find your growing understanding of needing to live in more community with humans comforting and validating, as it is something I have been coming to also in the last couple of years, and like you, perhaps, much to my surprise.
I have started to understand that we humans actually evolved to be in community with one another, just as we are starting to understand more clearly the plants have done.
I don’t know how this need will play out in life, but it is one to which I am paying much attention, and am curious to see evolve.
Thank you, Iris, for your thoughtful and beautiful comment.
I agree with your understanding that we humans evolved to be in community with one another (and with nature). Our bodies also function at their best when our cells, organs, etc. cooperate harmoniously – a communal effort.
Having moved to a retirement community, I’m now more convinced than ever about the importance of living in community. Especially a cooperative community where everyone participates in ownership. More on this in future posts.
Let’s stay in touch!
Beautifully written, as always. I love visualizing you walking that beloved land, letting it ground you, and listening deeply to the wisdom within your heart and soul. I’ll look forward to reading about how your “now chapter” is unfolding. You are a very special presence and I’m grateful, grateful beyond words for you. Someday we shall share tea, yes?
Dear Melinda, your comment means a great deal to me for many reasons. Mainly because I treasure you as a friend, also because I respect you in so many ways. Your writing is exquisite and your poetry captures the essence of whatever you focus your laser beam attention on. Tea would be wonderful – as soon as this roller coaster ride settles down. Sending love to you and your beautiful family.
Lesley, what a beautiful essay! I deeply appreciate your sharing the spiritual process of coming to such a wrenching decision. Thank you — Sharon
Dear Sharon, Thank you for your lovely response to this piece. I have wonderful memories of being in circles with you – Women’s Lodge, Stowe, Harmony Center, etc., etc. Also all the very meaningful crone ceremonies at Harmony Farm . We’re connected through our love of the plants, the Earth, and spirit. I hope you and David are well and that we stay in touch.