finding bliss: part one

First of all, let me just say that I love where I live and I love what I am doing. I love living on a farm, surrounded by forest, neighbor to river otters, owls, and coyotes. I love tending the earth, caring for animals and living with the rhythm of the seasons. I love my sweet little family and spending my days in their presence. But I haven’t always lived like this. For me, my journey to this place seems like a simple progression of time and events that led me here. But for those folks that knew me “way back when”, in the days of hairspray and cheerleader uniforms, my evolution to the status of radical farmwife is a little hard to understand. But that’s the beautiful thing about our privileged human existence… we get to choose our paths, whether straight or meandering.IMG_1645  I wouldn’t be who I am without the culmination of all of the people, times and events in my life. Looking back, those eight years I spent as a cheerleader forced me to step out of my natural tendency to be an introvert, and quite literally, helped me to have the confidence to speak out. (Even though the things I speak out for now are a wee bit different from “go team go”.) My twelve years (insane, right?) as a competitive swimmer gave me the strength and endurance to hoe to the end of the row. (Crazily similar to swimming laps except that I don’t normally swim with a hoe. Rhythm. Perseverance.) Playing tennis, in particular, serving the ball (something I always loved to do and prided myself in being good at, excepting the time I nailed my doubles partner square in the back) helps me now in being a proficient wood splitter. Funny little correlations, but also foundation building.

Upon graduating from high school, and having lost my father to cancer just a few weeks prior to this, and then leaving home for college shortly thereafter, set the stage for a whole new realm of evolution in my life. It was a pretty intense time. Alone. Away from home. Adjusting to a new place and having to make new friends. Making good grades was easy for me in high school. Now I was in architecture school. A whole different can of worms, to say the least. I had to work really hard just to be average. But I loved it. I loved the challenge, even though more often than not I was bleary-eyed from lack of sleep. (Not so different from life as a mama!) Throughout architecture school, I found myself being drawn to “green” architecture, sustainable design, and to the hands-on realm of “design/build”. I also minored in art, with a specialization in metals. Precursors to a life of using my hands and carving out my existence.IMG_1061I moved around a lot during this time. My patient mother just had to keep updating her address book. I had the privilege of studying abroad in Germany, with a classic American-style whirlwind tour of Europe to follow. But I didn’t have a lot of time. I had my college-required internship position lined up. I was moving to Oregon not long after returning home from Europe. I feel like my time in Oregon is when my passion for the natural world really started emerging. Hiking. Rock-climbing. Cross-country skiing. Visiting my buddies in Eugene (very hip place) and going to the natural food co-op. Buying fresh milk. Something in me clicked. The summer prior to my final thesis year of college, I traded office work at the Yestermorrow Design/Build School in Vermont for the honor of taking a couple of workshops there. One was being taught by my favorite architect/artist, James Hubbell. New doors opened up for me, special new relationships were forged, and I eventually secured a post-graduation position in the Hubbell studio (also home of the Ilan-Lael Foundation) in the mountains northeast of San Diego, California. Gorgeous, gorgeous environment of white sage, manzanita, and granite boulders. This was a serious blessing for me and another serious time of growth. I learned so many new skills and crafts during my time there. I learned stained glass and blacksmithing. I worked as an architect. I put together museum exhibits. But that’s not all. I learned to live comfortably in a tent with mountain lions as my nearest neighbors. I learned to tend very small permaculture gardens. I learned about responsible management of my own human waste, humanure. I took workshops in cob building, and the studio I worked at built the first (legally permitted) straw bale house in San Diego County. All of these events led me to know that what I really wanted was to live a simple, self-sufficient, hand-crafted life. The sweet folks that I worked for were amazing, but I started really feeling the pull to carve out my own place in this world. But not in Southern California. As much as I loved where I was and what I was doing, I missed lightning bugs. I missed thunderstorms. I missed the dramatic seasonal rhythm of the eastern deciduous forests. I missed being closer to my family. IMG_1648I knew that another change was on my horizon, I just wasn’t sure what. It was right around this time that a young woman, Jo, came to work in the studio. She was only going to be there a few months, to help put an exhibit together, but we became fast friends. As her apprenticeship was ending, she invited me to travel with her to her farm in Kentucky. So we went on a little road-trip together. And who do you suppose I met when I traveled to that farm in Kentucky? Yes, you guessed it, Eric!!!

Stay tuned for finding bliss: part two, here, next Wednesday.

18 thoughts on “finding bliss: part one

  1. Cher, what a great story. I was there for some of those earlier parts of your transformation in architecture school and it was a transformation like no other I have witnessed. Thanks so much for sharing such a personal journey. Your old boss, Cindy

  2. Lovely! I have a similar story although I haven’t found my little piece of heaven yet…still in my journey. Just moved to northern California and like you, I already miss the thunderstorms:( Give Kentucky a BIG kiss for me! Don’t know if you remember me or him (we’ve met a few times, I’m friends with Lauren Sawyer) but Bill (Gilley) and I are making a go of it and so far so good!! Take care:)

  3. I didn’t know you did all those things, that is great! Your story has helped my motivation and confidence this morning! I almost cried with hapinness thinking about how life works out and the great people we meet. We are full time farming now and I am a little scared diving in full steam, but I think all will work well considering what great teachers I had and have.
    love you guys, cory brandt

    • Hi Cory, So glad my story helped you with your day. It’s a little crazy, putting all of this stuff out there on the web, but that’s the primary reason I’ve been trying to blog lately… I want to help brighten someone’s day, or give a laugh, or encouragement, or whatever. We feel equally blessed that you are a part of our lives. You will be awesome as a full time farmer! Love to you and your sweet family, Cher

  4. Beautiful! Enjoyed seeing you so much . Emily and I must make our way to Bugtussle. Pictures are amazing. Hope it is a wonderful growing season. Look forward to more of your writing.

    • Hi Cindy, I really enjoyed seeing your whole family as well, and I look forward to seeing (and meeting) all of your grandkiddos. Please do come for a visit!

  5. I am also encouraged and inspired. And, I’m with Barb-SO glad you came over to the other side. 😉 It seems to me that I’ve lived many lives, sometimes, what with so many drastic changes… 😀

  6. Pingback: finding bliss: part two | radical farmwives

  7. I am learning so much about you, Cher, and how much your farm and
    family mean to you. I also lucked out at a fairly young age, during the
    “back to the land” movement in the 1970’s, of gaining a second education
    after graduating with a Humanities degree from college. Once, Steven and
    I were here in TN, we knew this would be our home for the rest of our lives. So bustling and busy, and never a dull moment. Now that I am sixty, and not parenting for the first time in 28 yrs, I really enjoy those moments
    of solitude and ease and breath even more. I am taking an oil painting class which is stretching my artistic ambitions to the maximum and looking
    forward to a busy spring/summer/ fall.

    Look forward to making my way down to your holler sometime soon.
    Say hello to Eric for me.
    Love, Sally Yancey

    • So nice to hear from you, Sally. Aren’t we so fortunate to live such full and bustling lives? Blessings to you and do come for a visit! Cher

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