There are certain moments in life that make you wonder if there may be something irreparably wrong with you.
My most recent moment occurred while looking out my dining room window, imagining goats in my back yard.
You read that right: goats. Something that looks a little bit like this:
I couldn’t get the image of cute little goats traipsing around in my back yard out of my head. So I sat there, quietly sipping my coffee with the sounds of my boys playing and in the living room, and thought about goats. Hell, maybe they’d even have some chickens to play with.
Before you start questioning my sanity, or accusing me of some form of sexual deviancy, let me explain.
No…it is too much; let me sum up.
I sometimes feel like I was born into the wrong century. Don’t get me wrong: I love advanced medical care, (the idea of) global travel, and electronic devices as much as the next fellow, but something is missing…and I think it may be peace and quiet.
Maybe it’s the introvert in me speaking. Maybe it’s the little voice inside that drives me to learn new and often questionably useful things. Whatever it is, I can’t help but reflect on previous generations’ promises that increased mechanization and scientific advancement would result in shorter work weeks and more leisure time; what a bunch of liars! Instead of finding more leisure, we find ourselves roped more tightly into a full-time workweek, increased debt loads, and a greater focus on consumable items.
The cost of education has skyrocketed, as has the cost of housing (at least where I live), leaving both grossly out of proportion to wages and salaries. These increases, operating in tandem with our (relatively) new-found fascination with consumer culture, have left many of us with enormous amounts of consumer debt that will take years to pay off, if not decades.
I admit I’m no exception to the rule. My wife and I stagger under the burden of student debt, both having done post-secondary and graduate studies; we bought a house, within our means, but not with as much cushion as I would have liked; and we do have some consumer debt, largely a result of having two maternity leaves in three years—though that was absolutely our choice to make.
That said, we’re also relatively lucky: we both have well-paying jobs (I’m even working in a field related to my degree, which is a fairly decent victory for an Arts student); we have wonderfully healthy children, and are healthy ourselves; with careful financial footwork, most of our debts will be gone in about 5 years, I’ll have reached the top “step” in my salary, and our household disposable income will increase significantly. All I have to do is hang in there, and I could be well on my way to a rewarding career in public policy that will keep me busy and well paid until retirement.
The problem is I’m not sure that’s what I want. I might want goats instead.
And an orchard.
And some chickens…and probably a dog. <sigh>
Over the past few years, I’ve found that strange books have started creeping into the fantasy and sci-fi that generally fills my bookshelves. Books such as Self Sufficient Life and How to Live It, The Backyard Beekeeper, The Backyard Blacksmith, and other books about homesteading, gardening, preserving fruits and vegetables, and self-sustainability have slowly taken over turf—and their section continues to grow. I find myself daydreaming about living on my own land, surrounded by an orchard, gardens, and lots of room for my sons to run around and get into trouble.
I’m not a complete fool—I realize that some of my wistful dreaming is awfully romanticized (as wistful dreaming often is). Caring for your own garden, orchard, and land is damned hard work, which is only compounded once you start getting into the realm of animal husbandry—but what’s a plot of land without a few chickens…maybe a goat or two…and some horses? Damn. Just wait until I add a forge…
I’d also be painfully unwilling to do without so many of the wonderful things I’ve become accustomed to—high speed internet is near the top of that list…and I’d like to hope that a dedicated home theater might one day appear, if only in a footnote.
Giving up my career would also mean fully committing to the idea that my degrees were only for my own, intrinsic benefit. I’m not terribly troubled by that; I chose an English degree and M.A. because they were something I needed to do, not because I thought they would prepare me for the working world. As it turns out, it was a smart move, and there were quite a few employers waiting for someone with my skillset, but I’ve generally been more concerned with academics for the sake of learning and personal development…and I’ve experienced that.
But what if it was the right thing to do, not only for me, but for my family as well?
What if having my own land would give my boys the opportunity to raise animals from birth to death? What if it taught them the value of hard work and the reward of a good harvest? What if it kept them farther from the gangs and violence that seem to have grown, inexorably creeping up to take over turf in our cities?
Lower costs of living and additional money gained from selling our existing house might also give my wife the opportunity to be home more with our boys while she still can—provided that we actually had any hope of making this happen before our boys are both in school. Unfortunately, that may not really be in the financial cards.
Maybe it’s all a pipe dream; maybe it’s wistful thinking. Or maybe we just call the plans we’re not brave enough to see through pipe dreams. Maybe the warm sunshine flowing in the window and the gentle breeze carrying the smells of spring are messengers, reminding me of my connections to the earth, whether I want to acknowledge them or not. Maybe the reason a quieter life calls to me is because that’s where I’m supposed to be…one day. Maybe one day soon, but, sadly, not today.
And so I sit, sipping my coffee, watching my lawn grow longer, and my boys grow bigger, wondering if they wouldn’t be better off with a couple of goats in their lives.
Maybe just a little one?