Yet knowing how way lead onto way,
I doubted if I should ever come back – Robert Frost
As Robert Frost puts it so eloquently, “I doubted if I should ever come back”. A heavy line for a decision so seemingly common as deciding upon a career but this stanza (as well loved stanzas and verses so often do), was heavily on my mind one random rainy April Thursday evening. The best stories often have mundane beginnings and mine is no different. It was 2013, I was in my final semester of graduate school at Lynchburg College where I was pursuing an MBA. I was tired of academics after getting a Finance degree from the University of South Carolina and the proverbial rug of my seemingly inevitable and much wanted job in financial services had been pulled out from under me. So I did what I thought I wouldn’t do until I was a retiree, I began farming.
Farming is a fascinating subject. On one hand you have the romanticism and the mystique of classic Americana and on the other, the overwhelming difficulty and hard work that are essential to making a good run of it. It was the romanticism of the farm that first lured me in. The idea of finding meaning in a slower way of life, observing the seasons change (I mean really observing, not morning-commute-halfway-looking-out-the-window-as-traffic-slows-to-a-standstill-type-observation), and above all reconnect to this piece of land that has meant so very much to my family throughout the generations. Romanticism does not a farmer make but instead there is a devastatingly difficult amount of work involved. I have become convinced that farming takes its place at the intersection between romanticism and practicality. There are mornings when the fog rolling off the fields, dissipating first on the hilltops then eventually yielding to the rising sun down in the bottoms, recharges and energizes my soul. Those are the good days, days when the work isn’t quite so hard and spending so much time stuck in your own head isn’t so bad and those are the days that it dawns on me that I’ve got something really special on my hands. Its a beautiful thing to be able to bind a family together and thats what this farm is doing. It strengthens the family as we try to be a blessing in our community. I say farming is at the intersection of romanticism and practicality because beauty, for all its value, builds no fences nor feeds any hay.
What an adventure I’ve found myself in. Frost is right, I doubt if I can ever go back to my previous plans. Sometimes we are fortunate to come into contact with something that touches us so deeply that it forever alters us. Thats what farming has done to me. Its given me meaning when I was in a deep spiritual Winter, its focused my vision on serving my family and community, and its changed me, for the better, in ways that even now aren’t quite apparent. I love how Frost writes “And knowing how way lead upon way”, isn’t that the way life works. One seemingly small step leads to another then another then another. But what a life well lived, to look back when “The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep Moans round with many voices” as my favorite poet Lord Tennyson writes in Ulysses, and see the fruits of my labors after a life well lived. Call it romanticism or practical or whatever you want but thats why I wake up every morning. At the end of The Road Not Taken, Frost writes:
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
What a beautiful thing to be able to say after a life well-lived.
September 30th, 2013