Thursday, July 27, 2006

Rodeos and Worlds


Rodeos, livestock auctions, and the hottest place on earth. Prairies, sheepdogs, and two-hundred-year-old country graveyards. Alfalfa, protective lamas, and rogue farmers who let their soy take over the section line…

The last week, spent in South Dakota, was actually spent in an alternate world. It’s a land where the greatest concern (by no means trivial) is whether it will rain. Where the rodeo was overtaken by a storm, and the spectators sat in the heavy drops and cheered.

Going from city to city, living four different lives in four different places, has made me comfortable during the last year with alternate worlds—places where life looks wholly separate from how it looked elsewhere. Could I ever be a cowgirl or a farmer? Could I enjoy an intricate understanding of all the factors involved in how sharp a turn I can make in a barrel-race and how fast I can rope a young steer? The closest I got this week was, perhaps, fixing the pasture’s barb-wire fences and accepting with ease the death of the kitten litter’s runt. Things live, and things die, whether they be animals, bugs, vegetables, or people.

Life in the city has separated us (me) from reality. In order to live we must eat. In order to eat, food must be grown, harvested, sold, and prepared. Livestock must be birthed, pastured, watered, and slaughtered. Dirt must be walked in, flies made peace with, and dung gotten between the toes (a phrase I’ve borrowed from Mika Waltari’s The Egyptian). And all these occupations consume the lifetimes of those involved in them. They spread into a half-century’s worth of learning and lore, amassed behind the leathery faces of old farmers and anticipated in the smooth cheeks of the budding 6-year-old rancher’s son who clings to a racing sheep at the rodeo and gives promise of being a great horseman. If all the conveniences of cities and distribution systems fell away, I would have to relearn processes that are essential to all life but completely obscure to me. I am in awe over how many things there are to know. An engineer lives in a world of facts that mean nothing to me, as does a rancher, a farmer, a diplomat, a chef, a fireworks designer, and so on. My fingers have dabbled in all their worlds of knowledge, but just enough to humble me. I need others’ help to live, and perhaps they need mine. And yet each of us must be content to admire and respect the other worlds around us, letting the pride of life fall swiftly away; for we cannot survive on our own and, if the truth be told, we cannot gain the others’ expertise.

I used to want to be a Renaissance woman (the desire is still there, I suppose)…to be able to do all sorts of things well—ride, build, sing, politic, negotiate, think, dress, drive, manage, shoot, etc. I suppose it came from all the old Louis L’Amour westerns I read, and was solidified when William Wallace fought like a barbarian one moment and spoke Latin and French the next. The humbler I have become, and the more at peace I have grown with the knowledge of who the Lord designed me to be, the sillier this desire has seemed. I do still love being able to switch worlds easily and participate in them adeptly, I admit. And I am laughing to remember the slight dissatisfied feeling I had in Pensacola at the thought that my brother was learning to fly planes I would never learn to fly. Hmm. But ideals often have little to do with reality. Just as the Lord puts the solitary in families, He designs our souls for particular actions and our spirits for pre-known good deeds. Fulfilling these will make me happier than being both a sophisticated city woman and a capable ranching wife, or a sharpshooting pilot and a well-versed historian-philosopher, simultaneously. I am happy being what He made me to be.

By the way, these separate worlds intersect at surprising moments. I stepped into my parents’ car in Chicago and found out that new-car-smell is the almost exactly the same as old-barn-smell. Odd and telling.

Peace to you all, and may you be content to fullness with the place God has put you today!

Amy

5 comments:

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