The past few months have been a bit of a whirlwind for us, juggling all the different and always spinning plates of our lives, with nary a day off. But this past weekend we decided to take a little mini vacation, an 18 hour vacation, if you will. (I think some folks refer to that as “the weekend”.) We drove our new-to-us Rialta RV out to our friend’s farm, parked it by his little one room, off-the-grid cabin, and just sat back for a little while. No electricity, no running water, not even any cell phone service to speak of. Talk about unplugging.
We definitely needed a little reprieve from all the chatter and noise, but part of the reason we went out to our friend’s cabin was to celebrate his departure from his respectable, dependable job in insurance claims, a job he’s had for the entire time we’ve known him. And we were there to celebrate his new path: our friend, who is inherently shy, quiet, reserved, and very, very private, is leaving in September for 27 months, venturing across the Atlantic to Senegal, joining the Peace Corps to work in agriculture.
Our friend is 44. The average age of a Peace Corps volunteer is 28. This is an enormous leap of faith for him. Did I mention how quiet and reserved and private he is?
Awhile back I posted a photo on Instagram, one I took of the Iowa sky at sunset with a quote from Emerson on it. It was a good marriage. I love the high and wide Iowa sky, and I love Emerson. The quote reads “God will not have his work made manifest by cowards.” And even though I’m not so sure about the God part, every day I think about bravery and courage and what that quote means. I think how it easy it would have been for our friend to keep at his job — it was a good job, after all, and the family farm on which he lives is truly a little slice of heaven — but he knew that at the end of the day, he wanted his life to be about more than claims adjustment.
It was good to be out on the farm on a beautiful summer evening, to drink in the sky, the light, the wild flowers, the cicadas. To just be, with farm dogs named Taffy, the setting sun, music on the porch, good food with a dear friend. We don’t take enough of these moments and my soul really needed it.
Our time on this planet is finite. That is the one truth that is inescapable. Counting the days until our friend leaves to go to a place that couldn’t be more different from the Iowa landscape he has spent most of his 44 years makes us realize just how precious our time here is. It also helps us reinforce our commitment to make our time on this planet mean something. I think about the countless songwriters and musicians who have quite literally saved my life at various times, and can only hope that we can offer something like that to some other soul out there.
Wherever you are, and whatever you do, I hope you find time to feed your own soul, to take a leap of faith for beauty and redemption. It doesn’t have to mean joining the Peace Corps or walking away from good jobs to pursue your art. It could just mean turning the television off for a day and exploring the beauty in your own backyard. It could mean writing what you see, or photographing what you hear, or singing what you feel. It could mean making the finest meal you’ve ever tasted or growing a perfect tomato. Or maybe it's just sitting on the porch on a summer evening, with colorful, dancing solar lights and good friends. Just do something that feeds your soul, that reminds you of what an incredible gift it is to walk this planet, for however long you get that privilege. And don't forget to go watch the sunset every now and again.
August 2, 2016