I lived away from animals and nature (apart from dogs) for most of my life. I think that did me great harm. I felt like I was dying slowly in my other life, without purpose or meaning. Something – I have no idea what it was – called me to the country.
I came to the country and left my normal life behind. It was a shocking, even cruel, thing to do.
I was broken and ill. I had great success – best-selling books, a movie about me, interviews, and book tours but my life seemed empty, and I fell deeper and deeper into a great black hole.
Spiritually, I was dying. My body was following suit.
Looking back, three things healed me and saved me: The first was Maria, who saw through the pain and confusion who I was underneath it all and became my friend, then my lover, then my wife. She was the best friend I ever had. She was the best lover I ever had. She was the best partner I ever had.
Her appearance in my life began to turn things around for me, from photography to my blog to nature and animals. It seems that love itself is healing.
Maria was the first person to know, and really believe in me.
The second thing that helped to heal me was the animals in my life – Elvis the steer, Fate and Izzy and Red the dogs, Carol, Lulu and Fanny, my donkeys, Winston the Rooster, and my flock of sheep and the lambing I loved so much. Each one reached into my heart and soul and touch both, bit by bit.
They taught me about love; they taught me about death.
I loved all of it, even as I felt my life slipping away from me. I was overwhelmed by the beauty I saw daily and the nature around me. These things changed me, taught me, healed me, lifted me, and transformed me.
The third thing was nature. Humans are meant to be close to nature and to the animal world. Our cruel animal rights movement seeks to drive all the animals we live and work with away from us; that is a tragedy beyond their comprehension. It harms animals and people alike. We are not their enemies.
Nature is healing, as I am still learning – the trees, the flowers, the animals in the wild, the owls, the bees – bring us to life. This is where I was meant to be. For all my troubles, I knew I had come home the day I arrived up here in a howling blizzard with a six-month-old border collie in tow. I knew I might find what I was seeking here.
On my first farm, I began doing hospice volunteer with Izzy. I did it to life my depression, and it did.
That led to my work at the Mansion. That led to my work with the refugees. One thing at a time, my life filled up with meaning, purpose, love, animals, and nature. Now I have the photography and the flowers.
Who says aging must be a period of loss and decline? For me, it is just the opposite. I am just learning how to live and what is important in life.
This is still true, more than ever. I am touched by the beauty, the color and the light, the animals, and the nature that I get closer and closer to every day. This journey led me to flowers, in that there is love, nature, color, and light.
Maria is my partner and guides nw now in all of these; I was alone with it for more than six years at my first farm. That broke me down and lifted me at the same time.
I belong in nature, I need to live with animals, and I need the love and support of someone I can love and who loves me. I need silence in my life. I need to be alone most of my life. I need to know myself and hear myself. I need to be outside the tent.
I think the primary task of my life in this period is simple: to not fear the fear. Every sign of change in me, the very things I fear to lose, the same things I suffer, is a call for a new beginning.
This is not a time of loss but a time of gain. My life is not diminished; it has been enriched by all the physical punishment I sometimes feel.
My life changed when I ran to the mountain and left everything I knew behind me. That was painful and even terrifying for me and others. But this new beginning also saved my life, healed me, and gave me purpose.
Growing older and dying does frighten me sometimes. Living without meaning and in fear is what I fear the most.
Ours is a Peaceable Kingdom. We don’t hurt each other, animals, or people. We live in peace and community. The animals have so much to teach us.
And Murrey the goat.