I tend to associate “home” with safety, stability and peace. The earthly home, which includes house and family, should be a sanctuary from fears and anxieties. It should be a comfortable place. It must be a comfortable place.
Or so I hoped.
Recent circumstances have made me painfully aware that our experiences on earth, even in the earthly home, cannot be perfectly fulfilling since home on earth is not an end in itself.
Still, I held on to the hope that returning to the agrarian country life of yesteryear would somehow deliver the peace and stability that I wanted.
Did I never understand Little House on the Prairie? It apparently did not register to my eight-year-old mind that Pa, Father, and later Almanzo were all at the mercy of the elements. Laura’s account in The First Four Years depicts the raw and harsh struggle of the farming life. Man against nature, quite literally. Laura had more to worry about than whether or not she would live in a specific house.
Farming can sound idyllic, but it is a difficult life.
(Yes, I do feel somewhat embarrassed for not realizing this until now.)
This realization made me feel better about my own life in suburbia. I am well aware that business owners, researchers and dentists live difficult lives. But for some reason I considered those pursuits as somewhat lesser than that of the country homesteader. I may never want to be a business owner, granted, but I think I was wrong in assuming that my parents, who work in research and dentistry, love their work any less than the farmer.
Reading Andy Catlett by Wendell Berry helped me see the parallels between the farmer and the business owner. Both are self-employed. Both must take risks. Both can incur debt. Both often sacrifice their lives to keep doing what they love.
One of my favorite passages is where Andy reflects on his grandfather’s occupation and describes the struggles of the self-employed farmer:
I love him now more than I did then, for now, sixty-some years later, I understand that his life had been lived in devotion to our place here and its creatures, as my own life, in its way, also has been lived. And I know now how to value his passion for good crops, good animals, and good work, and how to appreciate his grief when he failed to live up to his passion. For he had known failure, as he would acknowledge bluntly, as he acknowledged everything else. He had too rarely been free of the stress of debt, and therefore of haste and overwork. He had been compelled by the urgencies of debt to put his land too much at risk, and he and it had paid the inevitable costs. His life, his very flesh, had been shaped by weather, work, and the struggle to keep what he had and what he loved (Andy Catlett, 21).
I think I love this passage because it mirrors, to a very small degree, my family’s experiences. We have something in common with farmers! All people, regardless of their occupation, face struggles and risks in life, and somehow this makes me feel better about not knowing where to find home on earth. Maybe instability is characteristic of the earthly home. Instability does not necessitate joylessness.
I feel somewhat relieved,
and I love my parents now more than I did.
I hope I love my parents more and more. They are amazing people.