At the dawn of the Millennium, my Monday mornings as a New York City cubicle warrior involved a leisurely routine of coffee drinking, subway riding (I went in a little late so I could have a seat), and paper reading. Then I got to the office, and commenced to Web surfing and chatting with work buddies. And eventually working, some days more than others. When I was sick or on vacation, I got the direct deposited check just the same. At the time, I felt underpaid, but from my perspective today, my salary in the year 2000 now seems like a fortune. It was a simple trade-off, my time and brainpower to further the goals of a major media organization whose overall effect on the world can at best be described as neutral.
I wanted something more. Emboldened by another small fortune, the meteoric appreciation in value of an old house in Brooklyn we bought at just the right time, my wife and I agreed it might be a good idea to revisit her ancestral abode and try living on a farm in central Kentucky. We had a bunch of money from the sale of the house, and the stock market would generate more than enough income to live on, even if our ventures didn’t pay the bills.
Needless to say, it didn’t work out quite that way. A decade passed, the larger world has become incredibly precarious, and I am the father of three with not a hell of a lot of earning power.
It’s still true that the rewards of this life are pretty exhilarating. Coming outside on a spring morning to see a new calf, born overnight, standing and suckling; eating meals entirely from our garden and livestock; watching a cloud of starlings at dusk a hundred yards long.
But on a morning like this a song from Crazy Heart comes at me pretty hard: Fallin’ feels like flyin’ for a while (or words to that effect). All the intangible benefits of this life are wonderful, but what we’ve given up in comfort and security sometimes seems like a lot. This morning, for example, waking to a house that is never warm enough in winter, in a week where the temperatures will top out in the low 20s every day, getting the kids off to school, then wriggling into my Carhartt jumpsuit, trudging outside on the crusty ground, moving a ramshackle hay ring, held together with wire, to a new hay bale so my cattle can eat. Today, it’s hard to see this as flyin.’