In a previous post’s comment section, Grant said this:

“Meanwhile, I am excluded from learning many things I want to learn about. I want to learn Kabbalah but am not Jewish. I want to learn about horses but am not Amish (I live near Amish country). I want to learn about farming but own no land. I want a race car but can’t afford it. “

Since he is such a good guy, and since what he said really piqued my interest, I decided to use his comments as the basis for a post. So, thanks for the inspiration, Grant, and I hope I do you proud.

Sometimes in life, for whatever reason, it seems like many doors are closed to us. But to paraphrase a famous saying, when a door is closed, a window is often opened. The trick to being happy and living a fulfilled life, i think, is in finding that window…

I know that Madonna and Michael Jackson both learned Kaballah, and neither one of them is Jewish. I am pretty sure I have seen a book along the lines of Kaballah for Dummies, and while I do not endorse that book (Kaballah, or Jewish mysticism, is quite a deep and profound subject that is best learned from a qualified teacher. It is really only partially understood even by those who have tremendous backgrounds and have spent years studying it, so I can’t even imagine how someone would attempt to distill it for popular consumption. But I digress…), it is certainly possible to get an overview and maybe even learn some of it on your own. I would guess that with the state of the internet being what it is, you could probably find resources to learn just about anything, regardless of your race, religion, hair color, or whatnot… This is one reason that, even with all of the perils of the internet, I am still happy we have it in the house. It puts so much information right at our fingertips- some days I am like a sponge just ready to soak it all up :)

I love that when you talk about horses, you think about Amish people. I also hold up the Amish as the experts on just about everything they do. Luckily, there are some good books about them by people who have studied them, and some good books by former Amish people who can speak authoritatively about all things Amish (just be careful not to read too much into the accounts of disgruntled former Amish or Mennonite folks who have an ax to grind…). If you check for books on major websites, that will give you an idea of what is available and you can then request those books from your local library. Additionally, I find that most farms are owned by folks who are delighted to speak with people who are curious. Even Some Amish people will answer questions from the “English” (meaning all of us non-Amish) if you approach them with respect. Are you by any chance near Kidron? If so, try going into Lehman’s- I’ll bet they could hook you up with some people who would be happy to teach you whatever you want :)

A farmer with no land, you say? Well now you know you are after my heart! As soon as I discovered the joys of gardening, I read about all I could get my hands on that had to do with farming and homesteading. The plan if we ever moved (who knew we would get a job offer so soon? The bureaucrats in Oak Park must have been praying really really hard to get rid of us! hahahahahahaha) was to get some land and to do things right. Secret confession: British *h would love to have an orchard… Anyhow, for several reasons, we ended up moving into a suburb and NOT having land per se. But I kept reading and building up my knowledge base, because you never know what the Grand Plan will be. When some Major Newspaper (might have been the NY Times, but I don’t remember) did a story about front yard gardens, and they commented in passing that I had chickens in Seattle but no front yard garden, because my front yard here is concrete (which is true), I felt like an awful hypocrite. But then I felt motivated. We have a narrow strip in front of our windows that had some flowery bushes. So I put an ad on Freecycle that if someone was willing to come and dig them up, they could have the bushes, which were very pretty if you like flowery bushes, for free. And within a few weeks all of the bushes were gone and I was left with a space to put in two raised beds (which you know I brought with me from Oak Park!) and 3 raised tub things (also from Oak Park)- yay!!!!

This past summer I planted two cherry trees in our backyard. This was my way of deciding that, whether we stay here or not, I am committed to taking positive actions to do what I can to live in concert with my principles. I may not be able to plow up our driveway or get a cow (yet), but I can darn well plant a few trees (and then maybe in another year a few more) and take micro-steps in the direction I think is best. I tend to think in all-or-nothing terms, and it is very easy for me to feel like if I can’t do something “right” then I shouldn’t bother thinking about it. So it’s a big paradigm shift for me to do something piecemeal. But sometimes something is better than nothing. Sometimes it takes thinking about something in a different way. We can’t have an orchard, but we can have two trees. We can’t have a farm, but we can have as many garden beds and planter boxes as I can squish into the space in front of my house.

Oh, and we can have the chickens!

I LOVE my chickens!

Grant also wanted to know how the chickens are doing. The truth is that right now I am down to one chicken. We just came back from being out of town, and high on my priority list is getting a few more, because Lacy is lonely. We had some raccoon attacks (I think I wrote about this on the blog), that left us almost chicken-less. But we are rallying and coming back strong. I had almost convinced *h that we should get a peacock to guard the flock until he read that a peacock’s screams could be heard for up to 4 miles. I thought that was great. *h, not so much. I told him that if we didn’t get a peacock then we would need a donkey (this is Julie logic at work, folks). *h didn’t buy that. I looked into feral cats, but they can be hurt by raccoons too, so that won’t work out. If you have an idea for a perfect guard animal, I am all ears, Until then, we will just need to be more vigilant and hope for the best.

And Grant wants a race car… that’s a tough one. Sometimes the closest we can come to flying is to feel the wind in our hair when our feet are firmly planted on the Earth. The question is whether we focus on our feet or on the wind. I remember when I was in physical therapy long before I learned how to walk again. One of the therapists had me use a machine for my leg muscles where you sat down near the floor and just pushed against a metal plate with your legs. But as fast as you pushed, that determined the speed you could keep going (kind of like how you pump your legs on a swing, I guess). Since I hadn’t been really using my legs effectively, and certainly not doing anything FAST with them, I remember the pure exhilaration of just going faster and faster on this machine and remembering what is was like to run full out… and I was just transported for those few minutes right there in the neuro-rehab unit. The physical therapists were laughing and laughing and they were like, “slow down!” but I was so excited to be MOVING that it was pure joy. For those few minutes I wasn’t someone with no balance and no coordination who couldn’t stand up. I was someone who was moving fast, gathering speed. I was the former gymnast tearing down the mat, getting ready for a tumbling run. It. Was. Awesome.

And I guess that’s how it is with a race car. Sometimes the closest we come is driving our 1985 Ford Fiesta down the highway with the windows down and our favorite song on the radio blasting- and that’s our race. Sometimes we bike down a path with autumn leaves swirling around and smell the breeze and go faster and faster until we are just about to lose control because we are going so fast and this is our race. And sometimes we take our tired aging bodies somewhere that nobody else sees us (like out into Amish country) and we just run flat out even if it’s just for 50 yards because we can (even if we’ll pay for it tomorrow).

Because life is too short to never race, even if you can’t afford the car.

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