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Meditating on land

How volunteering on a farm reconnected me with the outdoors

I almost quit when I saw the snake skin.

Like ran from the field, screaming, quit.

I knew working on a farm would force me to face my fears of the outdoors. Fears of slithering and crawling creatures that might be hiding just out of sight. Fears that have a grown woman belting “Let It Go” as she walks down a wooded path to keep unwanted visitors away. Fears of being completely in nature, no concrete in sight. Being surrounded by dirt and having very clear evidence of a snake’s presence was enough to send me pretty close to the panic point.

That was my second day on the farm, and I still don’t know how I kept it together. Three months later, I’m still there, although I’ve avoided that particular section of winter squash ever since.

I’ve always been afraid of snakes (How do they move?), but growing up, that never stopped me from being outside, playing soccer, riding my bike or helping in the yard. It’s one of the things I remember most about my childhood – the grass, the treehouse, the one time we had a frozen tomato fight in the yard (not recommended).

Somewhere along the way, I stopped going outside.

When I moved to Colorado, I was determined to become an outdoors person. Working on a farm wasn’t part of the plan, but I jumped at the opportunity. Extra time outside and more vegetables than I could possibly eat? Count me in.

I didn’t know what to expect besides the quiet. From day one, I was working with vegetables and herbs I had never eaten before. I got sunburned because I wore a shirt that I didn’t realize was too short. I planted entire flats of onions only to realize I was only a few feet from where I had started. But the quiet was transformative. A second job isn’t supposed to make you more relaxed. There’s a certain calm that comes from planting, from weeding, from harvesting the summer squash and tomatoes that will be your dinner in the coming days. It’s meditative in its own way.

For hours at a time, I don’t think about how I look, what happened the day before, or why someone hasn’t texted me back. I’m too busy being amazed by the vegetables before me and my part in their journey. Farming has given me a sliver of the outdoors for my very own, and I plan to hold onto it this time.

And if that snake ever comes back? I’ll just have to let it go – at the top of my lungs. 

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