I really enjoy my time volunteering at the visitor’s centre of Aldermere Farm. It’s a tiny little place about six by fifteen feet tucked into the corner of the mechanic shop building of the farm. Right off Russell Avenue it’s a relatively trafficked lane for a meandering tree-lined road between Camden and Rockport. Bikers and runners are almost as common as the cars of tourists that pass through. When I arrive and pull out the giant “Open” banner to hang above the Black-Eyed Susans outside the door it’s easy for people to take notice. That and there are usually a sampling of the cattle easily seen through the wooden farm fence (made with trees felled on the farm. Yup, it’s a pretty sustainable operation).
Here’s a bunch o’ Belties
And so begins my day of people watching. Ok, ok, I’m actually here to impart information about the farm and the organization that runs it as well as ring through a few retail transactions of the tourist supplies printed with the black and white striped creatures. Really though, what I like to do is people watch.
Some come in and head straight for the corner by the door: a beautifully crafted wooden display unit that turns on its base offering a view of all the different styles of t-shirts available. Adult unisex? We’ve got ’em. How about a ladies fit? Want to get a whole slew for the grandkids? Our smallest size fits up to a two-year-old. For them, it’s about shopping. Later I’ll go refold the shirts that have been upturned and discarded in the barrage.
For others it begins with questions. How long has the farm been around? Is this the only place with these unique type of cattle? Or, another common question, how do I get to Rockport/the Children’s Chapel/Calderwood Lane? Then I get to utilize my ability to read and regurgitate information. I know that Aldermere is celebrating its 60th year, that there are about 8000 head of the cattle in the country including the 100-120 that are here, and that if you head down Russell Avenue a little further you’ll run into either the turnoff to Calderwood, which will take you to the Children’s Chapel, or straight into the heart of Rockport.
For some the creatures themselves are enough of a draw. It is for them that I hope every Wednesday that the 4-H kids have remembered to bring some up to the visitor’s centre pen. Sometimes it’s empty and I have to contend with unsatisfied passersby. Truth be told I get a little fed up with that crew. As if the existence of the farm presupposes their ability to get exactly what they want when they want it: a view of the oreo cookie cows. It’s that kind of entitlement I’m trying to banish from my own life in an attempt to be more accepting of what it is that I em encountering. The really frustrating thing is when there are a whole herd of them grazing somewhere in the pasture across the street. Ok, so you can’t see them up close, but can you be happy you’re seeing them at all.
Those times are when I know there are areas of my life that I’m taking for granted and yet still wanting more. I get rocked to sleep by the ocean every night. My neighbours are the cutest little buffleheads you ever did see. The stars offer themselves as my mural to gaze at every (clear) night. Yet I want a more comfortable bed. I want no rent and oodles of room to keep dry when it rains. I want to be able to get exercise and be in town right when I want without the 20 minute row to shore.
I am learning to accept these contradictions. I am learning to accept what I have created in my life without expecting more. And what I’m learning most of all is to take stock. Something I loved to do at the Ashram in this masochistic sort of way was take the yearly inventory in the bookstore. Somehow in my years there I was involved in it four times. By the time I was running it I increased the amount of days we closed the store so that we could finish the process in a relaxed way rather than at 7:00 o’clock at night. There’s something deliciously symbolic about being able to take stock of what it is that one has available. I relished in the opportunity for this kind of symbolism: counting the pieces of what I had in the store, knowing where I was at. Of course I expand this to looking more in-depth at my life.
A couple of weeks ago Amy came in with a familiar check-list and a request. Could I count the t-shirts? They were doing inventory and needed to match up the numbers the computer had with what was on the shelves. I was happy to spend a few moments counting the pieces of fabric on that crafted wooden unit.
What do I have in my life? Where can I gain clarity? I know that I am learning. Isn’t that an amazing thing? Really we’re all learning in every single moment. We’re learning how we respond and react to what we’re being presented with. To know that I’m learning is wonderful. Not only that but sometimes, when I’m really quiet and take the time, I know just what it is that I’m learning. I feel pretty blessed to know that I can ask myself questions like how do I learn? Where am I? What are the obstacles? What is being revealed? I feel pretty blessed to be able to take stock.
Like the people that pass through this little visitor’s centre, I watch the different parts of me that come forward in interactions and circumstances of life. Some of them just want to see what they can get, some are filled with questions, and some want even more. If I combine these parts together I’m bound to create a life that’s pretty wonderful. And best of all I’ll never stop asking questions.