“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” – Lao Tzu
In the back of my old barn in Northern Italy, there’s a field.
During the summer, it fills up with bristly weeds of a seemingly infinite variety and color, with flowers and thistles and thorns. I have to beg my husband not to grab the weed-whacker and take the whole thing down. An ancient rosemary plant has attached itself to the 200 year old stone wall of the barn; next to it a sage bush has grown to the size of a small car.
There’s shade on this side of the barn in the early morning, as it has a northwestern exposure. I go out there just before giving the bread dough a final knead and putting it in the oven. The guests at our inn, thankfully, are all still asleep. I treasure that moment at daybreak. The birds’ songs are pitched and varied, and a light wind carries in the first zebra colored butterfly, who lands on a buttercup plant, as anxious as I to take in the morning’s final dew.
And I think, how can this be, all of this beauty and serenity? It’s made all the more poignant because of the frenetic path it took to get here. Thirteen moves through three countries, corporate contracts and sales quotas, deadlines and stress headaches, endless renovations and cash outlays. New languages and taxation systems and diets and friends.
All of this beauty is mine because one day, a decade ago, we said enough. Enough packing up and moving for the company, enough not seeing each other except while comatose on weekends, enough working for a future that just looked a whole lot like the past.
We pulled the cord on the ejection seat and flew into a new life by buying the farm, quite literally, and letting destiny have its way with us.
We thought it would be easy, but it wasn’t. We thought we were ready, but we weren’t. We thought we’d know how it would go, but we didn’t.
It’s been far different, far more far-reaching, and far more life changing than we ever could have calculated from our business-as-usual perspective.
Because there’s nothing business as usual about life altering change.
But the important thing was – and this was really, really important – we did it. We took action. We stepped away from what we knew we didn’t want any more and marched, bravely and extremely naively, in what we believed to be the right direction for us.
Adjustments were made. Many of them.
We thought we’d build an eight room luxury inn, but made our peace with just three creative, elegant rooms.
We thought we’d maximize profits, but instead we live frugally, eschew consumerism, embrace gardening and respect nature.
We thought we’d have no trouble getting three old, decrepit ruins renovated in a couple of years. After a decade, we still have half a barn to do.
But for all the setbacks, tears, fears, shocks and surprises that came from buying an old farm on a hill in Italy, it’s been the most magical and amazing time of my life.
I knew I wanted to create art and ceramics, but I didn’t know I’d become a full-fledged ceramic artist, selling hand-crafted, soul-born pieces to people throughout the world.
I knew I wanted to write, but I didn’t know I’d become a published author.
I knew I might learn a thing or two, but I had no idea that my understanding of change would lead me to mentoring and coaching others.
No way I could have known all of that, because I had never taken off the emergency brake on my own soul before coming here. I had never let myself think about what could be if I didn’t limit my own possibilities.
It seemed inconceivable to me that courage has nothing to do with not being scared. Of course people get scared. All the time. But courage means fully embracing a path of personal choice, regardless of what fears and obstacles came up.
It’s about trusting things can happen – small moments of guidance and wonder – that will whisper the wind to our backs when we choose ourselves.
That an angel sings whenever we step into our truth.
I couldn’t have known any of that until we walked head first into massive change. Now I know. And no one can take away the feeling of knowing.
The first butterfly is soon joined by dozens of others, and the sun slowly wraps its way around the shadows of the massive stone facade. Morning has broken. The coffee’s brewing, an azure breeze is rustling through the weeds.
I take the bread out of the oven, cut small slabs of goat cheese and spoon yogurt into small, homemade bowls. The guests wind their way to the kitchen and come out the back door of the barn.
“Isn’t this just amazingly beautiful,” they say.
I agree, smile, and go to get the coffee pot.
Can I pour a cup for you?
Photo by Brian Tomlinson