by Hardscrabble Farmer, The Burning Platform
I spent the first four years of my adult life as an airborne infantryman. Everything I depended upon could be carried on my back. I grew to love the comfort of a pair of clean socks, the simple functionality of a poncho, the taste of water from a canteen. The tools of my trade- rifle, knife, LBE- were always with me, meticulously maintained, reliable and familiar. Later, as a stand up comic, I lived 365 days of the year living out of the trunk of a car. If the gig came with a hotel room, great, if not I camped out in the sunflower fields of Kansas, in abandoned kivas along the rim of the Grand Canyon, on the sand under the stars of a hundred empty beaches. I did that for 15 years and only owned some camping gear, a single suitcase and a the car- a 1988 Thunderbird Turbo-Coupe.
When I met and married my wife we settled into a small farmhouse on the last working farm in my hometown and we began, starting with our first child, to accumulate the trappings of adult life in America. That pursuit- possessions, career, money, status, luxuries- was the biggest mistake we ever made, but we came to our senses and turned our lives back in the direction that has worked out best for us, shedding the things that represented success in exchange for the non-tangibles that brought meaning to our lives.
When we lost the barn in the fire we had built a clean room in the top of the barn to store my mother’s possessions I had inherited after her passing. I had planned on going through them at some point but the fire made that task a moot point. I had also stored all of my paintings, prints, lithographs and drawings I had produced over my lifetime in that same barn. Likewise our aquaculture system, equipment, seed stock, feed and hay for the winter, livestock, tractor…
Losing all of those things- the past, the present and the future- in a single day and not caving in to that loss demonstrated to us as a family that what was important in life was each other, our ability to overcome our loss and our attitude about how we moved forward. We began the cleanup before the ashes were cool and have never looked back.
We come into this world filled with all the hope, wonder and awe that life could possibly bestow and we anchor each to the accumulated weight of earthly possessions until they sink from the weight of the load. All we really own in this life is the time we are given and all we ever spend are the precious minutes and hours and days of that treasure.