Wednesday, 21 October 2009

So what is your dream?

One of the magic things about blogging is how one blog needs to another and you discover new favourites to add to your personal list. By just this sort of hopping along I found Sally at who's the mummy and another world of fascinating blogs. Sally blogged in response to a tag about her dream and has kindly tagged me to write about mine.
Well this is tricky. When I was younger I could have told you about the dream of living on a Scottish island, or running a bookshop with a coffee shop attached. I could have written about the dream of travelling through New Zealand in a campervan, revisiting the places where I spent my adolescence, finding out if the grass is as brown, the sky as blue, the sea as ultramarine as I remember it. I could have told you about the dream of having children (somewhat unrealistic as a I recall. I thought I could read novels while the baby slept contentedly in its pram. Huh.) Even a few years ago I could have told you about the dream of living in the country, away from the press of urban life, with a bit of land and a few chickens. But now I am, I suppose, living my dream and it is hard to write about it without sounding smug or sentimental.

I always wanted to live in the country sometime. When I sweated on tubes in London and sat in traffic jams in Manchester being in the city always felt temporary. One day I would look out onto fields and pick my own apples. But somehow life hardened round me. Jobs and children and their schools and friends all coalesced to form a life which was essentially suburban. Now don't get me wrong, there is loads to love in suburbia and I am not one of those who derides it. In many way I suspect my children had a more interesting life, especially as teenagers, with far more opportunities for independence than they might have had out in the sticks, dependent on adults for a taxi service. But rural life was something I was going to do one day.

And then one day, and I now can't remember how the dawning realisation hardened into resolution, we found ourselves thinking that if we were going to do this, when exactly was it going to happen? The children had left home. Yes, there were jobs and ties and responsibilities but it wasn't that we couldn't move away if we planned it carefully enough. And so we did. It took plenty of sweat and sleepless nights and planning and forethought and blind pigheaded determination but four years ago we moved here and swapped an Edwardian house in the leafy suburbs for a sixteenth century farmhouse with outbuildings and a holiday cottage and a view across a quiet valley in the Clwydian hills.

So now I wake every morning to silence or birdsong and the view across the valley. Nobody comes past, other than the occasional walker on a foot path, and I have swapped traffic noise for the bleating of sheep and sound of a tractor working on the far hill. Having spent years of my life trying to coax an oasis from tiny town gardens with sour soil and little privacy we now have a couple of acres of field and trees. I love it. Even now I have to shake myself every now and then to remind myself that I live here. I'm not on holiday, I am not just passing through. This is home.

I always wanted chickens and now we have them scratching contentedly in the garden. I am not one for anthropomorphism and at one stage I would not have been able to tell you if the idea of a contented chicken was a city dweller's fantasy. Now I know that you can tell when a chicken is having a good time and when it is not. They even have a chicken version of excitement. When they see you coming down to let them out they line up shouting to each other, rocking slightly on their feet like a runner at the blocks.

It is very green and beautiful and the seasons are up close and in your face. Summer is always at some point a hazy dream of shimmering grass. Autumn overflows with harvest in the garden and in the hedgerows. Winter can cut to the bone but is beautiful in its severity. Spring stuns you every year with snowdrops and daffodils and new lambs. Everything is as I expected it would be but writ large: more beautiful, harder work, hotter, colder, windier, quieter, more still. The birdsong is more rapturously noisy. The piles of apples waiting to be made into jellies are bigger. The difference between sun and rain, sunrise and sunset, solitude and company: they are all vivid and alive in a way my city life never was.

It is not all robins and lambs and apple blossom. Sometimes it can be lonely and it is always hard work. It might not suit everyone to be here all year round but I am a round peg in a round hole. I will put another log in the woodburner and go out and walk round the garden. This is where I want to be.

31 comments:

  1. Oh, today I so needed to read this! A beautiful post, full of encouragement and contentment. Thank you.

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  2. I cannot tell you just how jealous I am right now....

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  3. I'm with Mrs. Jones. I'm green with envy.

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  4. I cannot agree with you more. I could have written the blog myself, substituting Yorkshire Dales for Wales! Isn't it strange how we have both been lucky enough to follow our dreams. They always say that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence - I used to think that but I don't any longer. Pop another log on the wood burner and let's go for a quiet walk together. Enjoy!,

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  5. Lovely post I am so pleased you are enjoying living your dream.

    It is nice to have dreams but some can waste precious moments in life striving for the impossible and too many people set unrealistic expectations.

    We all need dreams and it is good to have manageable goals.

    Enjoy the moment is the best lesson I have learnt.

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  6. A lovely post, and shoots clean out of the water that saying: 'beware of what you wish for...'
    I'm not quite there yet, but will reach it, one fine morning.
    Mr Grigg and I do life planning once a year, where we set out our aims for the next year, two years and five years. It's amazing how a list galvanises you into achieving your goals. Even if it's little things like painting the front room. But you have to have time and the ability to be spontaneous every now and then and enjoy the present. And you're certainly enjoying your present now, even though you've unwrapped it.

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  7. I'm so glad the reality has matched the dream. You sound so contented - and I will make it to your lovely cottage one day!

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  8. I think I could just copy and paste - you have expressed so well those feelings of being where you want to be, of living in that dream. I wish I could sat something better than 'lovely' - but that really was a lovely read.

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  9. your dream has come true, thank you for revealing all!

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  10. Beautiful.

    I grew up in the sticks of northeastern Oklahoma, and I could not leave fast enough for what passes as the big city in these parts. I lived in a cozy little suburb and adored my surroundings. But as I aged, my little town lot seemed to grow smaller. The older the children grew, the more I realized I wanted space and quiet. Now, we are barely on the outskirts of town, just out of city limits on a half acre lot that feels enormous in comparison. There is a bit of wildlife, a bit of peace and quiet. It's a lovely solution for us.

    I wouldn't mind a long visit to your paradise, though. It is beautiful.

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  11. Ahh, that's so true.
    Ditto our friend Mountainear.

    I used to subscribe to Country Living twenty years ago when I lived in Birmingham city centre!
    And here I am, up on the hill, twenty five minutes from the nearest shops. But I love my life.
    We are blessed.
    xx

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  12. Long may the contentment last.
    I've lived my dream for 12 years and I do so yearn to recapture the relevance I once had as well as access to amenities that help to make life colourful.

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  13. It sounds as if you have come home Elizabeth :)

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  14. I love the sound of your chickens, Elizabeth. I've never really thought of chickens getting excited, but it sounds wonderful. Funny, I do sometimes wonder whether my son would have had more opportunities, more going on growing up in a town, but I guess you make your choices and accept what comes with them. It sounds as though you've found exactly the right place. Will have to come and visit one of these days.

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  15. I have spent almost all my life 'in the country' so can entirely empathise with you enjoyment of your dream.
    You describe it all so beautifully - thank you for telling us about it.

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  16. Like one or two others, I feel that you might have written this post for me. We did much as you did - made a big change to come to the island 12 years ago, and then another change to a rural property six years later. There have been more pluses than minuses but lots of hard work - but dreams, as ethereal as they are, sometimes require a little sweat!

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  17. Oh how lovely to read the words of one who is living their dream and happy!

    How very important it is to have dreams and follow them.

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  18. Yes, yes, yes, I loved this! I need to remember what our dream is at the moment and this is it! A wonderful, not the least bit smug post Elizabeth and one I shall be returning to. I also agree with what you say about town life and children. Ours are lucky enough to be easily able toi reach town via buses and trains, but it does take away that spontaneity with friends for them and needs more planning. We will get our dream of some land one day and it is the only dream I have ever held - since I was a tiny child in fact. In the meantime we are lucky enough to have a large garden, hens, ducks and a lot of fun practising! Thank you for such a great post xx

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  19. I read your post first thing this morning and thought, 'I simply must comment!' but then ran out of time with the school dash. I so enjoyed reading this. Thank you for sharing your memories and where your dreams have led you.

    Where you are living looks absolutely beautiful and happiness resonates through your beautiful writing.

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  20. Ah, there we are then. I'm happy, but I still have dreams to follow. Good to read about yours.

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  21. A lovely post Elizabeth, not smug just delightful and I am so happy for you.

    I said to someone just this week that I love my life at the moment - such a blessing.
    K

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  22. Oh blow - I was feeling so happy I signed in with the wrong ID
    K

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  23. a round peg in a round hole: yes, i guess that says it all.

    my dream is your dream, except i don't think i'd truly be a round peg. i don't know how to do that work, and i'm not sure i'm suited to it. i love the country but could i live there and make a go of it? i just don't know.

    my dream was always to write for a living, and i guess that dream has come true. we are lucky.

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  24. What a lot of great comments. sorry for not keeping up with responses, too much time not at home over the last few days! I am glad you don't see it as smug. That is certainly now how I feel as I lug logs in for the fire and haul out the beans, more like shattered sometimes! The clocks go back tonight so more darkness on the way, but I do have a huge stack of books that I have been too busy to read. My life is so different to how it was ten years ago, and so much of that is tied up in the simple, practical, physical fact of living somewhere else.

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  25. A perfect dream - one that came true!

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  26. That was lovely Em, loved the excited chickens. I guess I am still at the planning stage at the mo.

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  27. Beautiful post. It sounds devine. I have lived in the country and... well... it was lonely. Moved into town and now? Well, sometimes I remember how peaceful it was in the country--it was like escaping from life. Never satisfied, huh?

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  28. Like Withy says you have described it beautifully and I too have lived all my life in the sticks, however we are still working on 'the dream' which is simply a better life / work balance... and time to make choices about what we do rather than just having to work all the time.

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  29. You are so right about chickens - but they also let you know when they are unhappy or bored. That terrible nasal drawl they let out when they are cooped up as if to say I am soooo depressed and ready to expire unless you can give me some pathetic reason to rock from side to side and make me excited - like food, of course, or a stick of greenstuff that I can rung away with dodging the others. So glad your dream came true.

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  30. Oh thank you for giving me hope! I too want to get away and live the "country way" and there are times when I honestly feel such despair at having to wait. Hope my day will come and that it could have a beautiful ending, such as yours...
    Alina

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  31. A lovely article. You are indeed living your dream. I believe the trick to living your dream is to figure out what it is you dream, get there, do it and then appreciate it. I believe you do all those things, so well done and enjoy the rest of your life. And it certainly cannot be easy, but then dreams aren't are they? I will be back for more.

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