Every place has a history. The property that our farm operates on, which we lease from Blue Moon Stead, has seen many phases of life — from operating ranch and hay fields, to summer camp, to private residence, and now revisiting its origins in agriculture as we bring the pastures back into use with our own livestock.
Of all of these many uses, the one that leaves the most obvious legacy is the Columbia Gorge School of Theater, a summer camp for youth that operated here in the early 2000s. The dormitories, lavatories, classrooms, and theater that they built remain standing strong, but each finds a new purpose — garden room, workshop, barn (yes, our hay is stacked on the stage!). This place had an impact upon the young people who resided here every summer, and the walls of the buildings are adorned with some of the most interesting, intelligent, and amusing graffiti that reflects their experience. The kids still speak to us from the past, sharing their hopes, thoughts, jokes, and concerns every time we enter one of these rooms.
Some day, these messages will inevitably be painted over, but they will not be forgotten. One of my favorites stands right above the toilet in our bathroom: “If all the world’s a stage, who do I call for ‘line’?”
In life, we often feel that we aren’t living up to the script — or even know what the script looks like. We ask ourselves, Am I farming the ‘right’ way? Am I living the ‘right’ way? Am I good enough? What am I missing? What’s supposed to happen next?
I often struggle my way through what my idea of how things ought to look compares to how they play out in reality. I come up against unexpected challenges on an almost daily basis, and sometimes look outward for answers to my problem, only to find there isn’t anything clear or obvious to ‘fix’ it. It takes practice, and it takes patience, to overcome my feelings of defeat, or inadequacy, and reach deep within myself to find something more to give to it. Sometimes, the results aren’t immediate. Sometimes, the outcome looks different than I thought it would. But always, I find that if I’m able to let go of my attachment to how it ‘ought’ to be, and find a way to simply flow with what is, and what works, that the outcome serves me better than any script would have given me.
We have to learn to trust ourselves; our instincts, our capabilities, and most of all, our ability to get up after falling down, to learn from our failures so that they can help inform our future successes. Responsibility can be an intimidating role, whether you are responsible for a business, or animals, or another human being. What if I screw it all up? Yet, when there is something required of us for a sake other than just for ourselves, we can surprise ourselves with how this role can change and grow us — give us a strength we didn’t know we had, give us a curiosity to learn more and be better, and give us the reward of having served to the benefit of something greater.
Often, it’s the things that we find to be the greatest challenge that we most need to experience in order to grow. Just like it was for those teenagers at CGST, sometimes growth is painful, but it helps to look to the future to glimpse at what difficulty can help you become. I hope these kids have all gone on to pursue their dreams, and that this beautiful farm/camp/wilderness somehow helped shaped them in a way that readied them for all that life has to offer, as it has already begun to shape me.