My suspicions of what would happen if I just let myself loose into the world were confirmed, indefinitely, in the two free months I’ve had since I left home seven months ago. I would spend all the money, drink all the beer (like, all of it), eat all the food, and make a ridiculous series of Poor Life Choices, ranging from what-would-my-mother-think-Poor, to WTF-was-I-thinking-Poor. The time I spend volunteering isn’t so much feel-good time as it is imperitive to my survival.
So after the Tosha Tornado tore through August and half of September via Edinburgh, Ibiza, London, Bath, Paris, Bewts-y-Coed, Glasgow, Amsterdam, Berlin and Wrocław, I finally landed in the little village of Janowice Wielkie, near the Giant Mountains of southwest Poland, with the excitement and destruction of my path faintly glimmering behind me. I’ve spent the past two weeks working in the garden, breathing the freshest of the fresh air, listening to hours upon hours of thought-provoking pod casts, contemplating life, wondering when (and how) it got so complicated, especially when it could be this simple.
I eat a simple breakfast, homemade bread, cheese, and an egg collected from the farm hens I feed each morning. Around noon, I hear the “Cooooffeee” call from Dieuwke, my Dutch host, or Mirek, her Polish partner in crime, and we all sit down, drink cappuccinos, nibble a sweet treat and chat about family, traditions and their unneighborly neighbors who bicycle from pasture to pasture with their cows on a chain. The dinner call comes around three, which not only marks the end of my work day, but without fail means a mouth-watering dish full of Dieuwke’s culinary creativity using the garden harvests.
And with dinner, a giant bottle of beer (well, 500 ml, which seems giant compared to the standard American 12-ouncers). It was served with my first meal on my first day in a way that even if I had never had a drink in my life, I would choose that moment to start, because it wasn’t so much offered as it was presented as a general fact of life. I now look forward to my daily afternoon buzz, where we sit around the table after the meal and talk about life in Poland, life in Holland, life in America, life in general. I pick berries, herbs, bunches of grapes, and a few days ago I plucked a peach from the tree for dessert.
Mirek and Dieuwke are the kind of people who bask in the simplicity of life. They are the kind of people who have a three-legged cat, an old riding stable horse who had outgrown her prime, and Betta, the Caucasian Shepherd, a breed of dog often used to hunt bears or as watchdogs because of their aggressive attitudes toward strangers, who instead of protecting her first owner’s farm, was beat with sticks and glass bottles by intruders because of her gentle demeanor, and deemed useless. For Dieuwke’s birthday, she was allowed to adopt another animal from the shelter, and immediately gathered up the mangiest, ugliest, dirtiest cat in the house, overlooking the cuddly kittens who wouldn’t have a problem finding homes. Three dogs, three cats, three ponies, two horses, lots of chickens. It’s like a safe haven for animals, though I get the feeling if I suddenly found myself less than whole, they would somehow find a permanent space for me at Pure Poland, too.
It’s so easy to become a third party to your life, watch it snowball into this complex web of people, careers, careless needs, meaningless wants, dreaded commitments, prized possessions, pointless drama. And just like discovering a rat’s nest in your hair, a complicated knot in your necklace, tangled up earbuds – you have no clue how these things happen (I mean, you were just listening to music, your earphones were in your bag for a minute, tops), but they happen all the time, and quickly.
And from experience, you know that it’s infinitely harder to untangle that web.
But as I hike up the hill across the road, wander past the horses, slip under the wire fence, walk through the trees to my little perch and turn around to watch the tiny train carrying people to the next tiny town as the sun starts to set behind the tiny Giant Mountains in the distance, all the while holding onto the single thread I’ve managed to dislodge from my own messy knot of life, I’m reminded that all of that time, all of that effort, is worth it.