On Finding Life

April 2013. Speeding north on I-95 in fading light, radio tuned to 101.5. Not listening.

I don’t have a destination. Just a canvas tote in the passenger seat, a shirt and pair of jeans, toothbrush and a laptop. An old Bible shoved in the front pocket for good measure.

A few hours of criss-crossing highways, drawing circles with my tires, I park in the lot of a crappy motel. I’m going to be brave, live on the edge, check into a room with faded bedspreads and a gum-chewing girl manning the overnight lobby. This is a sheltered young woman’s act of defiance.

Virginians can’t cook Mexican food, but I eat a burrito and a cup of bland rice, cross legged on a hotel bed of cement. I listen to my own thoughts, speak aloud to the walls, whisper at the patchy television across the room. Embers burn in my gut and exhaustion clings to my bones.

I don’t sleep that night.

Morning comes and I brush my teeth, handing over my room key by 7am. I pass a donut shop, fill a cardboard box with a baker’s dozen and find myself home to kiss the man I married and listen to the boys argue over the sprinkles.

 

The years had cracked the axis of my being. I’d splinted it and smiled, but the fracture ached with the seasons. My fibers begged for wholeness.

And so I bought a farm.

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John didn’t believe, at first, that it was necessary to uproot our lives and move ourselves to the country. He stood in the kitchen of our white rental house with the scuffed walls and said it didn’t make sense. Why was the fight for life wrapped around this farmhouse?

I paced, I cried, I stood straight and told him I knew deeply that this was it. This was the thing. We needed to buy the house, move our furniture and our souls to a wider plot of earth and recreate the messy life into which we’d fallen. He needed this as much as I did because I needed it to live.

On a Thursday morning in May we closed on the farmhouse and mopped the floors that night. I stayed late to finish cleaning the bathrooms, but I panicked in the country quiet and what if there were axe murderers out here? I used my sticky new key to jiggle the door lock, sprinted to the car and drove back to the old house to sleep.

Early the next morning we sat on steps of the yellow farmhouse and watched the early summer sunshine catching dewdrops. John’s jeans were dirty, my hair frizzed in the wet air and our hands had found each other. He leaned over and nudged my shoulder with his own, side-eyeing me, smirking. This was it.

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There was no way of knowing in April exactly why I needed these few grassy acres or the yellow of the cottage or the worn wooden staircase or even the particular four-square layout of the house.

But we bought chickens and I found a therapist.

We mowed the pastures and I went to bed on time.

We sipped wine in the white porch swing and I started to breathe.

We found a few sheep and I found a psychiatrist.

We started milking a cow and I learned to hear my heart move.

We planted seeds and I felt the knots in my soul loosening.

Our lambs were born and I laughed.

I knew the truth in the thin places. There are lives within me worth fighting for.

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Prettiest photos taken by photographer friends Chelsea Hudson and Kate Fuster. All others from my Instagram.

19 Responses to On Finding Life

  1. mandie April 28, 2015 at 7:44 pm #

    love this. we had baby chicks. now they’re hens & not so cute & certainly not sweet, but they are ours all the same. :)

  2. wen April 14, 2015 at 10:58 pm #

    Hi Ashleigh,
    I am glad that I finally sat down and clicked links to your blog. My mom (and your neighbor, Susan) has told me so many wonderful things about you and your family. Looks like be both found a new life around the same time, but in different places. I needed to leave Hartwood and you needed to be there! Mom told me about the sweet babies born yesterday! Her pictures of them are adorable.

    Home to meet you this summer when we are back that way for a few days.

    All the best,
    Wen

  3. Heather March 23, 2015 at 12:19 am #

    It’s good to read your words again! Loveliness

  4. tiffany day March 17, 2015 at 6:01 pm #

    Ashleigh – loved loved loved reading this!!!
    I resonate with so much of what you wrote about and went through! My story and yours – not the same – but the heart ache the same!

    I follow you on Instagram :)

    And, I have read your blog since around the time you and boys were trying to get to Germany, maybe before though! Anyway, you have always stayed in my heart!!

    Hope you are having a great day!
    xo

  5. Sara Sophia March 10, 2015 at 11:39 am #

    I am an ugly mess at work with the drips of grey from eyeliner water going right down my chin.

    You found it.

    Your magical farm and purpose and quiet place of soul.

    I would high-five you right through this screen if I could.

    I love you Ashleigh-Bunny-Baker.
    With all my heart.

    • tiffany day March 17, 2015 at 5:57 pm #

      Hi Sara Sophia – I have missed you and wonder where you went!

      Would love t0 connect!
      xo

  6. kaylene March 10, 2015 at 11:27 am #

    And the further you journey the richer your writing grows.

  7. Chantel March 9, 2015 at 9:52 am #

    breathtaking and beautiful. This makes me happy and hopeful. <3

    I find myself right there. Needing the farm. Fighting to get there. Knowing out there, is healing and living to be done.

    Th

  8. Kamille Scellick March 9, 2015 at 1:15 am #

    Ashleigh–

    1. Love this!
    2. Please visit my home and I feel if I’m ever in Virginia you would allow me to do the same.
    3. I haven’t blogged much bec, well, the country has always had my heart & I’m at peace living this life more than telling about it. So I see you on this.
    4. When Ben found our place without me seeing it aside pictures, he knew it for me. The landlord wasn’t sure I would be sold on it being in AZ with the girls. I was sold, still sold.
    5. Dreaming of creating my own permaculture garden here, getting some goats to eat on the back pasture.

    All of this, your need to find life here–I get it. Sometimes I feel guilty that I love it so much, so far from right next door neighbors and having a heart of hospitality…then again I dont.

  9. Jeanne March 8, 2015 at 8:11 pm #

    Happy tears.

    So glad you’ve found a place on the earth to make roots and heal.

    /Of-old blog reader who was just wondering about you and your blog the other day./

  10. Chelsea March 7, 2015 at 11:26 pm #

    Love love love. I haven’t found my place yet, so for that I envy you. I have however found my psychiatrist, and I’m working on the rest. Glad you found your place and I’m bursting with happiness that you’re writing again!!! <3

  11. Jaclynn March 7, 2015 at 8:33 pm #

    Its beautiful Ash, so glad your heart found a home in the country. There’s just something about being in the middle of it that is healing. I miss being on a farm. Someday…

  12. Grace D March 7, 2015 at 8:13 pm #

    mmmmmm I LOVE the rhythmn and melody of this!

    Keep that beautiful spirit beating that drum, will you?

    PS. check your inbox.

  13. Chelsea March 7, 2015 at 2:45 pm #

    I’m so happy to read your words again Ashleigh. You have been missed, and I’m so happy you found your place!

  14. Mishel March 7, 2015 at 2:02 pm #

    Well, this did make me cry. Not sad tears, but joyous ones, knowing what the road to THIS place has been like for my precious girl. Not always an easy road, for sure, but I am so thankful for how far you have come and all the very hard work you have done–both emotionally and physically. I love you so much my baby girl and it’s so good to read your words again.

  15. Aunt Kathe Brewer March 7, 2015 at 1:53 pm #

    Beautiful Ash, know you know why I bought my small farm. This land and the animals, taking care of them, are the heart of our soul. Why the Lord has provided to use is such a blessing. Love You

  16. chelsea March 7, 2015 at 1:52 pm #

    this almost made me cry. well i might still cry if i read it again. but even the reading of it, and the closing of my eyes and seeing it, being there at times… this makes me so happy for you. and i find myself breathing deeper and slower just thinking about it. your finding of this life has truly impacted my own. hope you know that.

  17. Lora Lynn March 7, 2015 at 1:48 pm #

    Love it. Love the strength in your writing, the power of You in your words. Love you.

  18. Leigh Kramer March 7, 2015 at 12:28 pm #

    I could cry, I love this so much. What a beautiful life you’ve knitted together these last couple of years, friend.

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