In February of 2020, we locked ourselves in our two-bedroom home in Pacific Grove, CA, for what seemed to be for a very long time. Fortunately, the Monterey Bay was just across the street, which provided a sense of freedom as we watched the waves and sea life, who didn’t seem to be at all bothered by the illness and death that was starting to grow across the globe. For months on end, the ocean was the only sense of peace and comfort we would have. During that time, Annette and the kids moved to our ranch in Utah while I stayed behind and continued my work with the US Army, and prepared to retire. For the next 18 months, we began our transition from Army life in the city to farm life and rural living. Moving away from the Bay Area with its culture, the arts, the ocean, and the food to a small farm town in central Utah amid a pandemic could not have been more difficult. Thinking back, as I sit here tonight, I deeply miss the ocean and our friends. I miss sitting in a coffee shop quietly reading and writing as the ocean fog cooled the air. And to make things worse, since we moved, a kind of passive-aggressive writing block has gripped me around the neck, making it nearly impossible to write.
However, tonight, after spending time outside with our sheep and watching our border collie learn to work for the flock, gathering the eggs, and checking the water, I came back inside and told myself I would write. I told myself I would pour at my feelings and let you know that following dreams is not only challenging but, at times, incredibly lonely. We left behind a culture and lifestyle that was comfortable and beautiful. We traded it in for a life in agriculture that if I look in the kitchen, there are dishes piled up because we are so tired we can’t think of any more work. When I think of the challenges we will face tomorrow, with the mill, the livestock, the land, the drought, my school job, the pandemic, and the dishes, I can’t help but wonder if we made the right decision.
Staying in the present is vital for our happiness.
Nevertheless, when I talk to our friends in England who just started a mill, and they explain that their neighbor follows our journey and looks forward to meeting us in person one day, I get very excited, and my heart is healed a little. When I think of a group of new farmers and ranchers that visited the mill last Friday night to kick off their conference weekend and the new friendships we developed, my heart is again bound up. When I think of the clients around the globe that we are helping, it brings a great smile to my face. And when one of my students saw me after school today and exclaimed, “Mom, that is Dr. Allan, he is the most amazing person I have ever met!” I can’t help but think that I am glad to be here right now, regardless of the challenges and difficulties. Staying in the present is vital for our happiness. Right here at my desk, struggling to keep my eyes open, I listen to my daughter quietly snore in the chair next to me. She is asleep because we all work so hard, but we are so lucky to have this experience in the midst of some of the most difficult challenges our world has ever faced. We are so fortunate to have new friends around the globe and so fortunate to watch the dogs learn to herd the sheep. And, I think to myself, the dishes will have to wait.