Sometimes when people ask me what kinds of things I do in my free time here, I exaggerate my productivities, just by a little bit. “Oh, you know, I do laundry, read books, write in my journal, play guitar, email friends, clean my room, make collages, pick flowers, those kinds of things,” I’ll say, depicting a dreamy set of accomplishments that is not altogether untrue, but a tad bit of a stretch. (Especially the clean room part. Please do not fact-check that one.)
In reality, you can most frequently find me doing three things after five o’clock on the farm: 1. Writing in my journal (but actually), 2. Catching up on news & cultural happenings (I’m trying my damndest to stay in touch with the outside world, I swear) and 3. Going on a run.
I rarely admit to this third activity because I am embarrassed about it, because it’s kind of insane, because I work for nine-plus hours a day outside doing physical work. “You go running after farming?! Why?” people will ask when I admit to this act. Or, “How far do you go?”
“Oh, you know, anywhere between four and eight miles,” I’ll answer honestly. The conversation doesn’t get much further than this, as it becomes evident I am deranged. Even the cows seem to be judging me as I run past them, their eyes full of bewilderment, their postures wary. “Why is this bizarre creature sprinting in rainbow spandex and blasting dubstep through these dusty roads?” they seem to be questioning, right before they themselves begin to sprint in the opposite direction out of fear. Just kidding, I don’t sprint, I’m much more of a jaunter. A trotter. A runner who has just farmed all day.
So why run? Because I need it. Before you cast me off as a running junkie, hear me out: Yes, I need it for mental health, just like any other addict out there; but I also need it for physical perspective. Running through rural Alachua provides me with a peace of mind as well as a clearer lens to view the little patch of land we call Swallowtail. The land around the farm here is beautiful – rolling green hills, old oak trees with Spanish moss tossing like a mop in the breeze, all that poetic jazz. It’s rich and lush and sometimes spooky and often filled with good scents, and the roads wind up and down, and it’s all very quiet. At times the sky opens up with roaring sunsets and I get to run beneath it, sneakers churning through white sandy roads glowing under the red and orange splay.
Whenever I explore this territory by foot, it gives me a newfound sense for just how strange our 30 acres of land must seem to others. This is rural America, of course – where each property contains singular commodities or themes. There’s a lot of pasture. A lot of cattle. Some trees. A few horses. There’s a Holly Factory that seems to be quite prolific. But mostly it’s mono-land, property that contains similar shapes and colors, greens and greens and cattle and greens.
And then there’s Swallowtail. I'm not sure how to describe the difference here without sounding chauvinistic, and agrarian chauvinism is not my intention in the slightest, but it's a fact: It’s different here. There’s a lot for the senses to take in. Cows, chickens, sheep, pigs. Dogs, cats, kids, hippies. (Just kidding… kind of.) Rows of multi-colored plants like red oak lettuce, purple cabbage, orange calendulas, dill that almost looks blue when it’s covered in dew. There’s a lot to greet the eye. That’s what strikes me post-run; I return to a patch of land with contrasts, a home of many multitudes.
“You must be in amazing shape,” my mom has said to me on the phone; we’ll be talking as I’m stretching, i.e. attempting to eradicate the incredible aches in my neck / shoulders / hamstrings / IT band / etc (the list could go on). “I guess so,” I’ll say uncertainly, wondering if my lower back will ever be the same. It is not easy on the body, this life. But I certainly am thankful to be active, to be eating fresh vegetables and eggs every day, to be outside, to have a life filled with movement. “Farmers work like dogs and live like kings,” Emily has reminded us. I have learned here that sometimes a good life is not necessarily an easy life. Thus I run.