"Instagram is a problem for you," she says. "Yours doesn't show how beautiful your life really is." My daughter Rachel is getting ready to head off to college next week but for now, she's sitting on the couch next to me looking at my social media, telling me how much I will miss her. Telling me how much she dislikes it when I show the ugly and not the beautiful to the world.
"But ugly, like beautiful, is relative," I tell her.
My kids have really never been into telling people we live on a farm. Showing people is even worse. And writing about it, well, I knew it would be risky before telling the unvarnished truth of it.
It's not the exposure. It's what I expose. Still, after all these years, farm life, or country living, or anything within similar vernacular parameters is embarrassing to them. Even in a world of unbridled exposure. Even when embarrassment is on the decline.
Unless, of course, I'm sharing pictures of our adorable llama. Llamas are cool. Llamas are in. Llama ownership is fine to admit. Their friends come over to take pictures of our llama.
Thank heavens we have a little something here that redeems the lifestyle.
Because there is so much that doesn't. Not the weeds in places on the property, impossible to adequately maintain on acreage. Not the goats that roam the pastures, or the big fluffy dog that watches over them, impossible to groom. And definitely not the aluminum Quonset huts, three of them, the perfect homes for ruminants here and impossible to hide, in our front pasture.
Not exactly beautiful.
Growing vegetables is mundane. Driving cars covered in gravel road dust is uncomfortable. A "barn" is a dirty world and milking goats is, well, unspeakable.
Thank heavens we don't do that last part anymore. This was our first summer off from milking chores and none of us missed it, not one little bit and especially me.
My kids aren't vapid but they are aware and as blogs go these days, real is real and authentic only when it's attractive, if you know what I mean. Even though I don't have to talk about milking anything anymore, the past still lingers here.
We still have goats.
And goats are not attractive. Most of the time anyway and not to the kids who've grown up around them while maintaining big city ties.
By the world's standards, this, here, may not always be beautiful. But to God, beauty is relative and it can always be found in the ugly too.
So I reflect upon the way my reality is painted, what my Instagram and Facebook and other social media portray: my reality. And that's just it. My pictures illustrate what's genuine in my life. They aren't postcard quality photos I've personally taken in Crete, they aren't pretty villages in the Cotswolds. Not gorgeous floral displays I've arranged or plates of exquisite cuisine I've whipped up myself.
But my vast prairie isn't bad. It's splendor alongside loss and perfection around chaos. My life isn't either. It's family and children and dogs and mess, goats and chickens and scruffy, unkept landscaping with views to eternity as the sun rises and sets. It's mowing and pulling and spraying and harvesting. With unbridled passion and love for a God who's in every detail, every beating heart and inhaled breath. Each wing and sprout and rush of wind, in the vast sky overhead and the ever-changing clouds that provide variety.
My world isn't all that ugly. It's relative. Because beauty is on the floor where my grandchildren throw their food and in the bones our puppy leaves all around the house. It's in the laundry basket filled to the brim and in the dishes stacked up in the sink, in the weeds that grow faster than I can pull them near my porch in the heat of a summer day, where my garden is wilting faster than I can water it, the plants yellowing before I can eradicate the squash bugs, the apples on my trees disappearing before I can spray the worms away.
The death I cannot stop.
It's always there. Even when it's right under my nose, and even when I must choose to see it. The beautiful, and it's real.