One of my oldest memories is planting sunflowers and pear tomatoes at the bottom of a steep hill where my parents had built a garden. Everyday I would climb the fence (because gates are boring) and run down the hill to see what had happened since the night before. I loved the dirt squelching through my toes, under my nails, and seemingly embedded in my scalp. I would go inside after a day of mud houses and reading in trees to hear, “Kate, did you roll in the mud or are you just magnetically attracted to every floating piece of dirt?”
As I grew older things didn’t change. In school I was the first one with my shoes off running through the fields of weeds during recess. I could never stay clean. A smudge of dirt on my face, streak of mud on my knee-highs, and busted knees constantly betrayed me. In high school, my teachers realized that it was better to just let me study and write outside on sunny days than to watch me pine for the fresh air and fidgeting in my seat. I would stand in the rain, read in the tallest trees, weeded the wildflowers in April, and picked them all in May.
And I read – Caddie Woodlawn, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and many biographies about prairie wives, missionaries to India, and adventures. When my body wasn’t having adventures, discovering Jerusalem crickets and rattlesnakes, my mind was surviving in the arctic tundra or saving slave girls in the slums of India. I never wore shoes and built worlds of my own in dugouts where I would spend afternoons reading.
Wild, idyllic childhood gave way to a more calm adolescence. I spent most of my time reading anything and everything I could get my hands on. I loved the outdoors and spent much of my lunches reading outside, but the pull of words was too strong. Fortunately, my English teacher understood my thirst for knowledge coupled with wanderlust. He expanded my mind with a biblical perspective in every area of writing – theology, history, philosophy, literature, science, and the arts. This was what drove me back outdoors.
I found myself needing space to think and absorb the knowledge my teacher and parents had given me. I could sit outside for hours dangling on our tire swing watching the world spin around me, completely lost in thought. I would read and then go outside and think. Sometimes I would walk around the school grounds alone or hide in a tree during breaks just to process. The land became my sanctuary. I would read and think and read more. I loved hammocks, porch swings, grassy hillsides, and high rocks.
Then I graduated.
I had worked since junior high, so I knew the reality of getting more work was coming. I dreaded being locked indoors for days on end, limited on reading time, and slowly losing my mental agility. I drifted from job to job enjoying aspects of many and being mostly miserable for a solid year. Then, on December 14, 2010 one of my best friends and I decided to go on a mission’s trip. We worked on a farm for three months which I loved. I thrived there – Learning a new language, working with in dirt daily, walking miles daily, and focusing on others.
I came home and thought I knew my direction – dirt. I started working towards my degree in Anthropology and soon after got a job on the farm I work at now. I read as voraciously as ever and the hours of silence in the field gives me time to think deeply about everything.
My writing is just a by product. In my case: Reading + Dirt = Grounded Thought
Its a system that characterizes me. I am so grateful for it because it not only brings fulfillment but peace, a peace only found in dwelling on God’s Word, the framework and foundation of my world. I work the land He created and think about what he created it for.
Thats my secret to happiness.