by Laura Crum
An advance warning here: This blog post contains a small rant. I didn’t set out to rant, but somehow no matter how many times I re-wrote the piece the rant crept in there. So I gave up and left it in. The post is now sort of bittersweet. It tells a reasonably pleasant story that I meant to tell, and it also gives a true view of the frustration I often feel. I am hoping that there are a few of you out there who will both understand my joy in being a hermit and also my frustration with what Ratty (of Wind in the Willows) called “the wide world.”
Anyway, those who read this blog and my books may perceive me as a reasonably social person, but the truth is far different. In real life, I really am something of a hermit. And lately it’s getting worse. Or better. Depends on your point of view.
In my old age (I’m 55) I am just plain happy at home with my husband and son and my horses and other critters and my garden. Doesn’t matter if I’m riding or doing chores, I can fill hours messing with the horses and/or wandering around the garden observing what’s in bloom (in the spring) or ready to be harvested (summer and fall). Truthfully I can fill happy hours watching the spring breeze toss the treetops on the ridges, or watching the goldfish dart around the pond, or the quail pecking in the riding ring, or the lizards catching bugs. I could seriously go on all day listing tons of small events here on my mini-ranch that happily engross me. I like to write, so often I write about these things. I like to take photos…and sometimes I post them here and on facebook. And I like to sit on the porch with a cup of tea in the early morning and a margarita in the evening watching the light change. I am never bored.
Fortunately I married a man who is also happy to avoid the social scene, and our son, like us, is an introvert, who appreciates lots of time alone. I make sure my son has a social life with his friends that works for him, but my kid, like me, enjoys swinging on the barnyard swing and just watching the horses and chickens (and sometimes the deer and bobcats) for a good bit of time each day. Yes, we ride with our friends and do more ambitious things, but I think we get our greatest joy just being peacefully quiet here in nature.
There is so much to see and do in the springtime….the chickens are endlessly entertaining. Toby the rooster struts.
Our cat Tigger amongst the hens.
A one day old bantie chick.
The roses are really starting to bloom. This is Fortune’s Double Yellow rose in my wild garden. It’s not really yellow, but it was discovered by the plant hunter Robert Fortune in China in 1844, and at that time there were no yellow roses in commerce. So this rose was a big deal. And it is still a glory today. An early rose-- it is always in full flower in April.
We ride and have much fun with our horses.
So my life is good and happy and I have no complaints. It’s just that I feel I don’t fit in any more in groups of people. There are friends that I care about, and one-on-one with them I’m fine. I can be polite and reasonably friendly with waitresses and checkers and such. I can hang around with my horse friends and talk horse. But put me in a group of folks that I’m just barely acquainted with, and I’m no good at all. In fact, I’m kind of miserable.
The problem is that I think my social skills (what I had of em) are slowly vanishing. I’m becoming a hermit. I feel out of place with groups of people any more. I try. I treat others as I would like to be treated—which means I respect their space and I say what I mean and mean what I say. Somehow this isn’t working too well. Other people just don’t seem to play by this code.
As far as I can tell, many people expect me to mouth things I don’t mean, and make nice when others are treading on my toes. And when I let them know (in my straight forward way) that this sort of thing doesn’t fly with me, I am perceived as a grouch (actually I think the right word has one less letter and also ends in “ch”). And then a lot of people seem to share a form of sarcastic humor that I mostly don’t get and don’t find funny when I do get it. If you take a shot at me with venom disguised as humor, I still read the emotional content perfectly, and I don’t care for it. I’m liable to let you know that I don’t care for it, too.
It feels to me that my instincts have become similar to my horses and other critters. I expect truth and honesty and simplicity, just as I get from my animals. I try to give it back. I’m not comfortable with the two-faced attitude shown by many people, and on top of that I don’t share their interests. I don’t watch TV and I don’t like popular music and I really don’t “get” a great deal of popular culture, from politics to fashion to sports. I don’t want to get it. I’m interested in the green color of the light before a storm and the specific scents of different roses and how many words my smart little dog has learned to understand. I could spend hours listing the fascinating things that delight me here at my home. But I find many people confusing, and, to be frank, boring. I do better with animals.
I often leave a group interaction with people feeling frustrated. I don’t try to manipulate any one into doing what I want them to do. I really resent others trying to manipulate me. I don’t take covert shots at people. If there is something I don’t like or don’t agree with, I’ll say so—openly. And I am fine with others doing the same with me. It doesn’t threaten me when someone disagrees with me. But it seriously annoys me when someone takes a sneaky shot at me—in the guise of “teasing humor.” I had a “friend” like this once. When I let her know that her malicious little games were not OK with me she wrote me off and never spoke to me again. Since then I’ve been a lot more careful about who I accept as a friend. For me a friend is someone “who stabs you in the front” (I believe this is a quote from Oscar Wilde…thanks, Dahlia).
In short, more and more I feel like a misfit around other “normal” people and can’t wait to get home and shut my front gate behind me. Sometimes I lock it.
Here, back with my horses and dogs and cats and chickens and garden and little family, I let out a deep breath of relief and feel almost instantly happy again. Here I fit in. I’m good with a horse, I get along with my kid (sorry all you mommy bloggers, but its true), and I love all the plants and animals of this place—domestic and wild. I listen to my husband play his pipes and enjoy the wild notes drifting out over the ridge. The horses graze contentedly by the vegetable garden. The little dog sits in my lap; I stroke her rough fur and I can smell the jasmine. I feel a real sense of connection and peace. Yes, I am
becoming a hermit. A happy hermit.
Does anybody else feel like this? I keep wondering if other people might be “hermits” like me, and possibly share some of my frustration when it comes to interacting in the “wide world.” I don’t mind being a loner (not at all), but it is fun to share thoughts with like-minded folks, so I’m putting this out there just for fun. Any horse loving hermits reading this blog?