“Life is just a bowl of cherries” proclaims one song. And that’s just one example of a metaphor for life. You can find plenty of other suggestions, from a box of chocolates to running (especially that it’s a marathon, not a sprint) to a blank canvas. When I wrote about the suggestion of running as a metaphor for life, as suggested by Oprah Winfrey, a number of people replied with alternative ideas for metaphors for life, exemplifying challenges or goals to be met and overcome, all requiring perseverance and self-belief. Novel writing and other challenges as dissimilar as mountain climbing and ballet dancing were among the several thoughts.
Given the huge variety of offerings, clearly in some ways it boils down to whatever happens to resonate with you. One of the commenters pointed out that for him running is just running. He loves it, appreciates the fact that he can still run, but doesn’t see it as a metaphor for anything. I think I’m more inclined to agree with this blogging friend than with Oprah. Any activity we are sufficiently passionate about (typically involving a physical and/or creative challenge) to push ourselves beyond what we thought was possible is remarkably confidence-building and supremely satisfying. And to a certain extent when we are no longer able to carry out these activities to the extent we once were, they remind us of what is beyond our control. That teaches us acceptance … and possibly humility. Or not. 😉 But not necessarily a metaphor for life in everyone’s book
Let me suggest that a more complete metaphor for life is farming. I haven’t written about farming for a long time now, so more recent readers of my blog won’t have read tales about the 9 years 2 city “kids” (my husband and I) spent farming! OK, so it was a little more than 40 years ago and, yes, we weren’t full-time farmers, but the lessons we learned have never left us. Never. It was a privilege to have had that experience.
Our older son learning to take good care of the chicks
The lessons are many, but it is the overarching theme of the lessons that make me believe that farming is such an appropriate metaphor for life. Because in life, there are always things that you can’t control. You have to figure out how to work around those impediments, or accept them and change paths altogether. Sometimes the best laid plans just don’t work out, through no fault of your own. We learn from these setbacks, and hopefully we pick ourselves up and move forward. Sometimes that’s easier said than done. Sometimes, sadly, we just give up.
When you’re farming, all these things happen. It’s guaranteed. But you can’t give up, because there are animals that need you. You can’t give up, because it’s your livelihood. Your family relies on you finding solutions to these challenges, which can arise at any time.
Ultimately, Mother Nature is in charge. You learn that really quickly when farming. You can have high quality livestock, the best possible equipment, and good access to markets, but if the weather doesn’t cooperate, you can have lots of problems. Lots. You can have early frosts, late frosts, heavy rains during planting or harvesting, droughts during the growing and grazing seasons, you name it. When any of these things happen, your first feeling is, “we’re screwed.” Then you have to stop and figure out what your options are, what IS within your control, and go for it. Innovate when you can, regroup when you need to, and accept that you won’t meet your initial goals for the year when that becomes obvious. Then plan for how to move forward.
Haying back in those halcyon days
You need to attend not only to your kids when they’re sick but also your animals. You may well have an emotional attachment to them (or to some of them, at least), but regardless you have a big investment in these animals. They’re in your care until they’re in someone’s freezer. And sometimes, despite all your good care, you have to deal with losing an animal, to a problem in birthing, an injury, disease, or an attack by wildlife.
Proud mama, Pebbles, with her newborn
You can find yourself in personally dangerous situations. You’re working with big powerful animals and big powerful (and very expensive) equipment. Both are unpredictable, especially the animals. So you always need to be vigilant in your actions and movement around both. You learn to respect the importance of paying attention at all times.
Farmers deal with all of these challenges and more. They learn to have enormous respect for Mother Nature. And despite so many things that can go wrong – including supply and demand changing their calculations, often due to global changes rather than local ones – there is no life that most farmers would rather have if it’s up to them.
These are the reasons why I believe farming is a very powerful, very complete metaphor for life. It’s filled with all kinds of challenges over which farmers have minimal control, so they must always be thinking of ways to mitigate potential challenges. It is a life of risk and reward, of hard work and perseverance, and yet provides an enormous sense of satisfaction. Having spent those few years all those years ago trying our hand at farming, there is no-one we have more respect for than farmers.
P.S. Furthermore, farmers can also be excellent bloggers, just like runners. Thanks to Country Girl and DM for being two of my earliest blogging friends. ❤