I woke up to the sounds of birds chirping and the smell of fresh horse poop. Let me introduce you to my new backyard neighbors.

horses as backyard neighbors
           I’ve named him Bernd.

     Before we left the US for three months, most people asked me about my art business- “How will you manage? What will you work on?” Good questions. I finally have the beginning of an answer. But first back to the horses…

     This week we arrived at a countryside neighborhood near the western border of Germany. When I say countryside, I mean we are surrounded by farmlands, horses and sheep. We live next to a barn. I saw more animals in our neighborhood on our first day than I did people. We unpacked our suitcases and found a store for some food essentials, like milk, eggs, bread and chocolate. Figuring out the chargers for all our electronics could wait.

     That first morning, instead of my usual routine of checking messages, I left my phone off. I did some deep breathing. I did some stretching. I talked with my husband before he started his bike ride to work.

     The only European charger we had went off to work with him. I was left with the kids and the mentality of saving the electronics for when we really need them. I realize, it’s a mentality I could get used to. The horse smell permeating everything… well, I’m working on that.

Juelich house backyard alongside horses
Here’s a view of our house from the backyard. The left fence borders the stable.

     The house is really charming and has everything we need. It even has the luxury of a dishwasher! The other day I discovered that my son had made it seven years without learning how to wash a dish. I was shocked that I had failed to teach this simple chore. An image flashed through my imagination of him going off to college not knowing how to peel a carrot or boil pasta. His excuse? We have a dishwasher. My excuse? Genetics. In the tradition of my mom, loading the dishwasher is my domain. In the quest for ultimate efficiency, I will no doubt rearrange anything that gets put in there by someone else. That doesn’t exactly encourage anyone to help with the dishes. I know. I’m working on that too.

     What else am I working on? Exploring with my bike. Biking here is just as common a mode of transportation as a car, and I love it. The little ones have push bikes with no pedals and the older ones have baskets full

biking through Stetternich forest
One of the many bike trails I found in the forest. And yes, I found my way back out of the forest too.

of groceries. People bike to work, to school, to enjoy the countryside, or as an afternoon activity with a friend. Each summer my mother-in-law does a week long bike trip with girlfriends. The bike trails around the fields and through the forests near our house here are endless. I could travel on a separate path alongside main roads for 100+ kilometers without worrying about the cars. I don’t, because I’m still working on my sense of direction. But I could.

     Despite being an hour away, my husband’s whole family has been unbelievably helpful in getting us settled and lending us whatever makes things easier for us- bikes, tupperware, umbrellas, extra clothespins/nose plugs. My in-laws brought us some beautiful flowers as a housewarming gift. I’m working on my drawing skills and the flowers were my first attempt.

     I draw the horses, the cobblestone, the chocolate. Before I arrived I had ideas of taking a local drawing class. I imagined me going for a morning run, having a nice breakfast and a cup of tea, writing for a couple hours, working on my website, and attending a drawing class. All while the kids were in school. I have a really good imagination. In reality, German school (for second graders) is over by 11:45 and all the local adult education classes are in the middle of their sessions. So I’m working on a sketch a day. It’s not much, but at least I’m working on it.

     It’s amazing how fast time flies when you are working on so many things! Drawing, biking, patience, acceptance… I may not be working on something I can sell, but it’s still valuable. It’s a beginning I’m happy with. There are fresh flowers on the table, chocolate in the fridge, and I’m off to go pet the neighbors. I think I’m managing just fine.

I’m Working on It
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One thought on “I’m Working on It

  • June 2, 2017 at 3:24 pm

    I love your philosophy and practice of living!! If more of us shared it, we’d be in a better place in the world.



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