One of my favorite television shows while growing up was Green Acres. The basic premise of Green Acres was that a successful New York City businessman Mr. Douglas, played by Eddie Albert, and his wife were leaving the big city for a more peaceful and serene life of blue skies, fresh air and farm living in a small rural town. It was that TV show that prompted me to set a similar goal for myself many years ago. My biggest dream since childhood has been to work hard and achieve enough success in my career so that one day I might own a horse ranch of my own in a nice peaceful rural community. At age 44 I thought I had reached that goal – then came the urbanites.
Swoosh, was the sound that I heard as I placed the serrated edges of my wine cooler’s screw-off top between my thumb and index finger and gave it a twist. A gurgling sound followed as I gently poured the lime green fluid from my bottle of Bartle’s and James’ Melon Splash into an ice filled glass. It was a familiar fizzle, causing my mouth to water in anticipation of the cool tangy sensation that was about to strike my palette. As I gleaned out over the backyard and then beyond, past the green pasture that followed, I saw a striking silhouette of the San Gabriel Mountains as the sun became poised to set in the western horizon. The day’s chores had taken their toll; my body ached in an almost pleasurable way with the satisfaction gained from putting in a long day of manual labor mowing pastures, repairing irrigation lines, and caring for the animals that inhabit the ranch.
Bluesy jazz-guitar reverberations from Peter Frampton’s latest album, Fingerprints, pierced the air in a quiet calming manner. I had intentionally kept the volume low so that I could soak up the auditory ambience of the glorious nature that surrounded me. I heard Turkey, our tall, statuesque, lace feathered rooster, calling his hens to retire for the evening with a boisterous cock-a-doodle-doo followed by the sounds of cackling hens waddling to their roosting spots. Laredo, our four-year-old Paso Fino gelding, gave a whinny as he kicked up his heels and made one last jaunt around the back pasture before retiring to his nightly quarters. Looking closely I could see the wild cotton tail’s heads begin to populate the pasture as part of their nightly grazing routine. These small furry creatures, for the most part, stay under cover in their burrows during the day both to avoid the heat as well as the detection of the vigilant red-tailed hawk that frequents the area hunting for prey and whose screeches can be heard daily.
Even though I had selected this moment for a period of rest and relaxation I couldn’t help but notice the flaking white paint on the wooden pasture fencing. This gives it a rustic charm but my brain told me otherwise. I knew if it is left exposed to the weather much longer instead of just re-painting the fencing I would eventually end up having to replace it, requiring much more of my time and money than a new coat of paint would – mentally, I added it to my list of future chores. As I leaned back in the patio chair in which I was seated I viewed a seemingly un-ending sky of blue, bordered by the orange glow of the sun slowly setting in the west. There was not a cloud to be found as the afternoon breeze had whisked them away. My wine cooler was almost gone as my eyelids grew heavy and I drifted off into a peaceful serene bliss. I slinked back deeper into my lounge chair and rolled to my side, pulling my legs to my body in a fetal position. My body succumbed to exhaustion as my brain finally slowed and let go of its agendas. There was a sweet smell of spring blossoms and lemon scented Eucalyptus trees in the air. I had worked long and hard throughout my life to enable myself to experience moments like this. I savor these times dearly. Soaking up the ambience with all my senses, I was now at rest, feeling content as I dozed off, but still absorbing the beauty of my surroundings – life doesn’t get any better than this.
Suddenly, I was rudely awakened by the sound of waaaaaaaaah, wah, wah, which blared from the air horn of a semi-truck as it bolted down the grade of the neighborhood street I live on. Rat-a-tat-tat-tat-tat-tat screeched from its diesel engine as the driver applied the Jake brake and slowed his tractor-trailer momentarily before taking on the curve in the road ahead. More horns blared and more engines roared from speeding automobiles as they tried to pass each other on our two-lane road. My peaceful serenity had been broken by the daily barrage of commuter traffic that cuts through our neighborhood in an effort to bypass the congestion of the freeway interchange. The housing boom of the past several years has surrounded us with a plague of urbanites that disrupt and raise havoc in our once rural, peaceful and serene town of Woodcrest. Five days a week they commute from their little cookie-cutter boxes south-east of us, through our neighborhood, to their jobs in cubicles located to the west of us. I grabbed my empty cooler, headed inside the house and turned on the television to help mask the curse of urbanization and numb my soul to its remorse only to be lambasted by commercial after commercial professing the ways of a more modern society.
I am extremely thankful that my childhood dream of living life like Mr. Douglas of Green Acres fame has actually become a reality. However, during moments like the one I’ve described here, I reflect back upon times when reaping the fruits of my labor had seemed a worthwhile goal and ponder whether or not my efforts have been negated by industrialization and modernization; wondering if the reality is that I’m only being taunted by the promise of serenity?