beauty is dirt caked fingernails

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

“Beauty is fleeting.”

Red lips pouting at me from the mirror, highlighter catching the fluorescent light and making my cheekbones shimmer subtly, a highly arched eyebrow raised in scrutiny, I gave myself the once-over, attempting to leave no detail unnoticed.

Growing up in a world where beauty is often touted as the ultimate achievement, especially for women, I find it difficult not to care about what I look like, at least to a certain point.

Fortunately, there’s a different narrative.

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Red-ripe Tomatoes…Guess who’s makin’ pizza Friday?!

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Falling into Rhythm

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Running pon di road

Each time my foot pushes into the ground, propelling me further down the road, my breath comes a little bit quicker, heavier, wilder. Afterwards, I wonder how it is that I managed to bounce around the potholes, fly down the hills and trod back up them; I’m not a runner so finding my pace takes time.

When I imagined myself in the Peace Corps, I pictured an integrated me, hungry after working all day in the field with local farmers, wiping sweat from my forehead as I rubbed my clothes clean watching as other women did the same, teaching a class how to improve their crop yield with biodynamic farming. This image, one of hard work and success, ignored a necessary step: figuring out how to fit in. Continue reading

Blood, Shit, & Beers

“Pppppop! Zzzzzzzz…..zzzz….zz.”

I can hear the tennis-racquet-fly-killing-machine murdering too few of the legions of flies rooms away. The wings of one in my room stop moving as he is unable to uproot his legs from the twirl of sticky, slow, sure death tape hanging from the ceiling. I resort to a constant, slow swaying during meals outside to prevent the incessant beasts from using me as a landing pad; I imagine I resemble an interpretive dancer on weed.

My smell lingers, though I only notice some hours after a shower when my hair still slips through my fingers and smells of pine. If my odor were a perfume, it would have notes of B.O., shit (specifically cow, horse, goat, and sheep), zucchini, and occasionally some piney-grassy weed that grows everywhere on the ranch.

If I looked in the mirror, I would see dirt on 1/3 of my exposed skin, peachy-white sunscreen on hot days (earning me the nickname “lobster with hollandaise sauce”), freckles where snow white skin used to be, and scratches and bruises from I’m not really sure what.

Less Flies on a Rainy Day!

Less Flies on a Rainy Day!

Sweating, cursing flies, and digging my nails into cow shit to build fires has become part of my daily routine, and while this description could easily fit someone in summer camp detention, I chose this. I chose to live without air conditioning, Wi-Fi, or running water to see how a working horse ranch works.

How does it work?

Take a horse, a big stick, shout “CHAAAA!” as many times as necessary, until the goats trod the way you mapped out for them. You might even try calling them “Fucktards!” if they go into someone else’s vegetable patch.

Life at Anak Ranch

Life at Anak Ranch

As you leave the ranch, the grass hits your knees, the mountains grow higher, and the sound of cows chewing reaches your ears. The slow, seemingly methodical “ssccchhh”, like someone peeling a giant potato slowly, accompanies the “hoooo” of the wind, the sharper, staccato “chchut” of goats ripping off grass, and the soft “zzzz” of the steppe flies.

Hearing this, you close your eyes and breathe in the dry grass, the sandy earth, and the slightly sweet smell of animal dung. As the wind blows away the flies and your hair, the sun’s rays reach you like the first warm day after winter. Then, a fly lands on your arm.

This time, their millimeter legs feel like a feather grazing your skin. This time, you don’t kill the fly, or tell him to “Fuck off!” This time, when the fly lands on your arm, you smile, enjoying the infinitesimal massage.

The Six Senses

The View from Green Bird Farm, Konstantinovo, Bulgaria

The View from Green Bird Farm, Konstantinovo, Bulgaria

I hear the soft clanking of the cow (sheep?) bells as the shepherds herd their flock down the neighboring hill. The sun’s rays dissipate through a weakening cloud. I can smell the after-sun cream Jan gave me on my nose and feel its icy power at work. The taste of my mint lip balm reminds me our earlier tea. And I feel the snuggly-scratchy warmth of my Fair Isle wool sweater as I rock myself in the hammock. Oscar keeps pushing his bally forward with his nose, then leans his muzzle down as he raises his light caramel eyes to me. Gail and Stel set the table as the rain patters on the roof and an owl hoo-hoos nearby. Dinner is ready. Another day at the farm closes.

Touch
Baby ostrich feathers look spiky, like a porcupine’s. But don’t be fooled. If you touch one, it feels like the stalk of a quill. If you pet the feathers together, it feels like petting soft grass. The down on their neck, however, feels just like that.

Spiky Soft

Spiky Soft

Taste
Wild rosemary has a bitter tang that its potato-worthy counterpart lacks.

Sight
Ostriches have long necks, so naturally they can become a bit tangled with their neighbors. Sometimes, this makes a heart shape.

Ostrich Heart...Awwww!

Ostrich Heart…Awwww!

Baby ostriches sleep together, curled up almost one atop the other. Cute cuddly critters!

Smell
Lucerne smells the sweetest when it’s ready to bail…something about the scent of freshly shorn grass arouses in me a lazy happiness. My eyes shut and I find it impossible to think of anything but that heady aroma.

Sound
Baby ostrich farts are unexpectedly cute. Picture a baby ostrich. Now imagine the face of a human baby after s/he farts. The sound is a bit like that.

When male ostriches are trying to be impressive, they make a sound like a motorcycle revving, or a male crocodile mating: BRM, BRM, BUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUURM. As they BRM, their throat bellows out like pelicans scooping fish into their beaks.Feathery Ostrich

A rather weird and unforgettable sound at the farm occurs when the ostriches copulate. The male sounds like the fowl* version of a person with no opposable thumbs grunting because he can’t squeeze the last of the ketchup out…in other words, pretty much the same as human males.

You’ve made it to the end! If you’re wondering why this post is entitled “The Six Senses”, you’ve paid attention. We use our five senses to absorb the world around us, but every person interprets that differently. My emotions and thoughts are here represented, and make up what I’m calling a sixth sense.

*Technically, ostriches are not fowl (or foul), but in this case, poultry. However, I like puns, even when they are….foul. For more information, visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fowl.