Challenges open our hearts to all that we have


There is nothing sweeter than a gloriously sunny October morning — a wide-open, no-demands Sunday morning — here on this beautiful farm.

I walked with my dogs up over the hill this morning, out in to the open hay fields with an incredibly bright blue sky overhead, and listened to the birds, the breeze. Part of the wonder of living here is the quiet.

After the long journey of grief we endured from a threatening neighbor at our other beautiful home, the peaceful quiet is appreciated most of all.

I talked with a little boy named Conner one day last week about playing and enjoying the great outdoors. This little fellow, only 5 years old, asked me where I go to play.

“I just go outside and take a long walk on the farm where I live,” I answered. “You are really lucky. I don’t have a place to go outside,” he answered.

I asked him if he has a park where his mommy could take him to play. He answered, “Well, we used to go there. It has swings and this great thing you could climb up and then go down this really fun slide and it was so fun. I really want to go there cause it was great!”

I asked if his mommy doesn’t have the time to take him there, thinking maybe I could offer to help. “No, it’s not that. She just says we can’t go there any more because these mean boys sort of live there now. Big boys. They say bad things and do bad things and won’t leave. They are not one bit nice and they smoke cigarettes and burn holes in the swings and mommy says some of the things they wrote on the big slide are bad words that she won’t read out loud to me. So, we just can’t go there any more.”


This world is closing in, especially in low-income communities, and the innocent like little Conner pay the price. I try to imagine my own childhood with no place to roam and play, living with intimidation and fear rather than the glory of wide open spaces.

It most definitely would have shaped me in to an entirely different person. The only fear instilled in me as a child was a healthy respect for the bull on the farm.


The thrill of knowing, once the chores were done, that I could take my little dog and go in any direction on hundreds of acres of farm and woods was a privilege that my father’s hard work created for us. It was also an incredible open book filled with endless learning experiences.

My sisters pointed out tadpoles to me in the creek one day; another day we might find bushels of mushrooms and cart them home in our upturned shirts, so proud of our discovery.

Even now, at the ripe old age of 49, I am alive with childlike wonder as I wander this farm and observe a peaceful world.

The horses, sleek and beautiful, enjoy a full-out run in the morning sun. The calves, frisky after their morning feed, raise their heads and kick up their heels as I walk by their open pasture.

Birds fly overhead, perching momentarily on the white board fence. I see squirrels running through enormous trees, and watch groundhogs scurry to their hole. The on-going music of a wide variety of birds provide lovely entertainment.

If I am lucky enough to celebrate a few more birthdays, and the only meanness in this world I’ve experienced first-hand was enough mean-spirited harassment to run us out of a home we dearly loved, landing us here in this tranquil corner of the world, then I have lived an incredibly blessed life.

I have come to realize that we are given challenges to help us relate to others, to open our hearts to all that we have.

If there is a swing set anywhere in this world where you can swing without intimidation, consider yourself one lucky soul.


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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, in college.



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