Keeping looking out, not down


“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.”

— Thornton Wilder

Our grand old lookout point in the heart of the woods was the tree to climb, if your courage could take you there. The reward was incredible.

This vantage point allowed us to see all the way across the depth of our farm, the valley where the farm pond awaited us at the end of a summer day, and a bird’s-eye view beyond of our hometown — this was the grand prize for the high, hard climb of Mother Nature’s finest tree.

Draw of climbing

I have read of people putting their lives and their livelihoods at risk to climb the most unbelievably challenging mountains. You would think I would be able to understand that drive, considering the incredible draw of climbing that sky-high tree. But nope, not even a glimmer of understanding registers in my bones.

Maybe it is because I am much older, wiser and now scared to death of heights. Life shifts some of our priorities along the journey.

But who am I to argue? I did some wild and crazy things that were as foolish as the day is long while growing up. It was only on that farm, a wonderful place that offered us all kinds of glory, where my courage allowed me to try to reach for the prize.

Trying everything

I was double-dog dared to ride a young steer, and I was crazy enough to not willingly walk away from that. I might have held on for a split second, and luckily the fall was an easy, although very messy, one. The laundry problem was much harder to explain.

I tried frog gigging, trap setting, varmint shooting and worm digging in order to go fishing in every little stream we could find. Fishing usually meant we were going to get mighty wet, crossing dew-covered fields to get to those streams. But, hey, it might be worth every bit of our effort.

My dad’s uncle taught us how to clean the fish we caught, and I pretended endlessly that he still hadn’t shown me. He grinned and ruffled my hair with his slimy hand, and we both laughed.

We hunted — and found — many mushrooms in the great woods. That was most definitely worth our effort.

We searched along fencerows and at the edge of every woods for elderberry bushes growing wild, and spent hours picking and cleaning those tiny berries. It was worth it when Dad sang high praises for the best pie he’d had since his childhood.

If it could be accomplished between milking times and school demands, it was attempted a time or two.


My bravest sister taught me to look around at all the possibilities and opportunities, and find a way to reach for it.

“Don’t look down — just keep looking out,” was the mantra she gave to me. I think it applies in our childhood, and far beyond the farm that raised us.


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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, and three grandchildren.



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