A chair of my own

We are creatures of habit.

Whenever visitors come to the farm they very quickly latch onto a space of their own. Their chair at the table, their relaxing space in the couch, a space to leave their toothbrush, a bed for sleeping. Any time we enter a foreign area we immediately try to wriggle our way in,  naming a corner as our own, whether it is a seat on a plane, a piece of wall in a public area, a side of the bed. DSC_0953

Who do you know who sleeps on a different side of the bed whenever they feel like it. Or loses their pillow. Or sits in a different chair at dinner time each night.  Or does not care which cup holds their coffee.

This need in us to build systems and habits and familiar spaces is as old as the world and truly common for all peoples everywhere. Even nomads have their favourite camel. And shoppers their favourite door.  And drivers their favourite way through town. DSC_0967

It is the same for cows.  They love things to be predictable.

Yesterday I turned the electric fence off at the West side so I could use the weed eater to clear all the long grass from beneath the wire. Then I went back up to the house without turning the current back on.

When my sister and I walked,  in the dark after dinner, around to the West side to check the cows we found both the new cows in a field where they should not have been – peering sadly at me through the wires –  and  all the animals who had lived here a while and developed their systems and habits around the hot wire and knew where their chair for sitting on was,  were still where I left them. DSC_0962

So I wonder whether  we – you and I – are still working behind our own electric fences, though they have long since been turned off and we are just not brave enough to try to get through.  We have forgotton what it is like to be new. We are sitting in the chairs we have claimed, nice and safe.  Not allowing the change. DSC_0949

What do you think?


51 Comments on “A chair of my own

  1. I like a seat of my own. I can surround it with the things that occupy my hands and mind when I am sitting, without the trouble of having to shift everything every time. My side of the bed is comfortably-me shaped now, and my pillows know what is expected of them. I am comforted by a few boundaries – I am no longer one who enjoys flying off in all sorts of directions in an excited way. I have become painful and slow, and routine helps manage that. But sometimes, a change, a fresh wind through the cobwebs, can shine a light on a better way.

  2. Good point Mad Dog. I have my favourite chair/s and coffee cup. We don’t dare leave the electric fence off here, more to keep others out than in. Love the farmy pics at night, looks enticing. Laura

  3. Good question! I too often find myself sitting in the same chair drinking coffee from the same cup and wandering round the same paddock day in and day out. It’s not a particularily comfortable feeling at times but I sometimes find it hard to change chairs! One day soon I would love to start a game of musical chairs … One day …

  4. I think anything really comfortable can get very easy to lean on and maybe we do not get out of our grooves often enough. But on the other hand, my favorite coffee cup and my favorite seat in the house makes me very content, very happy to have what I have. And whenever I am at home and do not have to rush off the farm, I am so appreciative of that! But I am not afraid of jumping into something new when the opportunity arises. I can just imagine those sweet cow faces looking at you from the wrong side of the wires!

  5. I feel the most uncomfortable in someone else’s slippers. It’s just too weird to fit them in.

      • Me too. Content to be not yearning for distant lands or new adventures as always in the past. I am happy to anticipate the butterfly weed in bloom & sunflowers to come & later the goldenrod & asters. My old dog & I keep an eye out for each other & don’t wander far apart.

  6. I like my chair, I am sitting on it now. But, I agree that sometimes we need a change. While I will keep using my chair, I will try to ignore its calling to me, to take a seat and do something more active instead. Yesterday, I mowed the lawn and found that it’s more fun to now 3 acres with music on. I put my headphones on and happily kept mowing, belting out my favorite tunes. Kept the headphones on while doing my farm chores and got even more done! Out of the chair, it is more fun!

  7. There’s a classic story about an elephant who had been kept on a short chain for his entire life. All he could do was pace in a small circle. Once he was rescued from the chain, he kept pacing in that same small circle, even though he could have gone much farther. I feel like that elephant sometimes! I have my favorite chair to read and knit in and if I come home and find my husband in it…well, it isn’t pretty.

  8. Well . . . as I sit here in MY spot of our comfy sofa, sipping my morning cup of tea, which it to my right, with my laptop employed on my, well – on my ample lap, I find I am a truly a creature of comfort in my routine. On-the-other-hand, all the trees of the next door lot, about 2 acres worth, have been plowed down. There is now a big hole in the earth and soon a great big house with an underground pool will be there and I will be forced to change a few of my routines – or at least put some curtains on the windows. 🙂 The resident herd of deer are very confused, but, I noticed they have a few newly trampled paths they have forged.

  9. I think it’s good to feel a sense of belonging and to seek out a place to belong, through spaces and habits. But you raise an important point. We can be lulled by comfort and forget how to look at the world through new eyes and to try new things. Sometimes simply switching your spot at the dinner table can reveal a different perspective.

  10. I find that I am growing less likely to follow habits. I change chairs all the time. Vary my routes home. Take my cappuccini in different bars, trying new ones. Changing the languages I prefer to read in. I wonder what it means.

  11. There are certain things that I claim as “my own”, but I cannot say I am afraid of trying new things 🙂 right now we are actually on a journey to start our mini farm too. I’ve been around many animals, but I’ve only taken care of chickens so far (and dogs and cats), so this will be very interesting to go through and more things to call my own

  12. That is the most excellent question and thought I have heard in ages! Where have we turned the electric fence on and where should we turn it off? Where are our boundaries choking our potential? All of that from looking at cows! As a lifelong nomad, the few familiar things I have that go with me from place to place help with the grounding and a feeling of familiarity. This is a question I shall ruminate on for quite awhile. Thank you. Have a lovely day and a wonderful visit with your sister.

  13. That is so true. And what I’ve recently been noticing is that when I step outside the habit, my spirits lift a bit.

    My desk got changed at work. And while I’m still not quite used to a working routine in this new desk, it’s rather miraculous how much more cheerful I am. And I think it’s because I have to be more alert, more aware, because things are different. Even something as simple as grabbing a pen is different. When everything is the same, my auto-pilot kicks in. And it is very easy to be lethargic and dip into the worse parts of my depression.

    It is hard to break a routine, but it is refreshing.

  14. The fence of the pigsty on the farm was old and tattered. It was a visual barrier, but that was all. Any new piglet with an ounce of curiosity would be able to squirm its way thru in an instant. My Grandfather showed me the electric fence that was woven within the ancient boards. And it wasn’t more than five inches from the ground. Nose level on the new piggy’s. As a little girl, I watched them grow fat and sassy with the summer sun. Squeeling in delight with every new experience. By fall they were large and boisterous, and would be able to step over that five inch wire with ease. However, long ago they had learned the magic of the heat and shocking pain, and even though they were long legged and stronger than any fence, that little wire still contained them.

  15. People have been telling me for the past few years that I have been selling myself short. They have been telling me that I deserve to live better and can if I accept the good things that are available to me. I think I put up my own fences years ago without knowing it.

  16. So true. Change is a wonderful thing – it turns your perspective upside down and sideways. Back in the day when I was an interior architect, and I had a floor plan or design problem that confounded me. I would turn my drawing upside down (pre-autocad!) and see the same space in an entirely new light. The design would inevitably flow from there.

  17. I like adventure, but walking into a familiar room and using my favorite cup is comforting. You have to step over your boundaries every now and then. Be a renagade cow.

  18. Both.. truly both.. I like my chair, my cup, my space..

    But, I was raised in a way that meant, that it always feels like its just a “holding” that the space comes with me, that its in me..

    By the time I was 19, I had moved 67 times in my young life, by the time I meet my hubby, at 25, I had moved 81 times.. I was perfectly fine with packing my wagon and moving towns, I was fine with following work, or moving for work.. swinging down where I needed to for this or that..

    When I meet my husband, he said to me.. we will need to move lots of work and I grunted and said.. Home is where I make it.. and then we only moved four times since we married, from Alberta, to NWT, to Nunavut and then to Ontario and here I am on the farm.. 11 years this spring on the farm..

    the longest I have ever EVER stayed in once place.. the longest I have ever set down roots and still I get the itch, the drive to chance, to break the fence, to move.. to create new space.. I do it now by learning new things, changing this or that plan..

    But I will not hide from the truth.. I get the must break that fence.. smash it down and get that jolt far more often them most will.. Its in my blood.. It is very interesting to see the effects it has on both myself and my older brother who like me.. moved and moved and moved and then settled (having only moved maybe six times since he married and started a family) where our baby brother much younger then us.. who had the most stable “childhood” and went to the same school, still lives in the same town..

    My older brother and I went to Europe on trips and loved it.. we would and can and have moved to different parts of the country or to different countries to work and live.. baby brother.. same friends, same town, same everything.. he loves it… our eyes glaze.. 🙂

    So while it seems like I am settled and quiet… it just hides the fires that burn slow, till they come forth again..

  19. The moment the barista calls out my order before I order it, I call a different order. I will not be a routine double shot full fat no foam. … back when I ordered coffee from a coffee shop. I always mix it up, I rarely do the same thing the same way. But, I’m working on it. Still rehearsing at the moment.

  20. we all have little habits in our lives as do our animals who live with us. Our Lucy is a total habit cat- gets up at a certain time of day and expects her breakfast at that time- I obligingly obey and feed her and then give her some fur ball stuff and a little greenie treat. She then promptly goes to the same spot for her morning nap. Depending on what time of day it is- she naps in certain places through the day. She’s a funny cat. We love her.

  21. I like my own coffee mug and certain routines, but I find I do best when I’m given a change in scenery regularly. We’ve made a mistake with this last move, but instead of panicking about now have two houses to sell instead of just one we are resolving to rent next time and planning our next move. Most people would think we’re insane; we just moved in to this house four and a half months ago, but we would be insane to stay. We’re the cows on the other side of the electric fence. I hope we always push our boundaries and try the next thing. Well-meaning people have laid the “the grass isn’t always greener on the other side” argument at our feet to try to convince us that safer is better – and we’ve fallen for it – but you know what? Sometimes it is. Sometimes it isn’t, but that’s what the next move is for, to try again. The world needs both kinds of cows. 🙂

  22. Living alone for eighteen years now, the chairs and beds are all mine. I move from one bedroom to another during the year and the beds are all facing in different directions, giving me a different view. It is also a way to keep the beds aired for when I have visitors. I move from chair to chair as the mood takes me but in the depth of winter my favourite chair is close to my flickering fire.

    The one thing I have learned is that if you sit at home dwelling on an ache, pain or problem, it grows to fill the space. If you get up and go out, you see or talk to other people who carry heavier burdens and your own shrinks to a more realistic manageable degree.

  23. Some fences have us very well trained. It is hard to change and live comfortably with it. But, it can be done.

  24. I’m an unfortunately selective creature of habit. I still have yet to find a chair in our house I prefer and we’ve lived here for going on three years. I do have my favorite coffee cup and pillow of course. I try hard to break down any barriers similar to an electric fence but, probably just like the cows, it’s difficult to realize the chance has presented itself.

  25. I use whichever cup is under my hand when I reach in the drawer, and sit where ever the mood takes me, Dog and I walk a different way each day…..she wants to go the way we went yesterday every time…..and while I love my home and being here, I’m always ready to go off and have an adventure…. I don’t want to be defined by my chair, my cup, whatever. I’m sure there’s an electric fence somewhere, but as soon as I realise it, I do things differently……change is good for this cow.

  26. Every time we go away on a trip that is more than a week or so, it changes my routine just a little when we come home again. It also helps me appreciate my comfortable life even more. That is one of the things I like about traveling and doing things differently for a while, it blasts me out of my comfortable zone, and chair, and bed, and shower… makes me reevaluate what I need/want and what I don’t. Nice thought provoking post Celi, thank you.

  27. How beautifully written – and give food for thought, that’s for sure. Any time I travel, I like to arrange the place to my liking… including straightening paintings and curtains if they’re askew. I also loved how you mentioned that we can get very, very used to our little routines and our ‘own place at the table’. And we have to careful we don’t become so complacent that we never try and see new things! ; o )

  28. Spending time in others’ spaces is interesting, finding our space in their space around their boundaries. Some like us to feel at home, choose a cup from the cupboard, put the kettle on and find a chair. Others like to treat us as guests. In our house, for most, I like it when people make a cuppa or get a beer from the fridge and choose a spot they like. But there are a few for who I know instinctively I need to build a figurative electric fence or they would overstep & crowd my space… with the best of intentions of course.

  29. I can almost hear the evening sounds in that second picture. Always a bit sad so many children never witness the end of a day on a farm – or are unsettled by night in open land

  30. Everything has been sent into chaos for me the last couple months. All the things that said life was going along as it should no longer exist. I’m in very temporary quarters with few of the objects that were usually used on a daily basis available. It is not remotely pleasant. It does not promote comfort in the least. I am not even sure where my clothes are let alone the pots and pans, cleaning supplies or bedding, and all my books are packed up in storage. I like being settled, I have reached an age and physical condition where the disruption is upsetting and adds to the difficulty of simply gettnig through each day. I am deeply grateful for the temporary quarters. I have no idea when or where I will end up though, I do not care for that in the least. In a way I was shoved into then through that blasted electric fence, not because I wanted to go, I had no choice in the matter. It’s a whole different kettle of fish to change something because you want to, or decide you need to, it makes adjusting easier, more pleasant. For the time being, I’m glad of my favorite mug, my bed and a roof over my head.

  31. *smile* I agree with Grannymar and a few others . . . had I belonged to your herd I would have been in the ‘wrong’ paddock pronto!! To me the greatest time is when I can look for and find the new and the different . . . . I too decided some years back that I did not want to remarry in spite of temptations! Love to do what I want, when I want, how I want, with whom I want – and the scene changes every day: glory Hallelujah!! And I love a different coffee cup or wine glass each time one is picked up!! . . . .

  32. I took a group of middle schoolers to camp this week, and I had to make up seating charts to get them to mix things up a little. They gravitated back to the first table group they had had. And when I let them choose freely, they STILL went back to that first seat they had.

    I’m weird. I DO sit at different places at the dinner table with no problem at all. I do have a certain pew at church I prefer, though.

  33. Here’s an old argument for the same chair, or pasture: think of he tea ceremony. It’s a representation of “the mastery demanded in any art in Zen, wherein complete familiarity leads to an unselfconscious state of spontaneous freedom within structure, where the new is discovered” (http://alangullette.com/essays/philo/merton.htm)

  34. We all find a certain comfort in what we are used to. But just once in a while it is nice to take a different route, sleep in the middle starfish style, or sit on a different chair, with a different mug holding a different drink. It also helps us gain a new perspective. We don’t always appreciate the initial feeling, but afterwards we can see it.

  35. I think I love this post! So true, in so many ways. We think we know so much, creating routines for our animals so they are easier to handle, and boom! You just enlightened me with something I can hardly believe I didn’t already see. I knew it of course, which is why it resonated so, but…wow. Fantastic job, Celi.

      • I know that my dogs especially have me very well trained. The cats too, I suppose. And I bet that the sheep flock has more on me than I realize. The chickens are a little more transparent, and the bees do what they do best, I just try to fit in there. I love that you made me think about all these relationships from a new angle. Thank you!

  36. Good food for thought. I love to think in a fertile field. Putting up wire to protect ourselves or to keep people away. So true and common. Our space guarded and watched. Not too interested in sharing. Common boundaries where we don’t go any more- respectfully hidden. Grab something and hang on for a while, then let it go. Go back find something else and gloat in your accomplishment. Needing space is natural, respect is good, but growth is godly. Shuffle that deck and start again. I always say.

  37. Yep. I just spent some time with two women who test all the fences that keep the herd in – and when they’re hot, they climb a tree. Routine and comfort are fine, but it’s good to be reminded not to be constrained by them.

  38. Pingback: Rain and reflections | Mo Bloggin'

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