People ask us whether we get bored out here. The answer, of course, is yes. Not for lack of things to do (there are always things to do), but from a lack of things that force themselves upon us. A person could wait (maybe sitting in an arm chair eating cookies) quite a long time for something to happen here (a visit, a crisis, a phone call); instead we must be the ones to go out and make things happen. Our lives are busy, exciting and fulfilling only to the extent that our motivation and imaginations allow. On the one hand, we’re able to see more clearly than most that our lives are what we make them. On the other hand, we’re also more aware that we have no one to blame but ourselves.
Think about the amount of outside information you process in a day. Everything you learn from every person you talk to, plus every conversation you overhear (how someone’s weekend was, what someone’s kids are up to, what happened to someone that morning, what someone’s going to work on that afternoon, whether someone thinks the good/bad weather will continue, and on and on). Every sight you see (billboard slogans, people crossing streets, different cars parked different places, new things in storefront windows, new flowers blooming, different trash on the curb, and on and on). Every task or problem that is given to you to work through. Every situation that forms around you, requiring your response.
There is very little of any of that here. Mostly, as introverts, we are relieved. Perhaps this absence makes us able to notice more of the subtle changes around us, like the growing up of baby birds. And maybe we’re developing habits of mindfulness and meditation in simple physical tasks like weeding. But we’d also go nuts if our brains didn’t constantly have new things to think about.
So here is how I keep my brain stimulated, even in the middle of (more or less) nowhere.
Podcasts. I do a lot of repetitive tasks in the digging, planting, weeding realm. Sure, sometimes I just listen to the wind and birdsong while I work. But the rest of the time I am listening to things like Radiolab. And TED Talks. (Which, by the way, don’t update often enough to keep me happy. Have a different podcast you know and love? Please suggest it to me in the comments).
Library books. While the town of Lewis has a relatively small collection, Iowa has this beautiful brain-saving program set up where with a library card from one town, you can get a library card from most other libraries around the state. This means we can also check out books from the nearby town of Atlantic (slightly larger collection), the often visited town of Carroll (even larger collection), and the occasionally visited town of Council Bluffs (larger yet). Here is where this becomes brilliant. The Iowa town of Council Bluffs is just across the Missouri river from the Nebraskan city of Omaha. Because of their close proximity, their libraries also have a reciprocating borrowing agreement, meaning that since we have a library card in Council Bluffs, we also can have a library card for Omaha, Nebraska (jackpot). While this means we have to travel the hour to Omaha every time we want to check out or return books there, with online renewals, we can keep books out from there for a full 3 months, not to mention having constant access to all their digital resources from home. Brilliant. We check out twenty-some books from Omaha every 3 months or so, mostly non-fiction about whatever we’re into at the moment (currently lots on gardening/farming/food).
The Internet. I know everyone talks about the small world the internet enables, about peoples’ ability to connect with anyone anywhere via the web, the wealth of information available online, and on and on. All I will say is Amen.