Reckling: Life in the slower lane

Margaret Reckling

The other day on my morning irrigation rounds, I stopped by the pond and was surprised to see my big, white dog poised on the edge of the water, her neck cocked, staring intently at something below her in the murky depths. I asked her, “What is it, girl?” as I eased around the edge of the pond to see what had captured her attention. I could see nothing in the water beneath her gaze and decided she was just looking at herself in the mirror-calm surface. I leaned over the pond’s edge with her and saw her snow-white face staring back at her; she then saw my visage appear aside hers and realized the trick of reflection.

“It’s just us, Blanca,” I told her in a comforting tone. I took a closer look at the woman looking back at me; her sunburned cheeks beneath the sweat-stained brim of her straw hat, a droplet of sweat hanging off an escaped tendril of hair, the head of a mud-covered shovel blade sticking up beyond the hat. Squinting at my own reflection, a wave of emotion swept through me and the realization that this simpler life, full of purpose, had blessed me with peace and contentment.

Just then, the pond rippled slightly at the powerful reverberations of a private jet’s engine thrust as it turned a little early into the Woody Creek Valley. I imagined its pilot had high hopes of meeting his assigned time window for landing on the tarmac to collect his impatient passengers at the Aspen airport.

There was a massive airlift going on at Sardy Field as a result of thousands of Fourth of July revelers being done with their three-day visit to Aspen. The multitudes were ready to head on to the next designated celebration. After all, there are other important experiences and shopping sprees to be had in St. Tropez, France; Las Vegas; London; Paris; Los Angeles and New York City. Some jets were delivering successful, wealthy husbands back to urban areas to oversee their companies and generate more income to satiate their money-spending wives and mistresses.

A squawking magpie interrupted my thoughts, and I went on with the morning work. Wading through the tall, thick, green grass that shimmers and undulates with the breeze, I had a sense of swimming in an ocean of miracles. Merely six weeks ago, this field had been compacted, flat-brown decay, for seven months of snow had left a wasteland of crushed, dead vegetation. The symphony of greens that now line the landscape is so plush and variegated that the beauty is almost unbelievable.

I never thought I’d revel in the growth of grass, the function of an irrigation ditch or the power and versatility of a tractor to get jobs done. I went from a designer-handbag-toting femme, navigating eight-lane freeways of the big city in my shiny black car, to a manual laborer in dirty jeans, rubber boots and wind-tangled hair.

I’ve become a tool-toting, outdoor-working fiend with my dad’s bowie knife strapped to my hip and a keen eye fixed to the land. My nails are no longer French-manicured, nor are they lacquered with the latest unnatural color du jour. I sport what one could call a “manicure de la terre”; my hands, when not protected in leather work gloves, are golden-brown from the sun with calluses in all the right places, and dark soil is lodged beneath my short nails by the end of each day.

My mud-encrusted Jeep, with its cracked windshield, sits on the gravel drive ready for adventure, and it’s been a couple of years since it was shiny. The Jeep’s standard black interior is lined with a glamorous, silky-white fur shed from my Great Pyrenees rescue, Blanca.

My years in the big city not only were fast-paced but allowed little time to stop and savor moments. Now that I’m immersed in an existence that is closely entwined with the natural world and cuts straight through the social mire, new priorities and perspectives have emerged. I wonder sometimes that the lifestyle I came from may never again be a good fit for me.

As another private jet roars into the sky from the neighboring valley, it seeks altitude with its heavy load of exhausted visitors. Their departure takes them upward and onward in search of their next attempt at fulfillment and eminence as they vanish into the distant sky along with the obnoxious noise.

I dig my shovel into the wet sod to reroute the cool, sparkling water into the desired area of verdant pasture. Swallowtail butterflies do a dance along the glistening rivulets, the red-tailed hawk lets out a beautiful scream, and I think about enjoying a glass of iced tea when my work is done.

Margaret Reckling lives in Woody Creek and welcomes your comments at


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