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  • Writer's pictureCassie Stockamp

Tending to a Pet Cemetery… (and other tales from the road)

I called out to Natalie and asked her if I could pitch my tent in her vicinity. She answered affirmatively - as long as I was quiet! We both had a big chuckle and the bonding started. I found this 30ish woman to be eager for conversation as she had left Lawrence, KS and had been solo camping for two months. Our paths crossed at the Meriwether Campground in Southern Tennessee on the Natchez Trace Parkway; she shared the ins and outs of car camping, and I shared the ins and outs of volunteering through WorkAway.

She graciously offered to cook dinner and I learned as twilight fell that in her last gig she had been promoted from head chef to kitchen manager; we had quinoa and mixed vegetables followed by a dessert of canned pears - a treat while bike camping! I listened to her story of how she learned to survive at a young age as an only child; her grandma was an English teacher and taught her the love of reading and she gave me book recommendations. Her mom provided inconsistent caregiving and suffered from mental health issues. Natalie wants to start a non-profit called COR (Children of Rape) as there are thousands of kids in similar situations. I’ll just leave that one right there…… She is an amazing, resilient human. My life is richer because our paths crossed.

The next morning, after a french press coffee compliments of Natalie, I headed out on my loaded bike towards my next destination. I had wanted to do some volunteering along the way and continue my version of slow travel.

I rode up to a house on Hwy 99 with white clapboard siding and yellow shutters. Actually, I pushed the loaded bike up a big long ass hill and then got back on the bike and coasted for all of 20’ to the driveway. At the corner of the property was a rusted out horse trailer complete with a purple plastic chair that had little white daisies growing up through its seat… Mounds of plastic orange fencing were thrown in a pile on the side yard and lots of little black plant containers littered the front yard. I must admit to pausing for a minute wondering what I had gotten myself into.

This was to be a 5-6 day volunteer gig through WorkAway at a budding artist homestead. Per the owner’s instructions, the front door was open and the bedroom was off to the left beyond the kitchen. I was pleasantly surprised as the inside of the house was artsy, orderly and spic and span clean. Whew. I happily took a shower (hadn’t showered the 2 prior days…) and plopped myself on the front porch with my kindle. Val and the 2 artists that were also staying had taken kayaks to the river, and I heard them returning about an hour later. I soon learned about my homestead mates. Sari is a NYC actress, writer, chess master and has been sober for 16 months. Allyson is a photographer from St. Louis who has given herself a 2 week sabbatical as she has had a bit of a breakdown due to a crumbling marriage, COVID and SAD.

Alison let me try my hand at “photography” using the sun, wild flowers and special light sensitive chemicals brushed on watercolor paper. Magical!. Oh, there are also three college girls living at the 3rd house and are using the time on the farm to fill in a gap year. Val, the owner, is a trip and has her hands full in managing 19 acres. She taught graphic design at a University in Rhode Island, hated academia and the entitled students. She is trying to cobble together an intentional community that allows her the freedom of having her animals: 14 donkeys, 12 chickens, 9 cats, 2 peacocks and a three legged dog named Behr. She earns a living by tutoring online, hosting resident artists, allowing people to camp in the clearing and occasionally ferrying guests and kayaks up river.

I have bonded with the artists and have taught yoga every morning followed by a kundalini meditation guided by Sari. Today Sari did some reiki on me and told me about the dragon roaming around my heart…. Hhmmm… Today's farm tasks consisted of dismantling, moving and reconstructing a chicken coop. Pretty proud of myself! LOL. I also tended to the pet cemetery and removed the debris (including an old piece of luggage….) that covered the pets laid to rest. The pile of stuff was an attempt to keep the bobcats and other critters from unearthing the bodies.

There are so many ways to live in this world. Not sure this is my way, but I am finding the discovery to be pretty interesting. Stay tuned.

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16. Okt. 2021

Hey cass! Text me Natalie’s book recs… and 38 animals! Love 💕 the donkey pic!

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