By Louis Bourgeois
Working on my farm the other day, my wife watches me and suggests that I could take down a section of fence, making a much shorter trip as I carried heavy bags of soil to a new planting bed. I thanked her for the suggestion but shared that I liked the route I was using. It gave me a full minute’s rest between loads. I was curious to count the steps; there were exactly 53, and my mind wandered back in time.
In preparing to live in Latin America, I took a position managing a flower farm in the U.S., which was also a venue for outdoor weddings. This place, Camrose Hill, was located in a beautiful part of Stillwater, Minnesota. I would spend 6 years at this position, working six months each year, from mid-May to mid-October. The other six months I was free to travel and explore countries in Central and South America, searching for the home for my retirement.
What was especially helpful in my position as caretaker at Camrose Hill was my abode, an apartment that I fashioned out of the old barn. The few friends that I showed did not believe that I could transform the old hay loft into a livable home, but I did exactly this. I had electricity, but no running water, nor any form of climate control. My best friends became my down comforter that kept me warm on the very cold nights of early May and early October, and the dining tent that I used as protection from the voracious mosquitoes in the summer months.
For my water each day, I would walk down to the well with six plastic gallon jugs, which provided all I needed for cooking, bathing, and washing dishes. I had a two-burner camp stove and a one-burner hot plate for my kitchen I loved my rustic paradise, in part because I could save all of my income for my winter travels. But I also loved being so close to nature, serenaded each night by the seasonal critters, peepers in the spring, followed by crickets and cicadas in the summer, and owls throughout the seasons.
The routine of carrying water each day, always before sunrise, was precious to me, and I felt gratitude for the simple pleasures of life. The walk to the well was exactly 53 steps, which I would walk six times each morning, up and down a crushed stone driveway. The serenity and beauty surrounding me was always appreciated. And this appreciation or gratitude had become the cornerstone of my new life and the philosophy that I call “conscious living.”
Eckhart Tolle describes “a new earth” with a consciousness that ranges from acceptance to appreciation to enthusiasm. My devotion was to begin living in this new earth, then one day welcome others to join me in “conscious living.” Embracing simplicity, aligning oneself with the basic principles of nature, and giving back via my labor, creativity and enthusiasm, was the road I chose to follow.
Now, some ten years later, these principles are manifested in my rustic paradise as a farm at the base of Cajas National Park, just minutes from the cultural gem of Cuenca, Ecuador.
I smile when I recall my years of devotion and preparation.