David Zirnhelt. Photo submitted

Ranch Musings: What home looks like from afar

Regular columnist David Zirnhelt writes to us from Zihuatanejo, Mexico

Zihuatanejo, Mexico

It takes practice (so I tell myself) to be able to hit the beach in a warm country and immediately relax when everyone else at home is dressing against the minus-30-degrees winter.

Really, I am grateful and not trying to rub it in. In our semi-retirement, we are trying to get the balance of trying to work for ourselves and for the community.

We see people around us on extended holidays — months on end — who are tanned and relaxed and have time to spend making a contribution to the community here in a foreign country.

A lady just went by our door with a large tray of healthy desserts, which she will take to a senior’s home. Others here contribute to events which add to the quality of life for visitors and local residents alike.

Some on holiday raise money for equipping schools. Sailors from around the west coast of America hang out for a week in February and sponsor Sailfest events to solicit donations from travellers for these causes.

One can only spend so much time in the warm sea and under an umbrella with a drink in hand. A week and a half into this holiday, I am still, part-time, catching up on email, mostly for my volunteer work at home. Charity begins at home, they say.

No pressure, no deadlines. I made the mistake of commenting in an email about an event at home, and the recipient of the email promptly told me to get back to the beach! Did I really behave as though I needed a holiday before I left?

It is hard to leave everything behind, the good and the bad. But try we must. Respite from everyday matters is good for the soul. Even work you love and people you cherish can keep you from experiencing the freshness you can only get when you open yourself up to new experiences in a foreign culture.

It should be no surprise, then, that I am not obsessing over the cattle industry and its viability.

Obsessing is the operative word here because I spent an hour the other day talking farming and ranching with an Albertan farmer. We spoke not a word about our vacation except to be thankful that we not immersed in the cold snap at home.

We were both reflective and able to put it all into context. It is better to farm in Canada than, for example, in Venezuela, where it has just been reported that infant mortality has doubled during the recent crisis.

Home always looks nearly perfect, and we speak glowingly about the people and community we have left behind for the time being. We are grateful for those who are doing our work while we are away.

Some say absence makes the heart grow fonder, if that is possible.

I just know when we return there will be a moment or two when we say, “Gee, it looks great back there on the beach in that hot little town.”

But after breathing the cold clear air, we will put our heads down and start shovelling snow, reminding ourselves just how thankful we are to be able to holiday, find peace of mind and regain strength to take on new challenges when we return.

Now that I have said this for all to read, I will return to the beach, seek a cool breeze and cold drink and totally rid of any guilty feelings.

David Zirnhelt is a rancher in the Cariboo and member of the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association. He is also chair of the Advisory Committee for the Applied Sustainable Ranching Program at Thompson Rivers University Williams Lake Campus.

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