A long time ago, in a land far, far away, I was a girl growing up in London who had seen the lions, tigers and zebras at the zoo more times than I had been to a farm.
But just a few years before my childhood in London began, I was graced with a life of freedom in the countryside. In Berkshire, I played in meadows scattered with poppies and buttercups, and chased butterflies in a field where the grass stood taller than my head.
I was about 4 years old when we moved for my father’s “big, new job.” London was frenetic, the traffic standing still, the bikes whizzing by. Car doors opening and closing, shop doors opening and closing, tube and bus doors opening and closing, too. Everything was a door to somewhere and everyone was in a rush to get there. Those doors confirmed to me that what the adults had said was true: There were indeed many more opportunities in a buzzing city.
On the basis of the “opportunity” argument, I returned to London after university, and this time found myself seeking out green places. I felt most at home when I could see a horizon line uninterpreted by human progress. I didn’t know what I was craving then. I didn’t know some still-wonder-drenched corner of my heart felt most alive and most calm when out in nature. I didn’t know how to listen to that calling, almost nagging, little whisper. Just before I was unexpectedly offered a job in the United States, I moved out to Kew, a small community that felt like a distant cousin to London. There was a village green complete with duckpond, and men in their cricket whites; the thonk of willow, as ball hits bat, and cricket runs are clapped.
Once in the Midwest, I delighted in the proximity of the countryside to my metro abode. I began exploring as often as I could, canoeing rivers and hiking state parks on weekends. Twelve years on, I drove through the Driftless while on vacation and stumbled, unexpectedly, in love. The rolling hills, majestic oak trees and pretty meadows all echoed an etched-in-English-childhood memory. At the urging of a friend, I visited Mineral Point on my last day. It was as if an old and perfectly maintained Cornish village had been folded up like a picnic blanket, floated across the Atlantic and set down among the hills and dales of Wisconsin.
I was not looking to move, but three months later I signed a rental contract on an old farmhouse and soon moved my family here. This is our fourth summer in the Driftless and now we live in our own farmhouse, nestled in a quiet valley. These are the words the Driftless whispers to me and this is her promise that endures: “Listen to the quiet calling of your heart. Tune into the cravings and the whisperings. Follow them. Find yourself living a lucid dream of your own choosing. Live where the land meets the sky.”
Etienne White lives where the land meets the sky on a farm in Iowa County where she raises grass-fed, Old English Babydoll sheep, as well as pastured chickens, a happy farm dog, a wily barn cat and her two spirited children. She runs a consulting business working at the intersection of sustainability and marketing, and is a sought-after speaker on sustainability in the United States and Europe.