Hillbilly Zen – Plastic Perfection or Blemished Bliss? Sharing a Birthday With Barbie

Barbie turned fifty three years old this year.  Her relentlessly perky bosom and tiny little wasp waist, pleasantly vague Stepford smile, flawless makeup and hair have remained virtually unchanged for half a century.  She has access to an unlimited wardrobe, and shoes to match all her outfits.  It’s a safe bet that the Malibu beach house, the dream castle and her other real estate holdings are exempt from foreclosure.  The pink Corvette and Hummer aren’t in danger of being repo’d.

I turned fifty three years old this year too.  My bosom stopped being perky sometime during the 80’s, my waist is more bumblebee-ish, and sometimes I snort when I laugh really hard.  As for makeup and hair…well, let’s just say they’re noticeably low on my priority list.  I’m lucky if I can find shoes that match each other, much less ones that match my outfit.  My farm isn’t in foreclosure and my old truck would scare the peewaddin out of even the most intrepid repo guy, but it’s a struggle to maintain them both.

These observations prompt me to dig through a closet to locate my own vintage Barbie.  What starts out as a quick search and rescue mission lengthens into most of an afternoon, partially due to the overstuffed condition of the closet, but mostly because any sense of haste disappears when I open the first box of keepsakes.  It’s just not possible to sift through the accumulated mementos of a lifetime without lingering over at least some of them.  The mostly pleasant memories associated with this jumbled collection settle on me like a comfortable old sweater as I sit in the closet doorway.  Several dusty boxes later, there it is; that shiny, black vinyl Barbie doll case.  Upon opening the lid, my initially wry, slightly resentful attitude toward Barbie vanishes.  I am six years old again, reunited with a treasured childhood companion.

She has not changed one bit, and neither has the delight I take in her.  I cradle her with hands that have changed from the smooth-skinned ones of a little girl to the work-roughened ones of the woman I have become, but the thrill I feel while rummaging through her accessories is the same one I felt as a child.  I allow myself, for a little while at least, to revisit a much simpler past; to sink below the surface of time, immersed in the warm relaxing waters of my youth.  Annoyances and worries slide away, and I notice that my breathing is deeper and more even, my heart rate slower and steadier.  I promise myself right then and there that I will visit this tranquil place more often.

Eventually I notice that the sunbeams slanting through the windows have dimmed, and I somewhat reluctantly resurface into the present.  Returning slowly into the adult world, still wrapped in the warm fuzziness of nostalgia, I realize that my Barbie and I have at least a few things in common.  We are both classics, perhaps harboring just the tiniest bit of jealousy for those who are younger and hipper.  She and Ken parted ways in 2004, I have blue jeans that have lasted longer than any of my boyfriends, so now neither one of us is guaranteed a date on Saturday night.  (There were rumors that Ken, in the grip of a mid-life crisis, left her for the much younger Skipper, although personally I always suspected Midge was behind it.)  There may be a new romance in her future, depending on the marketing whims of Mattel.  Right now I’d rather have root canal than re-enter the dating scene, but perhaps Fate will manufacture a new boyfriend for me, too (preferably on that is anatomically correct).  We have both held a variety of occupations over the years, although I suspect her jobs have paid much better than mine.  Struggling to rise from the floor, it also occurs to me that neither one of us has fully bendable joints.

Making my way outside to feed the critters, I ponder the differences and similarities between Barbie and myself.  It sure would be nice not to have to worry about money, to dwell in luxurious residences and drive classy vehicles.  How cool would it be to retain the velvety skin and curvaceous figure of youth, with a body that refuses to surrender to the unyielding demands of gravity?  I’m not feeling sorry for myself, exactly, just experiencing a vague sort of wistfulness.

Settling in on my front porch steps to watch the sun set, though, a sense of peaceful resolution is granted.  Surrounded by well-fed, frisky critters as they communicate in muted woofs, meows, quacks and whickers, we watch the brilliant final rays of the evening sun bathe the hills.  The vivid indigo, rose and golden clouds are cast into razor-sharp silhouette against the cerulean twilight sky.  An equally lucid thought comes to me then – I’ve got a darn good life.  There’s my farm, my varmints, and unlike Barbie, more than one lifelong friend, all treasures in their own right.  My job may not pay all that well, but it’s fulfilling and allows me to make a positive difference in the world.  The memories associated with the items in that closet are priceless.  There is so much to be grateful for, even with all the troubles that come along with just being me.  Why in the world am I wasting even a second missing what I don’t have, or mourning the inevitable physical concessions to age?

I chuckle as I explain all this to the critters, but I doubt they comprehend much of it.  What they do appreciate are the skritches behind the ears and smooches on noses as, in a much lighter mood, I head into my own dream house.  Life isn’t perfect, not by a long shot:  sometimes it’s messy, hurtful and exhausting.  Nevertheless, when we open our hearts and our consciousness, become aware of our own flawed beauty, life becomes an experience to relish, not an ordeal to endure.

Living in your own skin, wrinkles and all, trumps being plastic and perfect any day.

Hillbilly Zen – All We Are Is Ducks In The Wind


They came to me as gangly, fuzzy little yellow nuisances.   I didn’t want them – I was only supposed to serve as the chauffeur for the last leg of their journey to new homes.   A friend’s daughter had used them as living props for her photography business during the Easter season, and her father asked me if I would be interested in adopting them.   I told him no thanks, I already had way too many animals and couldn’t take them, but I’d find folks who could.   When you own a farm, you become a sort of clearinghouse for critters, and I knew some people who would give them good homes.

This act of kindness became only slightly less of a logistical nightmare than say, invading Normandy.   It was for the sake of critters, though, and baby critters at that, so there was no way I could refuse to help.   At last the deal was struck; willing owners were found, meeting places mapped out, date and time of the transfers scheduled, pickups and deliveries arranged.

Pimping Poultry

Twelve chicks and twelve ducklings in varying states of hysteria arrived in the back of a mini-van, and were unloaded, unboxed, and doled out to their new families.   They were then re-boxed, reloaded and off they went.   Except, that is, for those last six little ducks, one of who was blind in one eye.   They were riding with me to some friends’ nearby farm.   I would drop them off and my part in the Great Poultry Pass-Off of 2007 would be done.

It was a long drive home.   The poor little things were totally freaked out by this time, and I did my best to soothe them in a calm, quiet, Mr. Rogers voice, telling them that they were going to love their new home and their new owners.   They weren’t buying it, and kept trying to flap out of the box.   This proved quite a challenge to my hand-eye coordination at times, to say the least, but we managed to finally make it to the home stretch.

I called ahead to alert their new owners that we were on the way, only to be told they wouldn’t be home for several hours. By now, some of the ducklings were becoming lethargic, and knowing they hadn’t been fed or watered all day, I worried about the lack of nourishment on such little bodies.   Okay, I thought, we’ll make a pit stop at my house and I’ll give them some food and water, they can rest a little, and I’ll take them on down to my friends’ farm later that evening.

A New Act Joins The Circus

My critters provided their usual exuberant welcome when I got home, the dogs meeting me at the gate like they hadn’t seen me in years, jumping and barking and sniffing and vying for my attention.   Several of the cats typically join the welcoming committee, and Toonces, named after the cat in the old SNL sketch, likes to jump in the truck and ride with me down the driveway.   This usually makes me smile, reminding me how glad I am to be home.   It did this time, too, but it also roused the ducklings to renew their shrill peeping and fluttering escape attempts.   I must have looked like some sort of deranged ringmaster trying to get back into the truck, holding off the dogs and preventing a very persistent cat from jumping into the middle of the box full of baby ducks.  Getting from the truck to the house was equally festive, but at last the ducklings were safe inside.

After laying down plastic and newspapers in the half-bathroom, I tipped the box slightly and the weary little ducklings tumbled onto the floor.  Laughing as I watched them stretch their tiny wings and jostle for position around the water bowl, I wondered what in the world I was going to feed them.  I finally decided to cook them some oatmeal, and after some initial confusion they gobbled it up and promptly fell asleep.  I don’t know if you’ve ever seen sleeping baby ducks, but they should be pictured in the dictionary beside the word “cute”.

I still had every intention of giving the ducklings to my friends.  Really, I did.  Then I noticed that the little half-blind one would cock it’s head and swivel around so it could see me when I spoke, weaving slightly back and forth as it peeped a reply.  It reminded me of Stevie Wonder, so I laughed and crooned “Hey, little Stevie…”  Realizing what I’d just done, I clapped my hand over my mouth in dismay, and anyone who has ever rescued a stray critter knows why – it’s nearly impossible to relinquish an animal once you’ve named him or her.  The ducklings were here to stay.

Duck Therapy

I’ve come to realize that keeping those little varmints was one of the best decisions I ever made.  They are the undisputed comedians of the farm, never failing to make me laugh.  I don’t know where that expression “Like a duck takes to water” came from, but whoever coined it had obviously never tried to teach baby ducks to swim.  Sitting beside their pool has become a favorite way to relax in the summer, watching their aquatic antics and giggling like a fool.

Watching then during a storm is funny too, but there’s a lesson in the laughter.  They take obvious delight in the pandemonium, facing the turbulent wind and driving rain head-on, extending their wings and quacking loudly.  It’s as if they’re daring the storm to defeat them, absorbing the energy and reveling in it.  They take something scary and negative and turn it into a test of will and perseverance.  When it’s all blown over and everyone is accounted for, they congratulate each other with smug little peeps and quacks and go on with their day.

They’ve got the right idea, I think.  Like the old Kansas song says, “…nothin’ lasts forever but the earth and sky.”  In the grand scheme of things, we’re only here for a short time, every moment counts, and those moments slip away quickly.  Face adversity with a fierce resolve to beat it, learn what you can from it, then go splash around in the pool for a while.

I taught my ducks how to swim, but they taught me how to fly.  And now that y’all will be humming that song for the rest of the day, my work here is done.


This site is obviously a work in progress.  New to blogging, brand new to WordPress, I hope to provide quality essays about finding Zen in everyday life.  When my own Zen happens, it’s usually inspired by my critters, or something that happens on the farm I call home.  Thanks for stopping by, and if you are so inclined please leave a comment to tell me what you think about the theme of this site.


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