Living with struggle

August 16, 2007

I thought the day was going to be fairly straight forward, easy and relatively light-hearted. Just use the Subaru to carry fencing material out near the cliff where Glenn, Sally and I would build a protective barrier against the wallabies. The sun was shining, the wind non existent. Perfect. I hadn’t, however, accounted for the soft earth to sink the vehicle down to its axles. Especially a four wheel drive vehicle. Frustrating? Yes. Tiring? Yes. Time consuming? Yes. Ultimately defeating? No.


Every farmer or person who works the land has days like this. Unexpected floods, droughts, mechanical breakdowns or other events that plague the agenda of any day. The struggle is always there.

When struggle comes, as struggle does to every life, it’s never easy to go on. It often seems that not going on at all would be the better thing. The easier thing. The only possible thing. Pressures from outside us, pressures from within, hang heavy on our shoulders, weigh us down, and dampen our hearts. Then the spirit is taxed beyond belief. Then all the pious little nosegays we’ve ever learned turn to sand. Then we begin to question: What is the use of all this pain? What is the purpose of all this struggle?….. And yet we sense that the way we deal with struggle has something to do with the very measure of the self, with the whole issue of what it is to be a spiritual person.

I could go on and talk about the bigger struggles I have with the world or of Tasmanian politics or with my own dark demons. But I also face a form of struggle with every tree planted at Windgrove and how I deal with this struggle is also a lesson in dealing with life’s other struggles.

For the past 17 years an effort is made every August to reforest those areas of land that were stripped clear of vegetation during the time Windgrove’s land was used for sheep grazing. It has never been as easy as in “plant a tree and watch it grow”. It’s been more like: “Let’s put in 500 trees, see how they do and then try to do better”.

Well, this year “doing better” is bringing in 300 metres of chicken wire and 60 two metre long steel “star pickets”. About $1,000 worth. Since 1992 I have been trying to plant out this cliff face with the hope that it would create a windbreak for other trees on its leeward side. The trees when planted — boobyalla and she-oaks — will grow, but the ever hungry wallabies have always outwitted any previous attempt to curtail their access to the young seedlings’ succulent leaves.


Well, with patience and the collective effort of six hands, three brains and four hearts, the car made it out of the mud and the fence got built. My fingers are crossed that this latest defensive effort will work. If not, I figure I still have a few more plans up my sleeve.

The great secret of life is how to survive struggle without succumbing to it, how to bear struggle without being defeated by it, how to come out of great struggle better than when we found ourselves in the midst of it.

The essence of struggle is neither endurance nor denial. The essence of struggle is the decision to become new rather than simply to become older. It is the opportunity to grow either smaller or larger in the process.

All quotes from Joan D. Chittister’s book, Scarred by Struggle, Transformed by Hope

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Jim Matthews March 27, 2012 at 11:57 am

Thanks for continuing to share. I hadn’t checked your site for a while and as always, I’m glad I did. We should/will talk soon. Love, Jim

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