I’m not always the most practical person in the world. For much of my life, up until now, I’ve flown by the seat of my pants. I used to make decisions on the fly, not spending much time considering whether whatever I was thinking of doing was a good idea or not. I think it‘s safe to say I’ve romanticized things quite a bit; probably too much. Then again, for the longest time, I don’t think I surrounded myself with people who thought in other way. It’s made for an interesting, if at times chaotic, life.
With this in mind, I guess it would be no surprise that over the years I’ve often had thoughts — maybe a tad romantic and unrealistic — of running away. That is, running away to some idyllic picture conjured up in my head. The thoughts have come in many forms, from dreaming of moving to New York (I did) to dreaming of catching a flight to a war zone with a few changes of clothes and some film and cameras (I did, three times) to dreaming of settling down in a small town somewhere and teaching (I have not done this). Well, the idea has always been the important thing, the dream, I guess.
When I first started working in earnest for publications, it was always on the digital side. It’s not something I dreamed of doing so much as that is where I sort of fit in. A few years ago, working in Seattle, I was fully immersed in such a job. I was so caught up in catchy headlines, metrics and click-through rates that one day, a book title caught my eye. It was Jaron Lanier’s “You Are Not a Gadget.” It was kind of an eye-opener for many reasons that I won’t go into here. I’ll just say that it sparked yet another impulse in me — to get away from all of the fast-paced things that make up the “rat race.”
I started to think how wonderful it would be to get away and start living a slower life. Well, that hasn’t really happened, but the thought is still there, lodged somewhere deep in my brain. Sometimes I come across work that reminds me that it’s still there. This is how I felt when I saw photographer Ondrej Cechvala’s submission to In Sight. His black and white images of two men living in a bucolic setting, tending to their farm and their animals, were a balm to me.
Cechvala’s story, “I live a beautiful life!,” introduces us to Marek and Lojza, who have left their hometowns for an old farm in the north of Slovakia, where Marek’s grandmother lived. Cechvala told me in an email that Marek and Lojza’s decision was driven by the fact that they became tired of modern life, with its politics and ecological issues. So they headed out of town, intent on living a simpler life on a small farm.
When I look at this group of photos, I am transported to those thoughts that sometimes come to me — the idea of getting away from it all. And although my thoughts are pure fantasy, Cechvala’s photos of Lojza and Marek are a reminder that getting away and living a simpler life is not fantasy, but real work that takes real commitment.
As Cechvala says:
“They revived the old meadows, brought goats to them, repaired the house, and brought geese and chickens to the yard. It wasn’t an easy way, they have been studying everything from the beginning. However, their ambition isn’t to create a large farm. They came here mainly to fulfill the ideals and their idea of a free life.
“In their world, sustainability and respect for nature are the highest priorities. Those men live their lives in solitude and in a very modest way, however they are neither lonely nor poor. They found happiness in the company of animals, in the silence of mountains as well as in everyday work.”
I’m reminded of an old cliche as I reflect on these photos and on Marek’s and Lojza’s lives. Maybe it’s more fantasy for me, maybe not. But the words that come rising up are, “Nothing worth doing is very easy.” As idyllic as their lives look at first glance, I know that’s surely not the case. There’s that other cliche that goes something like this: “The grass is always greener …” Whatever form life takes, there will certainly be challenges, obstacles, failure and, hopefully, victories. C’est la vie!
In Sight is The Washington Post’s photography blog for visual narrative. This platform showcases compelling and diverse imagery from staff members and freelance photographers, news agencies and archives. If you are interested in submitting a story to In Sight, please complete this form.