Since our house sits right next to a large pond, you can imagine that we get a variety of water foul around here. We have our regulars, the cormorant and the Canadian geese, but then we also encounter a variety of duck who come and go, as well as the occasional egret and even once, and osprey.
These are our most recent visitors, not as skittish as most others, who enjoyed the day eating at the “human’s side” of the water.
“Spent hours in the sun in the garden plot, clearing out the what-ifs, if-onlys, weeds & tomato stakes of 2011 – reviewing the waste of seed, space, energy & time… After last year’s great garden failure, I didn’t know if I’d be trying again. But I will. Why? Because in the end, I need that time in the sun in the garden plot.”
Since I hope to revive my blogging by writing about our garden this year, I suppose the above recent facebook post is a good a way to start as any. I finished the garden season last year defeated, with no harvest to speak of since spring leaf lettuce, and minimal amounts of canning done only due to the generosity of other successful gardeners.
I can sincerely say that our third-year garden, for which I had the highest hopes, was a complete waste from the moment the leaf lettuce bolted. Saddled with a fledgling business, Frank’s ailing father, an early spring break away for me to help my mother — all could have been worked around , maybe.
Then came the wind storm. It flattened tomato stakes and bean poles. During the repair work, we discovered another problem, one which we did not diagnose soon enough — stink bugs.
Within a small amount of time, the battle was lost. The new rototiller sat quiet, beneath a wash tub cover. In August, Frank’s father’s health took a down turn, and by September when he died, we had long given up on the garden. If there ever were any edible peppers among the tall grasses, the deer ate them.
I often found my groove in the garden in my past years, but not last year. Heading into this past winter, I had no thoughts or desires for a garden. Time previously spent canning or drying and saving seed for the future was time spent — with other thoughts. Past dreams to be a regular vendor at the farmer’s market were quiet and faded, seed trays and gardening tools were tossed haphazardly into the outbuilding some time in late November before the holidays.
But in January, the days were unseasonably warm, and when the seed catalog came, I half-heartedly paged through. But it sparked….. something. And the next unseasonably warm day, when I went out to feed the hens, I wandered on inside the garden’s fence. Tomato stakes teetered askew, mammoth sunflower stalks bent over, picked empty by the local birds. Tall grasses had flourished and gone to seed, fallen over under snow, and now matted the entire garden floor.
It was a sorry, sorry sight.
And while Daisy sniffed among the matted grass for ground moles and field mice, I began clearing stakes and strings and cages. While I hope to have a great garden and grand harvest this year, as we have known in the past, I have also come to realize — a gardener gardens to garden. We do it to dig in the soil, to smell the earth, to soak the sun, to work our muscles, to clear our minds.
The harvest is not the only reward.
Life has been a handful lately, and it doesn’t show signs of letting up any time soon.
More than two years ago, Frank stepped up to help his father through some health issues. Of course you expect improvement, but sometimes it seems it’s one thing after another. Complications, reactions to medication, tests, follow-up tests, appointments, follow-up appointments, therapists… And then of course there’s the paperwork that comes with each and every little thing. You look for every step to get you moving uphill, but in many cases it’s more like a roller coaster — up, down and sideways.
In the meantime, readership of the magazine just keeps growing. We became the largest independent publication in the state without even knowing it. We simply kept trying to meet reader demand with the budget available from our advertisers. As the magazine grows, it needs more of our attention, but right now, our attention is often elsewhere.
It’s all been very challenging, to say the least.
The world of health care and elderly services is daunting and frustrating.What is covered, what isn’t. What is necessary, what isn’t. What’s been considered, what hasn’t. What meds have been taken, what needs to be taken. What’s the symptom, what’s the cause. Many days the question simply stands at, “What now?”
And delivery — even with school letting out and gas prices dipping a little — is always a challenge. It takes six days to get each issue delivered, (rain, hail, sleet, snow, flood, etc.) and it seems as though there’s a crisis of some sort around here every four days or so. Funerals, flat tires, the flu — just to name a few.
This week we missed a day of delivery waiting for a stool sample. That should explain the ebb and flow of our lives right now.
I don’t share this information to say, “Woe is me.” I share it to explain:
We’re not currently at our business best.
If you call and get our answering machine, please leave a message. We could be as close as the garden or hay field (if the sun is shining), or as far as Morgantown Medical Center or a clinic outside Columbus, Ohio.
If I don’t return your call or e-mail quickly, or seem a little distracted or rushed when I do, please don’t consider it my typical behavior. It is possible that a day or two might pass before I get to even catch up on phone messages, and I might not check my email until 11 pm.
If you miss seeing us on delivery and tire of finding bundled copies have been left on your doorstop in the night, please don’t think Frank and I are avoiding you. We enjoy visiting with our friends on delivery routes, but it takes less time and less gas to deliver them in the middle of the night than in the traffic of the day.
If you are wanting to pitch a new column, request my help or services on a project, or ask me to volunteer, or research or direct my attention to something new — forgive me if I cringe or duck and run for cover. Now just is not a good time. (Please check back later.)
We’re juggling at maximum capacity, and though we’d love to do more, deliver more, add more, sell more, post more, market more, network more, serve more, reach more, harvest more — right now we’re focused on what we have at hand -
Family, home, garden, clients.
And with that, we’ve got our hands full.
“God is more interested in your character than your comfort; God is more interested in making your life holy than He is in making your life happy. We can be reasonably happy here on earth, but that’s not the goal of life. The goal is to grow in character.”
Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life
When I was in my twenties, my birthday was a great reason to go out and party. In my thirties, I spent birthdays thinking, “I thought I’d be somewhere bigger doing something better by now.” Now that I am in my early forties, I see in hindsight every poor decision and mistake that kept me from bigger, better things — and I’m not sure that’s what I want any more anyway.
I’ve spent much of my life at a desk. Other than my early years as a waitress or barkeep, my mind has been occupied by some assignment or project at a desk. These work tasks kept my mind occupied, even after work hours. For all my life, it seems that my brain was focused on something external.
This two-lane farm and garden lifestyle, as busy as it is, involves more manual tasks. Tasks that hands can learn to do themselves, without the direct attention of the mind. The brain is allowed to roam according to its own will, skipping and wandering through a lifetime of memories, situations and plans that haven’t followed through.
Such time with your own mind, facing yourself, can be rather disconcerting. Things easily overlooked when you are in a hurry through life appear with sharp clarity. When you focus solely on a goal ahead, there are so many details we don’t or won’t see.
The Rick Warren quote above was part of a recent email forward I received from my mom. I found it to be an affirmation and a challenge.
It seems my life has been spent on the road less traveled. I don’t see that it was ever a conscious choice though. It feels more like I was never able to merge into the traffic flying along the four-lane beaten path. Every time I tried, even if I made it, I was quickly bumped off at the next nearest exit.
In fact, so many decisions in my life were fueled by a desire to get on the beaten path, or prove I was road-worthy enough to travel the beaten path. Who wouldn’t prefer a smooth paved path without pot holes and road blocks and clear signage?
It would be more comfortable than this two-lane life I have come to live, I’m sure.
But God is more interested in my character than my comfort. In my life, this has surely been apparent.
I feel I have an abundance of character. Those who travel the beaten path of the interstate only see a blurred vision of the world they travel through. I, on the other hand, have traveled winding paths, traversed through deep dark hollows, and on occasion, have been moved by the sight of a heart-stopping majestic view. I have often said my life has been a roller coaster. Sometimes you feel breath taking joy, sometimes you hold on for dear life, and sometimes, you just want to throw up.
I think it’s time to give up my attempts to merge onto the beaten path. As a car, I’m now a classic, and I feel like I’m stuck in 4-wheel drive anyway. I’ve spent all my life thinking if I could just merge onto the beaten path, I’d be happy.
But now I see, I have too great a taste for off-road travel to speed along a straight line any more. I have denied myself happiness because I have never given up my attempts to merge and be accepted on that well-beaten path.
These past few years of increased manual labor has left my mind to wander through the memories that built my character. To be honest – I’ve had enough character building — thank you very much.
But these past three years of increased manual labor have allowed my mind to wander through those character-developing memories, and I see that in my search for happiness, I have not developed holiness.
Holiness comes from sacrifice. From service to others. From selflessness, generosity, empathy, love. And while I have experienced all these things in life, they were not a main focus of it. They were not priorities. My priority was to merge onto the beaten path so I could be comfortable and happy.
And yet, as a result of our decision to change to a two-lane life style, we’ve had greater opportunity for sacrifice and service. We’ve had more options for selflessness, empathy, friendship, and more time to realize that these things, though not exactly comfortable, are the paths to joy and happiness.
This lifestyle of self-reliance isn’t always comfortable, and it certainly isn’t for everyone. But, this year, I find myself no longer regretting the time I’ve wasted in the past. I’ve nearly lost the urge to merge. I’ve found my own place and purpose, and there is so much to do.
Originally Published April 12, 2007
I recently read an article about how couples who have been married a long time develop “shared memory.” The concept of shared memory is that topics that one member of the couple can’t easily remember or understand – becomes stored within the other half of the couple’s brain.
For example, I have a hard time remembering local roads or family names in our neighborhoods. Thus, I depend directly on Frank’s memory to remind me of the information whenever I need it. I know the information I need to access is stored in his mind, and not mine.
In turn, Frank depends on my memory to remind him of appointments, birthdays and due dates.
Sometimes, I feel that members of the community depend on me to remind them of information they should be storing–the details of legal ins and outs, the decisions made in past meetings, and the ways to research and access public records.
There are times when I feel some folks have gotten dependent on me storing the information, which, I feel, everyone should know and understand.
At first, I felt flattered that folks knew they could depend on me to maintain this information. I felt important to know that I knew something others needed to know.
After repeatedly giving the information, and realizing that no one seems to be moving the information from my storage area to his or her own storage area, it is beginning to feel like a burden.
Sure, as I have covered topics and news in the region, I have learned emergency escape routes, flood preparedness measures, proper meeting procedure, Sunshine Laws, and so many other things. I have not, however, kept this information to myself. I have shared the information with readers and interested people with whom I have spoken.
I have tried to share the knowledge I have with others. In other words, I thought I passed the ball.
The next thing you know, someone is asking me to repeat the information, or checks with me to make sure things are being done in an appropriate manner. I realize then that the ball is still in my hands.
All the background information I work with to cover events and meetings–the information I work with to write articles–is public information. The information is open to all the world, and not just me.
With the Internet, library, courthouse documents and all those in public service who are there to help, no one should ever be dependent on me to advise them in matters. No citizens should ever be dependent on anyone to make their decisions for them, dependent on others to know what’s best.
It is up to every resident and citizen to know public policy, for their own safety and for the welfare of their family and community. It is the responsibility of every person to be informed and knowledgeable of the issues that affect the well-being of the public.
If you have a question about courts, call the clerk for that court. If you have a question about government, check the state code books in the courthouse, or ask your elected officials. If you have a question about a specific topic, ask the librarian to direct you to information, or visit www.askjeeves.com on the Internet. If you have a legal question, call a lawyer.
Because I’m beginning to fill like my storage space is full.