I was patiently waiting with my left turn signal for the oncoming car to go by when it suddenly turned left in front of me without using a turn signal. It was a police officer. I found myself extra grumbly about it because I hold those who preach, enforce, etc. something to a higher standard than the rest of us. So as an enforcer of the law, I expect police officers to abide by all traffic laws. I expect preachers of religion to uphold all tenets of that religion, etc.
And then I thought about myself. Probably as an organic farmer, I should strictly eat organic healthy food (insert sheepish grin here), but in reality, I am a Saturday 5am regular at the local Hardees. I mean really, they know me and know what I’m going to order. Saturdays are a whirlwind, with the 3:45am alarm and loading for three markets and driving an hour and 15 minutes and setting up and running market and there’s no time to cook breakfast or eat anything until about 3 pm, so Hardees (the only thing open at 4:30am) to the rescue. It’s how I keep going. But look at me, justifying my less than healthy choices like a regular ole’ human being.
And as it turns out, police officers and preachers and ilk are regular ole’ human beings too. So even though it took nearly 50 years for me to figure this out, I think I’ll start cutting everyone a little bit more slack. Lest my own hypocrisy be highlighted.
This is tomorrow’s joy. When you spend every Sunday playing, it’s difficult to get all the Sunday things done. Sometimes, a little catch up is necessary. Or at least useful.
I steal a Monday evening to vacuum and clean the bathroom and fold the laundry and finish putting away all the Sunday playthings. I’m just scrubbing away when I realize: this is tomorrow’s joy. Tomorrow, when I get in the shower confident that I’m going to emerge cleaner than when I went in. And when I can walk barefoot in the house without stopping to wipe my feet off every few steps. And when I open the drawer, I find clean clothes.
There is joy in the drudgery of housework, but I’m confident that if it happened more frequently, I would learn to take it for granted. So for now, I’ll continue to steal Sundays for play.
I took a nap yesterday. A nap! It’s been years since I’ve taken an actual nap. We ditched our plans to head to the whitewater center and had a lazy Sunday instead. Because, as it turns out, living life to the fullest on Sundays leads to continuous scheduled fun which, as it turns out, can also lead to exhaustion. So, every once in a while, (as it turns out), we need to stop and recharge our fun batteries. To let our minds wander, to practice idling.
You’d be surprised how difficult it is not to accomplish something. I mean, “have fun” is an agenda item in our lives. And so, if we’re not doing that, then we need to do something else on our list! Clean, preserve food, mow, etcetera ad infinitem. It takes a sheer force of will to idle. To just rest. To be.
It’s not habit alone that we must overcome, there’s also the guilt. The “I shoulds”. One of my favorite phrases, I think coined by Glennon Doyle, but maybe by Abby Wambach, is: “be careful not to should all over yourself!” Ha! It’s surely a cultural problem. The whole “Idle hands are the devil’s playthings” mindset. Who came up with that anyway?
The ‘shoulds’ and habit and culture all gang up on us to keep us in gear and the clutch is burnt out from fighting them. But Sunday we prevailed. We repaired the clutch. We disengaged. We took a nap.
My costume suitcase (doesn’t everyone have one?) is overflowing with delights. I opened it up yesterday to search for last year’s snake skin leggings from our WWE costumes and out tumbled some “jorts” (I just learned that word) and jean jacket from several year’s ago 80s costume. My mind skittered back to that rather epic Halloween party and my cheeks began their daily delight work out.
I’m not going to go as far as to say that costume gatherings are going to save the world or bring about world peace, but I do assert that costumes can up the joy ante just about anywhere. And this is why:
Costumes embrace our inner child, our inner silly (which we all have somewhere in there, believe it or not). Costumes free our spirits, and let down our inhibitions. It’s as if in wearing a costume, we become something other than ourselves and thus, free ourselves from self-consciousness. It’s intoxicating without the chemical intoxicant. It is through this that costumes increase the fun factor and deliver laughter in larger doses, both in the costume wearer and those around them. Yes, while the more costumers the merrier, the effect spreads to those around just one intrepid costume-wearer.
Several years ago, my friend and I were attending an event filled with awkward self-consciousness and nervousness. Just one man showed up in a batman costume and we were all suddenly free. The whole room lightened a bit and nervous laughter morphed into joyous laughter. Batman eventually dismissed himself but I’ve never forgotten the effect.
And so, yesterday my team showed up in full embrace of the silly to the (5th? 6th?) annual Farm Olympics. And I will yet again avow that the fun factor was increased 10-fold because of the “Tumbling Shoals Toots” Farm Olympic team. And now, to begin work on my Halloween costume.
Of the few things that are under my control, my reactions are supposedly one of them. I say “supposedly” because it turns out to be excruciatingly difficult to control said reactions. There’s a reaction reflex- and 47 years or so of reenforcing that reflex reaction-to overcome. It’s just not an easy thing and I don’t always (or often) succeed. So this year I’ve tried to implement a new reflex reaction question. I try to reflexively ask myself “is it a crisis or an annoyance?”. It gives me just a second longer to think about what is happening, to consider it, to classify it, so to speak. If it’s simply an annoyance, I should just let it go. It’s not important, I don’t need to “worry my pretty little head about it”. If it’s a crisis, then I should make a plan to deal with it.
If I manage to give myself that extra moment, it works pretty well. Turns out, there just aren’t that many crises in my life! This is a surprising thing to discover in my 40s. If you would have asked me in my 20s, I surely would have felt otherwise. I was a feisty little ball of reflex reaction bouncing back and forth between crises. Yet another reason to not envy the young!
I got to practice this in the extreme Sunday while standing in the middle of the literal flood. Literal floods can sure feel like a crisis, and my reflex reaction-had I let it consume me-would have been to start looking for jobs and canceling the rest of the season to be sure. But this is the third time in 16 years that we’ve had severe flooding, and I think I finally know better.
So we poked around a bit, counting on the fact that historically (the other two floods) the flood waters recede quickly and that it’s going to look worse in the moment of the flood than the actual damage.
There would be damage and loss, to be sure, but there was no need to panic (is there ever an actual need to panic??), that we would need to make a recovery plan in the morning, but that there was nothing we could do in the immediate moment. A bit more than an annoyance I can just let go, but not quite all the way on the spectrum to be classified as a full-blown crisis. Somewhere in the middle. A reasonable adversity.
I find it no small coincidence that various meanings of the word “practice” are constructed from the same root. We “practice” yoga. We “practice” religion. We “practice” medicine. We “practice” meditation. Et cetera ad infinitum. Because, when you get down to the core of it, we are just practicing living, aren’t we? We learn and grow from experience and mistakes, and then do it again, but (hopefully) better. Everything is practice.
It's hard to believe somedays that we have been practicing farming here on this land for 16 years. There are so many moving parts to running an organic market farm. The inner workings of so many moving parts often reside only in our heads after 16 years of practice. They’re so embedded there that we don’t even realize they’re there until we decide to leave in the middle of the season and we’re trying to prepare the farmily for our absence.
This is the first time we’ve ever left the farm in July and it felt monumental. I might need more practice in taking vacation in July, but the farmily, of course, handled everything beautifully while Jason and I got away to practice our hobby (which, of course, needs more practice).
I used to be indifferent to Canadian Geese. Most-or at least many-people detest what said people might call the nasty things. I get it, I do. They make a mess, have been known to be a bit on the aggressive side, and just don’t come across as majestic in the same way, say, a heron or egret does. But now, Canadian Geese bring me much delight.
And this is why: my mother counts herself among the people who detest those nasty things. My parents live along a creek where some Canadian Geese might be inclined to congregate. Don’t take this wrong—there is plenty of space elsewhere along this creek for the geese to gather and make their noisy messes—it is, perhaps, just in the nature of geese to choose places they’re most unwanted (I wouldn’t put it past the nasty things). She told me a story where she was sort of chasing a goose away from their yard and it kept attempting to return a little further up from where she was, but still in their yard. She was animated whilst telling me how she scolded the goose “Oh don’t you dare!”
And so, every time I see a Canadian Goose, I am filled with delight at the image (movie? GIF?) that my imagination conjures of my mother marching, red faced (I did mention this is entirely the conjuring of my imagination, right?), pointing her finger at a goose and scolding it in plain English as if it were a toddler. I even gave my mother some rubber boots (that I’m pretty sure she doesn’t own) to complete this picture. It’s an adorable image (I’m so proud of my imagination!) and thus, brings me delight.
Part of this delight comes from the fact that I worry, sometimes, about my imagination. With the advent of smart phones, and social media, YouTube, et al, I worry that my imagination doesn’t get enough use. That it is shrinking in that “use it or lose it” sort of way. But this movie—very loosely based on a true story—that appears automatically every time I see a Canadian Goose, is proof that there is still some life left in this old imagination.
We love to hate meteorologists. We say, “it’s the only job where you can be wrong 75% of the time and still keep your job”. But our minds are primed to remember the negative, and I doubt those numbers are accurate. Would Brad Panovich have such a following if he really was wrong 75% of the time? (are you a fanovich?) One of the things I love about Brad Panovich (besides his ample communication and explanations of weather happenings), is that he owns it when he gets it wrong. And explains why. However, I’m not here today to fangirl over one particular meteorologist.
I’m here today to say: I’ve never been more impressed with the weather predictions than I was yesterday. We (a group of lazy river enthusiasts) try to lazy float in tubes down one of our local rivers once a month each summer. We missed June because June didn’t June like it normally Junes and 3 hours with butts in the river at this year’s June temps was just going to be unpleasant. And this was my only available Sunday in July. So admittedly, part of my sudden meteorologist trust was born of a desperation to dwell in the laughter and ease that is a lazy tube float.
But the prediction was: storms, some of them nasty, in the a.m., clearing between noon and 1p.m. (our usual put-in time) with temperatures in the low to mid 80s (pretty perfect float weather), then clouding up again in the evening with a few scattered thunderstorms.
It looked nasty in the morning. There were some skeptics, but most of us hung on as I did my best to spread my (sudden? Newfound?) trust in the meteorologists. We left the farm- tubes, sunscreen and hats in hand-under cloudy cool conditions, but we trusted. And sure enough, just as we sat down in our tubes in the river, the clouds dissipated revealing a generous sun which lingered with us as we eased carefree down the river, bathed in the joy of just being and just being together.
When you’re with yourself every step of the way, it’s difficult to gauge how far you’ve come. Sometimes it takes some outside perspective to highlight the trail you’ve bushwacked to get to where you are. Sometimes, it takes a student tour to put it into perspective.
I’ve never turned down a farm tour and perhaps, this is why. We can tend to forget how ignorant we were when we jumped into this whole farming thing (some of you have been with us since then and can attest to this!), and how much we have learned since then. I remember looking at pictures of the farm from circa 2012 on my mother’s laptop and being horrified. “We’ve got to update those!” I cried, “it looks so much better now!”
Looks aren’t everything, to be sure. And we are still not a weed-free farm. But we’ve learned to manage weeds at critical times and let them go at less important times when our labor is better spent elsewhere. In fact, we’ve learned to manage.
And so, as I’m walking around talking to the App-State Ecological pest management class, I find myself not only explaining our current pest management techniques, but our evolution—our learning process in developing those techniques, and suddenly it’s like I’m standing outside myself looking at the path we’ve bushwhacked to get to where we are. It’s a rare treat to look at your own path like this—a little injection of pride that you survived your own ignorance and used lessons learned to improve.
We’re still on that path. Still making mistakes and learning from them. And looking forward, we’ve got a long way to go (I know, there is no end to the path of learning, no actual destination). But sometimes, it’s encouraging to look back at the past, cringe, and be proud that you made it this far. Sometimes, it’s good to host a student tour.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.