I harness the mundane and fell ridiculously in love with it. – Jenna Wonginrich in Cold Antler Farm
This morning, as I left the chicken run, I glanced over my right shoulder, past the hollyhocks now going to seed and draping like beaded curtains by the run door, and the garden pulsed before me. The vines have swum into waves of undulating greenness, their yellow flowers that color we call “goldenrod” but is actually more about sunshine and fire than a tiny-blossomed flower.
The tomatoes are barely standing, the weight of rusty, reclaimed fencing their only support under the heft of so much fruit. And the onions, those blessed shoots I planted in April, they are finally pushing juice into themselves, growing, preparing to winter over, content to take a year to develop.
All of this is daily, here, quiet. It will go unseen, unappreciated if I do not see it. This is nature, verdant, wild, almost invisible because of its omnipresence.
I am reading Jenna Woginrich’s new book Cold Antler Farm, and I am in love – with her, with her farm, and with her words – again. Jenna is the woman who put language to my dreams, and today, I read back over my review of her first book Made from Scratch, and I see it – the way this dream has been there – thriving all along, almost unseen unless I was looking.
As I read Jenna’s words now, I feel differently – living a life parallel to hers in many ways – than I did when I first discovered her work. Then, I was aching, reaching for what she had. Now, I’m building, learning, taking practical tips from what she says. It’s a deeper kinship now and no less awe-inspiring.
Last night, as we dropped into bed after a good, hard day, I read these words from Cold Antler Farm to Philip:
if I won the lottery or came into any amount of money I would work harder than I ever had in my life. I would pay off my debts, buy a larger plot of land, and teach people how to farm and raise their own food. I’d make music and bring old words and old songs back to life. I would shape my farm into a place where you could go back in time and be surrounded by people who wanted to be there with you. I would grow food for anyone who wanted it for free. I could wrangle volunteers to take it to inner cities and food deserts where good veggies are hard to come by. I’d offer it to food banks, or anyone who wanted to drive up to the farm and take some. . . . Living for yourself is good. Living for yourself and feeling free is great. Living for others is better.
So yeah, well, Jenna is still helping me dream for this place.
More than anything I take from farming and from good writing this fact – the good life is antithetical to the hurried, busy life. Great writing does not come quickly – although the words can pour forth with the force of a waterfall. Good writing takes introspection and revision and more revision still, just as a garden requires more than just planting the seeds – weeding, fertilizing, weeding and more wedding – before harvest is even possible.
Farming – gardening even – may not be the path you have chosen. Writing may not be either. You may live in the heart of a major city with space for two pots (may I recommend basil and sage?), and you may work with women whose lives and bodies have been battered to the point that all that most people see is bruises. You may spend your hours writing lesson plans and coaching children to count to 15, or perhaps you tuck your head among the cleaning products under people’s sinks as you tighten a loose elbow joint.
No matter how you make your living and build your life, here is what Jenna first taught me and what I see every day on this farm – goodness does not come with rushing, with fretting, with pushing so hard to just “get er done.” No, goodness – wholeness, beauty, breath – those things come in the slow moments when we choose to do a job well and completely, when we stop and see while we do. It is in those places – where the squash blossoms burn our retinas with their sun-blazed beauty – that life is really lived.
What do you hurry through in your days? What are you just trying to “get done” so that you can move on? What might happen if you simply slowed down to see?
If you don’t know Jenna’s blog for Cold Antler Farm, I highly recommend you check it out – http://coldantlerfarm.blogspot.com/