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I’m sitting here in the farmhouse dining room. The sky has just begun to silver with daylight, and I can already feel the humidity of Virginia’s summer in the air. I’m at the bottom of my first cup of coffee, and soon, I’ll head out for what has become a poignant chore – the feeding of our animals.
As I mentioned last week, my family is making a big change in our lives – we are selling our beloved farm. It’s a needed change – one that will allow our family more freedom of travel and a lot more relaxation time and one that will give me more space both in my day and in my heart and head to write. Still, it’s sad.
The Way Dreams Begin
I remember dreaming of this farm in hard, hard days when my first husband had left with our only car, when I was alone in a totally new place in a totally new house in a totally new town. I weeded the tiny front flower beds and did the ones in the neighboring townhouses, too. I planted lettuce in the planters my dad built on my second-story deck. I read Jenna Woginrich’s farm books in the bathtub at night.
But it took me years to get here, to this table. Years of loss and hard work, years of dreaming and planning, and then years of hard, physical work. There was a story I needed to help tell on the land, and I worked diligently to tell it.
The Way Dreams End
Okay, so that’s sort of a false heading. I don’t think dreams really end: I think they morph, they transform, they become new things – often after considerable hardship and struggle. The farm dream is over for us, and while I’m sad that it is, I have no desire to revive it, which is my sign that we have made a good decision. I grieve the loss of this place and especially the loss of our animals (who are all going to wonderful homes, so that tempers my grief), but I don’t want to keep farming.
Some small part of me feels like that means I’m a failure, but that part is really small because I’ve learned through years of a lot of hard things that this voice is a liar. The voice that tells the truth is the one that feels light and hopeful, the one that feels sad but still looks forward to the next day and year and decade.
If the end of dreams – and I’ve had many: a marriage, a job as an English professor, work as a missionary in New York City – teaches me anything it’s this – those dreams and the work to live them become part of the larger story of a life. And since I tell the story of life on paper, they become part of my writing. Always.
New Stories to Tell and New Dreams to Dream
I have books to write – more books on the history of enslaved communities, more magical realism novels, more writing books. I have so many stories to read for clients, clients I have the privilege of helping to hone and shape their own words into their dreams. I have so many writers to talk with and coach and walk beside on their journeys. Now, I will have more space to do that well.
One of the hardest – and maybe the most rewarding – parts of the writer’s life is that we have to give up things in order to give ourselves the gift of our words. In a culture that values busyness and ostentatious achievement, it often requires sacrifice for us to do our work because our work requires space – to breath, to imagine, and to dream – and is often very quiet, very subtle work. We have to be counter-cultural in many ways to write. That’s a hard but very beautiful thing.
Friends, I so hope you can find your way to the sacrifices your writing needs because I know in the truest part of my self, we need your stories. We really do.