Month: January 2018

The Greatest Things

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“Great Things are done by a series of small things being brought together”

-Vincent VanGogh

As we inch our way into 2018 we have found ourselves commiserating about all of the things that we did not accomplish in 2017.  The gardens weren’t well tended and yields were low, we didn’t have any goslings in the spring, the duck eggs we bought to hatch and raise were eaten by a raccoon, we haven’t completed the renovation project that we thought would be done at the end of October, we still don’t have a farm plan, we haven’t planted any fruit trees, we have not started our forest garden, there are many odd jobs that need to be done around the farm, and so on.  Really, the list could go on for days.  There is an infinite list of things that we can not accomplish.

The trouble is, this laundry listing of all that has not been done is not fruitful.  It doesn’t honour all that has been done, never mind the effort used to accomplish life, failure or not.  Looking at our shortfalls doesn’t help to energize us or empower us toward future goals.  It takes the wind out of our sails, leaving us feeling defeated, and so we will be.

This realization comes along with a deeper truth, that having a set of defined goals can be troublesome. In 2017 we grew more than we could have ever dreamed but in ways we could not have predicted that directed us away from our ‘goals.’  When you have a goal in mind and fail to meet it, it makes you feel like a failure.  This is outcomes based thinking, and our culture thrives on it!  We have decided to approach the coming year on the farm with a vision for how it could be rather than with a list of goals.  We are keeping an openness to the growth and learning that needs to take place and therefore remain open to what naturally presents itself.

It’s time for us to cultivate more of what we do want in our life.  As Bill Mollison says,  “You don’t have a snail problem, you have a duck deficiency!”    If we can allow our problems to define the pathway to creative solutions and growth then we will be on the right path.  Not to mention life seems to have a way of forcing us into small, slow solutions.

In the spirit of cultivating more of what we desire in our lives, we have started to dream about our coming year.  We asked ourselves and our children a few questions, like, “What would you like to do this year?  What would you like to learn this year?  What do you want to grow this year? ”  So far our list looks something like this:

Rob – plant an apple tree collection, transplant potted perennials into the earth, establish windbreaks, move the nut trees out of the garden plot, learn to draw comics

Julie – take forest school certification, make writing part of my weekly rhythm, grow an abundance of raspberries, gooseberries and french beans, appreciate my gifts, practice self-care regularly, raise turkeys

Oldest (7) – learn to write, buy a peahen and start a peacock business, plant lots of raspberries, buy all the Lego Star Wars sets, make a feature length film

Middle (5) – learn to play the ukulele, plant blueberries, learn to read and write, learn how to keep left and right straight in your mind, more playdates with friends, take a family vacation

Youngest (3) – learn to cook, learn my ABCs, grow corn and carrots, raise snorty pigs

Even if we complete one thing on the list, that is a success.  Dreaming it alone is a success because being together through the journey is the real definition of success for me.  Honouring the efforts of our loved ones and ourselves is reward enough. Some list of things checked off  becomes meaningless if we’ve taken the successes for granted.  The trouble is, when we forget to celebrate our successes, we’re left with a void.  Perhaps one that culture at large hopes to be filled with ‘things’ give our consumerist driven ideals.

As we have turned our negative outlook around, beginning to look at all we have accomplished this year instead, we have been astounded at the list.  This past year has brought major life shifts and yet we have accomplished a whole awful lot!  We have geese!  We now have a brood of Australorp hens and one beauty of a rooster named Grandfather Featherlegs!  We have a freezer full of ducks and chickens from our own land!  We doubled our garden space this year!  We are still eating fermented salsa verde from the fall!  We have a freezer stocked with tomatoes and tomatillos waiting to be processed!  We have bags of popcorn in the cupboard that we grew!  We have a stock pile of saurkraut!  We are getting close to finishing our renovation project and our friends will be moving in soon!  Rob no longer has a day job!  I have a full time job so we don’t need to worry about money!  And so on…really once I get on a roll, it’s hard to stop!  All the little moments, choices and efforts add up to a pretty meaningful year of accomplishments.  Bringing forth into the light the abundance that we experience, again and again, will help to retrain our brains.  We need to break free from the oppressive thoughts of scarcity.  It is the fear of not having enough that keeps us from recognizing all of the ways that we do.  If we keep honouring the many ways we have enough, and in fact live in abundance, then I’m hoping one day we will find we are free from self-sabotage.  Let us create a vision, but respond to change.

“Collect the moments one by one, I guess that’s how the future’s done.”

-Feist, Mushaboom

So let’s celebrate what we have done, and stop worrying about the relentless ‘to do’ list.  Because we have purpose.  Because we have drive.  Because we have vision.  We can trust that what actually needs to get accomplished will be done.  What drives our actions is the passion we have for our vision.  So vision with us…let’s make this world a better place!  What visions do you hold for 2018?

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Forced Growth

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A whole lot has happened in our lives over the past year, and in the last 6 months in particular.  It is impossible to imagine the day you get a phone call from your vacationing father telling you that your mother has been hit by a car while cycling.  Nothing can prepare you.  The journey has been long and difficult with relentless complexity.  Our lives have become exponentially more full…we now have more to do than we ever thought possible.  But our expansion has also filled us with a deep appreciation of every moment we have together.  My mother’s view of life from her electric wheelchair is certainly different than before her accident, but she continues to inspire us all with her determination and positive attitude.

To complicate our lives further, a couple of months ago I was offered an increase in my teaching contract to a full time position.  Out of necessity, I now teach other people’s children all day.  My husband left his job at the beginning of September, which was set in motion before my mother’s accident in May.  He is now the official homeschooler.  We are making it work, although I miss educating my own children.  In fact, I just plain miss time with them.  I feel amiss in prioritizing my commitment to our family.

Somehow when you need to, you expand.  Every time I have felt that growth was not possible, it became possible.  When I question my path, the reasons for me to ‘show up’ appear in abundance.  Sometimes we just don’t have a choice but to be present for what we’re being called to do.  Instead of being able to opt in or out, I get to choose how to navigate my circumstances.  How to be within the throws of a nightmare.

“Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation. You cannot control what happens to you in life, but you can always control what you will feel and do about what happens to you.”  
― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
 I had a vision for how our life would be when we moved to the farm.  How we would grow in spaciousness and increase our resiliency.  What I didn’t want to believe was that my vision was fantasy.  This year has brought me the growth in resiliency I sought, but definitely not in the pleasant spacious way I had planned it in my visioning.  Growth has been a byproduct of difficulty and suffering.
When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.
― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
For all that has happened, I am now changed.  Goals for the farm remain nearly untouched.  My work and home life balance needs to be addressed.  Connection with my children is an ongoing challenge.  My health hasn’t been great as a result of lifelong autoimmune issues.  Supporting my parents through the development of a new way of life can’t always get first billing either, leaving guilt to fill the rest of that page.  There just doesn’t seem to be enough time.  So I have found myself calculating the costs and benefits of what takes up the hours of my day.  What can I let go of so that I have space to rekindle the parts of my life that I desire?  How to I carve out enough space to feel alive…to thrive.
During this past season of my life I have been forced through a very narrow passageway.  The reality is that many of the things that fill my life space are obligations – some of which I love, but obligatory none the less.  I have hope that soon I will emerge from the constriction of this birth canal, changed, new, and ready for a period of rapid growth.  I still hold my vision for a beautiful future, but I also hold the reality that the future is now.  Hoping that someday life will straighten out and become easier, more blissful, spacious and in line with my idealized visions is the fallacy.  Because my life can be that now.  I get to breathe ease, bliss and space into the tiniest cracks of my life.  I have the opportunity to make my idealized visions a reality in each moment.
There are no guarantees that I can ‘build’ anything for my future or that even if I did that it would match my plans.  But joy is not a destination.  It is built one moment at a time.  It is in the smallest spaces where glimmers of abundance can be found.  I feel like I’m finally getting the point of life…to define oneself within ever-changing sets of external circumstances.  The pieces of reality that create our lives cannot be changed and the future cannot be predicted.  What I can change is how to hold my present reality in balance with the past and the future.  Holding present, past and future simultaneously with detachment from specific outcomes is what allows me to grow and move forward.
 “Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature-the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.”

– Rachel Carson

So I welcome 2018.  I welcome this chance to remind myself of the turning of the wheel.  To release the burdens of 2017.  To reel in my line and cast it again.  To remember that life can once again be approached with resolve, hope and vision.  The past cannot be changed, but my future continues to be defined.  Moment by moment I have the opportunity to choose how to live within it.  Indeed it is this, the gritty hard work of living, that creates a life.  I get to decide how I will shape and define the raw materials life hands me into a work of art.  I am the sculptor.  And so I sculpt.