Arriving Where We Started

If I had a blog, today I would write about coming home a second time.

Almost exactly a year ago we made a remarkable decision: With Dad’s retirement approaching, he, Mom and I decided it would be exciting to leave our native Missouri and make our home in a new place, a place quite different from that which we know so well.

Our first thought was Florida. We had a beach house near Sarasota when I was a child and memories of sun-drenched mornings on the beach, collecting baskets of seashells, and watching dolphins play in the evening surf made us think perhaps that was the place we should go. Mom and Dad made a trip down to look at homes and see if any of Old Florida still existed and, for a few months, it seemed a real possibility. But when the calculators came out and the risk of hurricanes was factored in and the bumper-to-bumper traffic was assessed, we had to admit that our version of Casey Key was gone. We were chasing ghosts of the past trying to make our dream a reality and we accepted that we had to move on.

00-solstice-sunset_0040-webOur next thought was Santa Fe, New Mexico. We’d all visited Santa Fe and loved the classy, artsy feel of this quaint city and the fierce landscapes surrounding us would be the perfect place to experience wilderness in a way we hadn’t before. We looked at hundreds of homes online, talked to a realtor, and even made a trip out to get one more up-close-and-personal Santa Fe experience, but, in the end, we realized our dreams of a desert oasis would be drowned in a sea of wall-to-wall tourists the year round and so we set this plan aside as well. It was then that we had the most remarkable thought of all: Why not stay here, on the farm we call The Greenwood?

the-house-in-summer-webTwo decades ago, Mom and Dad bought this land and built the farm of their dreams. They designed the house, planned the barns and pastures and planted crops that would benefit livestock and wild creatures as well. Together, we raised sheep, cows, horses, pigs, and chickens to feed ourselves and eventually, our growing base of customers. We had a twenty-cow dairy and sold our grass-fed meats to the best chefs in St. Louis. We hiked every acre of this place and came know the spirit of every hillside, creek, and valley. We built a life here. Why should we be in such a hurry to leave?

Eight years ago we stopped farming on a large scale and slowly sold our livestock to others until the barns stood empty – waiting for the next chapter to begin. We thought the story would be written by others, but, it turns out, we have more to say, more stories to create in our little valley by the river. When all was weighed in the balance, the answer was clear: Our next adventure begins here, on The Greenwood.

20160921_0066Twelve laying hens now inhabit the chicken house, already providing us with healthy eggs, rich in flavor. In the next few weeks, we hope to bring home six sheep to give us lambs in the spring, and over the course of the winter, we will acquire half-a-dozen young cows who will supply us with beef calves and breeding stock. There might even be a border collie in our future. Its hard to say just how deep this rabbit hole goes.

When I think about it, staying here makes perfect sense. It has the ideal circularity of story to give a happy ending. It also mirrors one of my favorite quotes, a passage written by T.S. Eliot in the final passage of The Four Quartets:

We shall not cease from exploring                                                                                                               And the end of our exploring                                                                                                                         Will be to arrive where we started                                                                                                                 And know the place for the first time.

So we begin – again.

For the Love of Little Chickens

If I had a blog, today I would write about my love of the farmstead chicken.

06092005_223627I met my first chicken in an ambulance. I was twelve and newly diagnosed with insulin-dependent diabetes. I had the flu and, back then, in the late 1970’s, if I couldn’t eat, I had to go to the hospital for IV’s. My doctor was two hours away (the joys of rural living), so away I went with Mom by my side.

Just as we were going out the door, the phone rang. It was Dad, calling from nearby Rolla to say my baby chickens had just been delivered to his dental clinic and were cheeping away in his private office. I was bereft. I’d waited for two months for the arrival of my baby Buff Orpingtons and I couldn’t believe I was going to miss this sacred moment because of the flu. The EMT wheeled me out to the ambulance and Mom followed a few minutes later. I was weeping quietly when I noticed we weren’t on the Interstate. We were in Rolla, pulling up to the back door of Dad’s office. A few seconds later, Dad appeared, bearing a box full of twenty-five cheeping fluff-balls. The EMT’s all gathered ’round as Dad handed me one of the chicks. I was crying again, but this time it was for joy. I thanked Mom for this gift, but she told me it was the driver’s idea. He’d said once my IV was in, we had time for a stop. I wanted to kiss him, but instead I handed him a chick. He was crying too.

Michael_0023 web

When I came home from the hospital a few days later, Mom let me move their brooder-box in my bedroom. I spent hours at a time sitting next to my little flock, caressing the golden carpet of chick-dom that would now be the center of my life. Our yellow Lab, Michael, often sat with me and together, we got to know the baby Buffs as individuals.

 

Julie and ChicksThe first chick I named was called, “Friend.” It was a simple name but it said it all. From the start, this little hen sought me out and enjoyed sitting on my shoulder, cuddled up against my neck. I often wondered if she was the chick I held on the day of their arrival, but regardless, she remained my companion for the rest of her long life.

As time progressed, other chicks made names for themselves. There was Moshe, who only had one eye. I named her for Moshe Dyan, the Foreign Minister of Israel who was also partially blind. There was Crocus, who grew into the most maternal hen I ever had. She would accept any chick from any hen and one year, when several hens failed to be good mothers, Crocus ended up with twenty-one chicks. She was determined to get them all under her wings at night and as the chicks grew, they lifted Crocus off the ground when they settled in for bedtime.

Old Farm House0012Over the course of my life there have been many special roosters and hens, of all sizes and of all breeds and they have made my life complete. Chickens are gentle creatures who radiate happiness. Listening to a mother hen calling her chicks to a juicy worm, watching my happy girls scratch in fresh straw, or sitting in the twilight, listening to the lilting night-song of chickens going to roost has lifted my spirits on even the hardest days.

10162012 164625 webI have been without chickens for almost a year now and it has been a long haul. My hen house sits quietly on its grassy lawn, waiting to see whether we will stay or go. For a time, we thought we wanted a change, a life after farming with leisure time and freedom from the routine of daily chores, but, as it turns out, farming is hard to get out of your blood and we’ve decided to stay.

Tonight I will go down and tell my chicken house to make ready, for the girls are coming home, and the song of the hen will resound from her walls once again.

 

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Lighting the Lamps of Autumn

If I had a blog, today I would write about the coming of Autumn Light.

09192011_041320 webI’ve been waiting for days now. Waiting for the moment when the sun would shift just enough to replace the brassy summer light with a mellow autumn glow. I keep track of this day in my journal and some years it has happened as early as August 8th. This year it arrived on August 17th. I was in my reading chair, finishing a chapter of Sigurd Olson’s Reflections From the North Country when I saw it: Streamers of gold filtering through the blinds on my French doors. I took up my journal and penned, in all capital letters, “THE LIGHT HAS COME!” And my heart rejoiced.

At first, the Lamps of Autumn are most noticeable in the late afternoon and it brings back memories of walking home from school. My brother and I walked almost two miles from the bus stop to our little farm. We complained about it, as kids are wont to do, but in truth, memories of ambling along the gravel road in the waning light on a chilly autumn afternoon ranks as one of the best remembrances of my childhood.

web 09292009_034631The coming of autumn light signals an end to the frenzy of summer. The harsh call of cicadas is replaced with the gentle chirp of crickets along the lane. Birds return to our feeders and fill our days with their winter-songs: A chorus performed simply for the love of singing, now that the rush of parenting is through.

 

This time of year slows me down too. My daily walks are easy rambles now that I am not in a race with the heat of the day or the biting bugs of summer. My dog and I stop often and drink in the rare beauty of the changing landscape as it changes from green, to gold, to grey. We take time to watch for the arrival of the first white-throated sparrow, the fall warblers, and the juncos. This is the season for reveling. The season of peace.

 

 

Walking With Giants

If I had a blog, today I would write about my friend, Big Bluestem.

09032013_180602 WebI call big bluestem (Andropogon gerardi) my friend because it has been part of my life for over twenty years. Big bluestem is a native grass of the tallgrass prairie, a vast domain of largely treeless expanse that, before the coming of the white man, dipped down out of southern Canada, expanded to over 600 miles in width across the Midwest, and ran for more than a thousand miles towards the Gulf of Mexico.

Here in the Missouri Ozarks, we touch the boundary of the prairie that extended, and broadened, as it went north. Plants native to the tallgrass prairie grew here, though not in the lush abundance found to our north and east. To honor the sea of grass that once touched The Greenwood, we planted grasses and wildflowers common to the tallgrass prairie here on our farm and big bluestem is the first of the grasses to bridge the gap from summer to fall.

09212013_070226 webGrowing up to nine feet high, big bluestem was a wonder to the first settlers. In his book Where the Sky Began: Land of the Tallgrass Prairie, author Joan Madsen writes “[big bluestem] was a marvel to the early settlers who plunged into it and left accounts of big bluestem so tall that it could be tied in knots across the pommel of a saddle.” I see these slender sentinels as the guardians of my homeplace, keeping watch over the long gravel lane that connects our farm to the outside world.

In August, big bluestem begins to go to seed and as it opens, reveals a three-branched seed head that has given rise to another name, “Turkey Foot.” Its unmistakable silhouette tells me fall is near.

10282011_155806 (1) webI am not the only one to await the ripening of big bluestem. From late September until November, the seed-heads are an endless bounty to sparrows, juncos, and a host of migrating birds who rely on the nutritious seeds to fuel their winter stores of fat. Driving along the lane on a fine autumn afternoon, the giant grasses are bent to the ground under the weight of feeding birds. The continual rise and fall of the stems makes it appear as though the plants are moving under their own power, bowing to the mellow sun.

09202013_181510 webThis year, the big bluestem began to open on July 31st. It will take some time for the seeds to cure, but already the sparrows are gathering, testing the crop to measure the breadth of the harvest to come.It is a welcome sign that summer’s reign cannot last and the time of harvest, then rest will come.

There are only a few tallgrass prairies left today. Most fell to the settler’s plow over a century ago, so I am proud to know the big bluestem, so see them dance, as Wallace Stegner wrote: “in the grassy, green, exciting wind, with the smell of distance in it.” I walk among giants as my forbears did and dream of what lies just out of sight, oven the next wave of green.

Going With the Flow

If I had a blog, today I would reflect on the start of a new year in the wake of the Flood of 2015.

The Little Piney from the Bridge at Newburg

The Little Piney from the Bridge at Newburg

Missouri is about rivers. We have somewhere in the neighborhood of 120 named rivers and creeks plus countless back-road streams that come to life when rain is abundant. On Christmas night 2015, it started to rain. It came down in buckets for three days and nights, leaving us with a grand total of 11.26 inches. Even the tiniest stream became a roaring river, closing back roads and interstates, washing away homes and cars,  and changing the lay of the land in ways I never imagined.

Yesterday, we visited our own river: The quarter-mile of the Little Piney Creek that is our southern property line. We wished we could see the Piney when it was up and rolling, but the myriad side-streams kept us away until yesterday afternoon; until the moment we were witness to the raw and merciless power of Nature.

Before & After

Before & After

To put it bluntly, the river and the valley that lies beside it is unrecognizable. The pasture that once fed our cows and sheep is now a beach. The river gouged a new inlet, six or seven feet deep and fifty yards long, into the field, buried or ripped away the fences, and left a giant sycamore, uprooted by the flow, resting on its side where the river bank used to be.

 

The New Channel

The New Channel

The pathway that meandered through the green mansions of sycamore, river birch, and paw-paw trees is scoured clean of underbrush. Great masses of sticks, leaves, and vines are draped around tree trunks, six or seven feet above the ground. Feet of sand cover the ground and everywhere, great trees lie upon the ground, felled by the raging stream.

The Path to the River

The Path to the River

At the river’s edge, the sand bar where we picnicked, swam, and sunbathed on steamy summer days is reformed. Here, the sand is gone; replaced by stones from miles upstream. The path we used to drive down is blocked by downed trees and made almost impassable by a huge hole filled with river water.

 

A New World Order

A New World Order

It is sobering to see an entire landscape changed overnight; taken from the world of the familiar and replaced with something barren, battered and bruised. This morning I stepped into an alien world and I felt afraid. Standing on the banks of the Little Piney I faced the fear that haunts us all: The fear that we are not in control.

Nature, biology, random human violence all force us to admit that however neat and tidy we make our personal lives, nothing is certain; nothing is forever. In the blink of an eye, our world can change forever – and that is what keeps us awake at night.

The Sycamore

The Sycamore

In the face of The Flood, stepping across the threshold into a new year feels less comfortable than it has in the past. I can pretend that my vision of 2016 is accurate: That I can set goals and see them realized; make plans and see them bear fruit and walk confidently ahead on a familiar path, knowing that the foundation of my life is secure, but the Little Piney tells me to be careful because life isn’t safe. In fact, life is terribly unsafe. It is unsafe for children, unsafe for adults. Life is unsafe in any direction. Life is unsafe at any speed.

So how do I move forward? How do I face this brave, new world? The Piney offers me wisdom in her rebirth: The disaster came, but The Piney didn’t resist. She rose and fell, changed her course, and even made footprints in a foreign land. The river flows on without fear of the next flood. Even today she is coming clear again. In a few more days, her voice will be softer and, come spring, little green things will begin to poke through the choking sand and reclaim their rightful place among the budding trees. The Piney says, “Ride out the catastrophe, then start again.”

Things on the river will not be the same. New paths will emerge, old trees will fall, and water will make its home where once there was dry land, but, if we are wise, we too will adapt to the change. Even in this microcosm of life, we will find new bliss. Summer will come and one fine afternoon, we will traverse the fallen trees and muddy pools and sit beside the laughing waters once again. The wood thrush will sing, cardinals will find refuge in the brush piles, and otter will find crawdads under rocks that have come from many miles away. Life is change. Change is life. All we can do is go with the flow.

The Little Piney Renewed

The Little Piney Renewed

The Evidence of Things Not Seen

If I had a blog, today I would write about my continued experiences with faith.

Although I know it is generally considered bad form to experiment with the nature of faith, the scientist within me can’t help but look for what Hebrews 11:1 describes as “the evidence of things not seen.” A bit oxymoronic perhaps, but my “research” has yielded some surprising results!

By the Sea

By the Sea

My journey into faith has become essential, as my life is about to undergo major change. Dad will be retired from dentistry in two years and we are ready to move on from the rigors of farm life. To that end, we have decided to begin working to sell the farm so we can move to a little house on quiet beach in south Florida.

Naturally, the practical part of moving from the farm is complicated. We have horses, chickens, a duck, and cats that need new homes. We have to prepare the property for showing, which means repairs and refurbishment at the barn, in the pastures, and in the house. I lay awake nights with a zillion scenarios zooming through my head: What if the house sells before we find a new one? What if we can’t find suitable homes for the animals? What if? What if? What if?

In an effort to retain our sanity, Mom and I made a pact to put a moratorium on negative thinking and really let The Divine guide us through the tangled mass of the days ahead. So far, it appears that faith in a higher power is not just a myth.

Best Friends Rain (L) and Skeeter (R)

Best Friends
Rain (L) and Skeeter (R)

The first “OMG moment” came when I contacted the friend from whom I had purchased my horse, Rain, in 2012. She didn’t even hesitate before agreeing to take Rain and Rain’s buddy, Skeeter, under her wing. Better still, we didn’t have to worry about getting the mares out to Virginia, because Lindsay is coming through Missouri in a few weeks and was more than happy to pick the girls up on her way home.

Next, we contacted two people about the sale of the three Arabian horses we own and now they have new homes to go to as well. As with the paint horses, the people who wanted the Arabs are genuine, down-to-earth horse lovers who will give our herd a loving home.

Sawyer

Sawyer

A few days later, I made the difficult decision to list my house cats for adoption. Regardless of where we settle, our new home will be smaller and with my Labrador, Gus, in tow, two cats would be too much. I put my request on Facebook and within two hours heard from one of my closest friends. Micheline and I have been friends since we were five years old and I couldn’t imagine a better owner for my favored felines.

Then Micheline told me not only did she want Sawyer and Claudia, but she would take  my entire flock of chickens and my Runner Duck, Ferdinand!

Ferdinand

Ferdinand

Ferdie has been my only duck since the rest of the flock was killed by a roving pack of coyotes in 2011. At his new home, not only will he have other ducks for company, but Runner Ducks at that! Talk about an abundance of miracles!

Now for the icing on the cake: Yesterday, when I sat down to write this blog, I looked up the Scripture that describes faith as, “The substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” This is found in Hebrews, chapter 11. It may not sound like much, but the number 11 is of great significance to me. Whenever 11’s appear in my life, transition for the better is at hand.

Finally, one more bit of “OMG” happened when I sat down to watch an episode of The West Wing. I popped in the DVD and the third episode on the disc was titled, “The Evidence of Things Not Seen.” I think I am on to something here.

His Name Shall Be Augustus

If I had a blog, today I would write about the little, golden ball of light that has just entered my life.

Little Loaves of Love

Little Loaves of Love

On January 15, 2015, my life changed forever. On January 15,  my new best friend was born: His name is Gus and he’s a yellow lab. For the first six weeks, all I knew was that Gus was one of three yellow males born to Christmas Holly at the home of Misty Woods Labradors. Right from the start I knew I’d chosen a good breeder. Gus and his siblings (both yellow and black) were the sweetest little “loaves of love” I’d ever seen.

Gus at two weeks

Gus at two weeks

Puppies are born with eyes closed and their early first weeks are spent nursing and sleeping. If I’d lived closer to the breeder, Tammy Johnston, I would have visited every day just to hold those precious new lives in my arms and soak in the love. As it was, Tammy posted weekly photos of the brood and it was thrilling to see the changes taking place.

 

Gus at 3 1/2 Weeks

Gus at 3 1/2 Weeks

I picked the name Gus in honor of Augustus McCray, a character in Larry McMurtry’s book, Lonesome Dove. Gus was a scalawag and a ladies’ man, but he had passion for life and a heart of gold – the things that make Labs such wonderful companions. I told Tammy I wanted a confident dog, one who would enjoy being my companion at home, in the car, and on our farm. Tammy told me the pups’ personalities would begin to develop at four to five weeks and she would find the right match.

Gus the Show Dog

Gus the Show Dog

Tammy took my requests to heart and on March 2nd, one of Holly’s boys traded his baby name (Maroon Boy, for the color of the ribbon tied around his neck) for the name of Augustus. According to Tammy, Gus was fearless and in love with life. She thought he would love life as farm dog as and make a great companion. It sounded like a match made in Heaven.

Augustus the Wise

Augustus the Wise

On Monday morning (March 16th), we met Tammy in Rolla, a pit-stop for her as she and one of her adult labs went to the St. Louis area for a show. As we pulled into the parking lot by Wal-Mart we saw her sitting on the grassy hillside, cuddling the most beautiful Labrador puppy I had ever seen. It was love at first sight!

 

Gus on his first day home.

Gus on his first day home.

Now, as Day Four of my Life With Gus begins, I am still in awe that I was chosen to be his person. Every day he becomes more handsome, more intrepid, and more fun to be with. Like all little creatures, Gus requires a lot of attention – day and night – so I’m a little sleep deprived and I have some scrapes and bruises from his needle-teeth, but I have never been happier! Gus and I are Forever Friends.

Winter Days

If I had a blog, today I would write about The Greenwood in winter.

The Missouri Arctic

The Missouri Arctic

Winter is back. Yesterday’s high was 15 degrees (with 25 mph winds) and today is even colder. The low last night was -2 and we’ll be lucky if we crawl into the teens for a high this afternoon. The snow that fell on Monday is reflecting most of the sun’s warmth back into space, leaving us wrapped in a blanket that offers no warmth. Until the weather breaks, our lives revolve around caring for our animals 24-7; keeping them well-fed and sheltered from the wind and snow.

Rain in the Snow

Rain in the Snow

Yesterday, despite the wind, we let the horses out for the day to stretch their legs and get some fresh air after three days in the barn. Horses are a great source of potential energy and when they are kept up, that energy builds day by day until they can get outside and burn it off. They made quite a spectacle of themselves, running, bucking, and even rolling in the snow; thrilled to be out in the sun and cold. Watching them play like kids on a Snow Day always lifts my spirits; at least someone is enjoying life in the freezer. I don’t really hate the cold weather, but as I get older I tend to adopt the Zen of the Hen instead.

The Zen of the Hen

The Zen of the Hen

Over at the chicken house, the tenor is quite different. My laying hens, rooster, and Ferdinand the duck prefer to stay indoors when snow is on the ground. I opened their door to the coop this morning, but no one wanted to venture out. The hens spent their day on the roost, under their heat lamp, or busy scratching for the dried mealworms I scattered in the straw as a treat. Ferdinand, my fawn and white runner duck, did have to forego his daily bath, but he when he saw his swimming pool had turned into a skating rink, he, too, was content to nestle down in the straw and enjoy winter from afar, alongside his roommate Edward, the Australorp rooster. I promised my boys warmer days will return, but even as I said it, I wondered how many times I’ll make that promise before the cold is through.

The Horse Barn

The Horse Barn

The bulk of our winter chores revolves around cleaning horse stalls. When all five horses are indoors full-time, keeping their quarters clean is an arduous job. While it is easier to scoop frozen “horse apples” and our work is certainly less fragrant this time of year, there is no getting around the fact that it’s plain old hard work. To pass the time, I turned to the mantra I used when backpacking. Most backpackers have a chant they use to distract themselves when hiking up an endless hill or trudging across rugged terrain. I adopted mine from a book I read about a woman who through-hiked the Appalachian Trail. It goes like this: “We are the through-hikers, mighty, mighty through-hikers. Every where we go-oh, people want to know-oh, who we are and so we tell them, ‘We are the through-hikers, mighty, mighty through-hikers…’ ” This encouragement has gotten me to the top of many mountain passes and today, it got me to the end of my task in record time. When I was finally able to stand up straight and stretch my aching back I felt as though I had reached the summit of Everest. Mom and I gave the horses a round of apple-treats, checked in with the barn cats and headed home for lunch in front of the fire. Mission accomplished.

Me

Me

In five hours, it will be chore-time again and we’ll start the lugging, lifting, and loading all over again. Some days I wonder why I chose this life rather than that of a business-woman. I could be sitting behind a desk in a warm office on these bitter mornings, sipping coffee and chatting with clients and co-workers, far removed from the wind that rattles the windows and the curtains of snow that dance across the parking lot, but then I open the barn door and am greeted by a symphony of nickers, clucks, meows, and crows that remind me just how much I am needed by the creatures I love. I might be able to earn more or achieve more at another job, but nowhere on earth could I feel more complete. This is where I belong.

Gran’s Violets

If I had a blog, today I would write about my grandmother’s legacy: Her African violets.

Gran's Violets in my first apartment.

Gran’s Violets in my first apartment.

Granny Ruby loved African violets. From my earliest days, I recall the splashes of pink, purple, and white that graced her side tables and intrigued me with their soft and furry leaves. I wasn’t allowed to stroke the leaves without Gran beside me, teaching me how to love her little garden without doing harm. She told me wonderfully mysterious tales of Africa, “The Dark Continent,” where the flowers originated and I loved to image them growing in the dampness of the jungle, sprouting from moss-covered rock faces and the spongy surface of decaying logs. They lived in the same part of Africa known to my hero, Jane Goodall, and that gave the flowers a mystique that holds me in thrall even today.

Gran's Violets in our kitchen window.

Gran’s Violets in our kitchen window.

African violets are finicky, needing just the right amount of water and sun to flourish. I often helped Gran feed the violets and learned how to tell if they were content with their living conditions. Some liked a little morning sun, others wanted perpetual shade. Given just the right amount of care, the plants would reward us with their colorful blooms. It was a boon to me because, with the exception of Gran’s violets, my horticultural skills are nil. It isn’t that I dislike plants; in fact, I love them dearly – from the tiny Easter flowers that sprinkle the back yard in springtime to the tallest oak tree in the forest, plants mean as much to me as animals, but somehow I am not destined to be their keeper.

Because my most earnest attempts at gardening always ended in failure, it was with more than a little anxiety that I took custody of Gran’s violets when she passed away. Not only were these living beings, but having lived with Gran and Grandy for most of their married lives, the African violets were part of my heritage and I was determined to keep the tradition going whatever the cost.

After they came into my care, Gran’s violets lived a nomadic life as I moved from dorm, to apartment, to my first little house on the edge of town. I fed them regularly, scoped out north-facing windows to give them the right amount of light, and I repotted them when the stems grew too woody. To my great surprise, not only did the violets survive, they flourished. I attributed their health not only to my diligence, but also to the love that I felt for my gran. She and I were best friends from the day I was born and it seemed that part of Gran’s spirit lived on in the flowers she gave to me. Many a dreary day was brightened by their colorful blooms and at times when I felt lonely or homesick, Gran’s violets gave me the feeling of home.

A little springtime in the middle of winter.

A little springtime in the middle of winter.

Today, the violets bloom merrily in our Great Room, greeting all who come to sit by the fire or share a family meal. In the winter, Mom and I sometimes move the flowers into the kitchen where they can benefit from the pale sun on its short journey through our little valley. Not a day goes by that I don’t greet Gran’s violets and say, “Thank you,” to Gran for leaving a glorious legacy behind.

 

Onward and Upward

If I had a blog, today I would write about the perils of being an introvert entrepreneur.

My favorite place: In the woods with the chickadees.

My favorite place: In the woods with the chickadees.

The time has come. The new year has arrived and by tomorrow night I will have run out of “it’s still the holidays” excuses for watching Downton Abbey DVD’s instead of working to make my photography more than a hobby. Even though I don’t do New Year’s resolutions, I do want to take my photography to a new level in 2015 – a level that makes some money – and as good as that sounds, I know I’ll be struggling with my supreme introversion all the way.

One of my best friends: Abe the Arabian.

One of my best friends: Abe the Arabian.

I spent this morning reading in Alain Briot’s book, Marketing Fine Art Photography, and, to be honest, it made my heart race and my stomach churn. The thought of calling galleries, going to art shows, and sending queries to magazines and book publishers makes my blood run cold. I like nature photography because it puts me in the woods alone all day. Alone is where I gather energy, where I feel strong, and where I feel safe. So what’s an introvert to do?

After my anxiety and frustration with myself subsided, I took a deep breath and looked at my predicament from the perspective my parents taught me as a child: “If you come to an impass, don’t waste time chipping away at the wall in front of you. Step back and look for a creative way around.”

The Color of Joy - A Northern Cardinal on a dreary day.

The Color of Joy – A Northern Cardinal on a dreary day.

With that in mind, I got out my journal and made a list of things I could do (comfortably) to market my photographs: I can build a solid website, complete with shopping options and I can continue to share my work in this blog. I can push the envelope a little by checking out our local artist’s group and entering their annual photo contest and I can send samples of my North Woods work to art galleries in Ely, Minnesota, where I go on retreat almost every year.

List in hand, one other thought came to me: If the Ego is trying this hard to tell me I can’t do this, odds are I can. I won’t morph suddenly into Tony Robbins (or some other mega-extrovert), but I will find a way to reach my goal while staying true to my introverted nature.

So, for now, I will cast a few seeds into the wind and see what happens. I don’t have to be Ansel Adams or Jim Brandenburg overnight. All I have to do is take the first few steps in the direction I want to go and let my story unfold the way it is supposed to. In that, I am resolved.