Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Why Georgia, Why?

I ordered a package of bees yesterday. It was a celebration and a treat. (I'll explain why in a bit.) The farm could use pollinators again. I didn't have any honeybees this past season and I missed keeping them, very much so. The garden missed them, too. Their hive has stood like a tomb out there for too long. It's empty and in need of cleaning and clearing. It was slowly covered with invasive honey suckle all summer. It is going to feel a special kind of good getting that weed hacked back from its current Jurrasic-Park-Extra status to moderately awful. The hive will be cleaned, new frames ordered, and I'll pick up my bees at Betterbee in May.

The fact that I live ten miles from a live bee supplier is reason 1,128,912 I don't believe in coincidences. I just don't. I'm not saying everything in the life is a Deity's Big Plan or meant to be, but I do think people end up in the place they are heading - be it good or bad. For half a decade I dedicated myself entirely to this imagined life on my own farm in a farming community. Here I am. Read the introduction to Made From Scratch and you'll see what I mean. There I write about how not everyone has a cabin on five acres and a border collie falling asleep on a feed bag in the sun and when I wrote that it seemed like some far away vision of paradise. I sure as hell didn't have that when I wrote it. I wrote that sentence in a rented house in Idaho on a hideous pink carpet with a stack of Countryside Magazines on my coffee table and now idea how to get there. But I went from wanting it to renting it. And from renting it to buying it. And here I am, a small farmer living her own scrappy dream one mistake and success at a time. When I watch the trailer for the next book and see that footage it seems like another person, too good to be true. But it's me and my life, my sheep, my horse, and my sleeping border collie in the sun...

Cold Antler Farm Trailer from Roost Books on Vimeo.

Looking back to those pink carpet days I'm not sure how I even got here, how I became the girl in that book trailer. It seems overwhelming to actually think about all the perfect little acts of kismet that happened in a life fueled mostly by hope and force. All I can say is every choice and action was a small step towards getting here and then when I finally got here every action was a small step towards working here full time and quitting my office gig. And now every choice is a HUGE LEAP towards trying to keep it. When I get really scared I always remember this quote from Georgia O'Keefe:

"I've been absolutely terrified every moment of my life and I've never let it keep me from doing a single thing that I wanted to do."

Right on, Sister Suffragette.

And that's how it has been this past year. Really terrifying. You must have picked up on that in my writing, as it swallowed everything about me. I was feeling particularly low this past Saturday when I got this letter in the mail. It came to the most basic of addresses that still reach people in small towns. There was no signature, no return address, just a note and a newspaper page. It was a sheet of the Gardener News with a cheery image of two red New York apples on a toboggan. With the happy scene was this handwritten note:

Whoever wrote this, thank You. It was such a simple and random act of charity. The same goes for every encouraging email, blog comment, or visit to this farm. When I opened this email I had $1.97 to my name in my checking account. That Tuesday morning my publisher sent along the final payment towards the book in the trailer above and it was enough to pay two mortgage payments, a truck payment, and buy a box of bees! Better Days were here and enough to stop certain folks from calling and keeping that dented pickup in the driveway. That money will be gone shortly, as I have other things to pay but to know so many things were taken care of by writing about this place is a huge blessing I do not take for granted. That letter came because of this blog. That check came because of it, too. And this blog is not a girl, her dog, and her farm. It is YOU. It is the readership that keeps me going and shows me through your amazing support and love that Cold Antler is worth the fight. Thank you so much for that. Thank you for the subscriptions, the workshop attendance, the stories, the emails, the comments and reading along. Thank you for putting up with the sordid emails about being scared and broke and the joyous ones about holding newborn lambs and soaring hawks. Thank you, over and over. Better Days are ahead as long as you guys are out there.

One of my favorite authors, Patrick Rothfuss, once described a certain type of anxiety like ice on a pond. He talked about how it felt to walk out on thin ice and feel a hundred small cracks happen at once, all these little angry veins and splits about to collapse. But the emotion he was describing was not the feeling of standing on thin ice, but being the ice itself. Feeling like this strong yet simultaneously weak thing that explodes with decision and possible collapse at any second. He was describing love, of course. How real love makes you feel like this broken thing that is so impermanent, but also strong enough to hold heavy weight. That sense of cracking ice is how this farm makes me feel. It has never been easy and it has recently been awful, but it has always been worth it. My worst days on this farm are better than the best days I had at that office. And in the next few months I plan to sell some more book ideas, launch a crowdfunding campaign for Birchthorn, announce new workshops, and keep promoting Indie Days and whatever else keeps me in the saddle and a roof over my head. I'm staying put, and I thank you for reading along. When my world settles down and I can finally let out that sigh of a person who has paid off her debts, has a purse of savings, and a power-washed front of her house I will be one happy woman. And I write about that now the way I wrote about that dream of a farm on a pink carpet. I had no idea back then how the hell I would get here. And right now I honestly have no idea how I can keep this up, but I know I will.

I trust Georgia O'Keefe. I trust me. I trust this life that brought me horses, hawks, and towns with bee merchants. I trust the Horse workshop will sell out, that the spring sun will melt all this snow, and that you guys will be there to see a real American Success Story. Most of all, I trust you. You are the reason I am getting up tomorrow to feed a pregnant goat, pick up hay for sheep and horses, ordering fiddles for camp and spending the day editing, farming, constructing stories, caring for critters, and keeping this place healthy as possible.

From a place of HOPE everything looks different. And John Said it pretty good, too. Before he was the star he is now I used to listen to him in the early 2000's. Here is a recording I used to listen to in a red Jetta in Kutztown, PA. I wondered the same things then as I do now, only I'm asking O'Keefe for strength these days, he was asking Atlanta. Life happens. It's pretty neat.

Am I living it right, am I living it right?
Am I living it right
Why, why Georgia, why?


Blogger Pam! said...

One of my favorite John Mayer songs and the one I listen to when I'm questioning life, decisions, and my place in all of it. It just fits. (that one and Bigger Than My Body)

Hang in there Jenna! You're going to be fine. <3

February 19, 2014 at 7:15 PM  
Blogger Erik said...

As George Takei would say...earworm of the day!

On another note, if we're already a subscriber (and have been), how do we get in on the email list...?

February 19, 2014 at 8:27 PM  
Blogger Sharon said...

You are going to be OK, come what may. You are strong, brave and love your life. I am having a bit of monetary trouble....otherwise I would send you a donation. I read every post you write, and I am a great supporter for you!

February 19, 2014 at 10:15 PM  
Blogger Ngo Family Farm said...

Wow, thanks for sharing that note - those words really hit home for me today, as we're having to make some difficult decisions about one of our dogs. It's been a really rough start to the year here too, but just as you say, even the worst and scariest days are far better than the ones I spent working for someone else. Thanks for the perspective, and just keep on keepin' on!

February 19, 2014 at 11:17 PM  
Blogger Brooke Lowry said...

My favorite John Mayer song ever ... and something I ask myself all the time. I'm still in that office, and truthfully, I don't know that the life you wanted for yourself is the one I want for me, but that's ok. I love reading your stories, celebrating your successes, and wishing you all the good things you deserve from afar. The way I see it, just knowing what it is you really want (and really need) is half the battle. I'm older than you are, and I still don't really know, but I'm working on it. (And on the plus side, I did start riding again, and it is at least in small part due to you and Merlin. So thanks for that!)

February 20, 2014 at 9:18 AM  
OpenID Sheepy Hollow said...

I wish I had something wonderfully eloquent to say, but I do send heartfelt best wishes and continued success. Your words speak volumes for all of us who may share a similar dream...or any dream for that matter. It's worth every bit of struggle [at any age]!

February 20, 2014 at 9:49 AM  
Blogger Molly said...

Your post was timely as I was up at 3:00 am fretting over some recent decisions. I am searching for that balance of living the life I want, yet being far enough away from the financial edge. Everyone's comfort level is different as to how close to the edge they can tolerate. I sure don't want to give up my dreams so I can save enough money to end my days in a nice nursing home. And sometimes our biggest regrets are not about things we've done, but things we haven't done. I really like that quote from Georgia. I used to let fear stop me from doing things I loved, but not anymore. But the fear still remains. Glad to know I'm not alone.

February 20, 2014 at 12:40 PM  
Blogger The Village Queen said...

Cool to hear your voice, the book sounds wonderful. Remember to breathe, all the fear, the worry, the tight chest... none of it actually changes or helps the situation. They are symptoms of your thoughts and that you can change. If you've done the best you can for this hour or moment, then breathe and let it go. Let that energy go into the many tasks you have. Freeing up that energy will make room for more creative ideas and ways to bring more abundance into your life. Ask John about that fear... he knows. And actually most of us do, but somehow it comes down to trust, and that it will work out and be ok. Hugs and deep breath, spring is coming!

February 20, 2014 at 1:32 PM  
Blogger The Village Queen said...

Jenna, check this out... a philosophy you can relate to I think.

February 20, 2014 at 5:08 PM  
Blogger Molly said...

Jenna - I just heard about this book and have requested it from my library. You may be interested too. It's called The Up Side of Down by Megan McArdle.

The premise of the book is that, at some point in our lives, we’re going to fail. McArdle’s argument is that failure is usually far more illuminating than success.

Another key factor is persistence – even in the face of repeated failures, successful people keep looking for opportunity.

The real question of success isn’t whether you fail but whether you keep grabbing for those opportunities even after the failure.

February 21, 2014 at 7:30 AM  

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