Monday, December 28, 2009

one hour better

There is this anomaly in Vermont that happens during a snowfall at dusk. When the light's almost gone, and the sky is heavy and gray, the world takes on this new color of slate blue. The whole farm is bathed in this color, and it is a show stopper. I was outside in this light tonight, trying to coax the flock back into their pen. When the sheep were inside I tied the gate and started walking back towards the cabin. I walked the long way, following the fence and hitting it with the metal grain scoop to shake the snow off. Somewhere in the geography of the moment I stopped and just stood there in the slate blue light. I was now in the middle of the property, surrounded by these glowing arches of snow-covered branches. All around me was this thick blueness. The yellow lights inside the cabin and the small white train of smoke from the chimney made me nearly lose my footing. It was so beautiful I think it caused tiny splinters in my veins. I let out a long sigh and watched the breath swirl up into the air. It was blue too.

How the hell did I get lucky enough to land here? How in god's name did I end up in this job, with these people, in this town, with this life? How did I let all those mistakes happen? It could have gone a million different ways, and yet, here I stood. In the snow. Alone. In the slate gray light that wasn't even real in the first place? I wish I understood all this better.

The new year is just around the switchback. We're almost there and people are talking about resolutions and changes and a hundred tiny things that are going to make us all better people in 2010. I have goals too, but not for the year. I don't have the chops for those kinds of resolutions. I do however, have a system that works and I measure it in hours...

For what it's worth, here is some advice from me. Don't attempt to be a drastically better person in the next calendar year. Don't plan on being thirty pounds thinner, or sixty-thousand dollars richer, or the front man of your own band. Instead, how about just trying to be a slightly better person in the next sixty minutes. This may sound like a weak attempt
but it's not. Results happen slowly and only when we focus on what we want and who we want to become right now. If you want more money, for the next hour, don't spend any and try and pull a quarter off the floor of your car. If you want to lose weight, try not to eat that candy bar for the next hour, and walk up the stairs instead of taking the elevator. If you want to be kinder, spend the next hour on the phone with old friend and tell her you miss her. If you want to plant a garden, raise chickens, or own a farm—spend the next hour online ordering seed catalogs or going to the library for a book on coop building. Make small changes constantly and just try to meet that next turn of the clock one hour smarter, one hour thinner, one hour kinder, and one hour richer and watch your life change.

If everyone could just see the day as 24 chances to make their life a little better, imagine the resolutions that could be met? I try to be an hour better, every hour, and hope those choices add up into something I can grasp with both hands. I think total dedication to the present is what improves ourselves, and not the empty promises that are too big to get our arms around. Just try be one hour better, starting right now. My favorite movie whispers the quote "that every passing minute is another chance to turn it all around". It's a chance worth taking.

Or at least that's the hunch I'm running with. But I'm saying that from quite an awkward location. I don't know how valid the advice is from a girl standing alone in the snow in the middle of a sheep pasture she doesn't even own. I guess we'll find out.


Blogger Unknown said...

Very well put.

December 28, 2009 at 9:24 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

December 28, 2009 at 9:24 PM  
Blogger Penny said...

You are so right! Small changes add up to the bigger changes. Those baby steps do work. =)

December 28, 2009 at 9:38 PM  
Blogger small farm girl said...

Wow! Enough said.

December 28, 2009 at 9:46 PM  
Blogger BJ Gingles said...

You are so very wise for one so young. If I had your wisdom when I was your age, I would be so much farther along right now than what I am. I will not regret. I will just take your advice at try to be better for the next hour.

December 28, 2009 at 9:48 PM  
Blogger DarcC said...

Damn Jenna, you have an enviable perspective on life. I admire it.

December 28, 2009 at 10:17 PM  
Blogger gardeninggal said...

Greetings from those of us in the West Hills of Portland, OR....
Love reading your book & your blog!
You sound like me when I was in my twenties. (am now 2X your age)
We have a small organic egg farm- struggling to keep urbanization out and maintain sustainable local produce. I love that there are young people out there making this happen. I work for a large corp. at day, but love coming home to my dogs & hens at night. Thanks Jenna! Really enjoy your book! (especially reference to Renaissance Faire costumes! Brings back old memories.)

December 28, 2009 at 11:03 PM  
Blogger Karen said...

I like your idea! Don't know if I can remember to do it, but I've got to start somewhere, right?
I hope all your hourly improvements add up to your goals!

December 28, 2009 at 11:34 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

Really like your philosophy. Can you tell us the name of the movie that made such an impact?

December 29, 2009 at 5:49 AM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

Vanilla Sky

December 29, 2009 at 6:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm with you, Jenna. I have a huge struggle in my life, something that could very easily end it. It's a moment-to-moment hour-by-hour victory to hang on. Next week? Sheesh, who has the temerity to think about it? Me? I'm gonna have some more coffee and watch the sun come up.

As for you, how did you land there? You worked your rear off and earned every second of it.

December 29, 2009 at 7:56 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Very well put Jenna. I never really looked at it that way. Aww you always can put things into perspective for me even before my morning coffee :)

Have a great day!!

December 29, 2009 at 7:56 AM  
Blogger Lynnanne said...

Nice! I like it.

December 29, 2009 at 8:23 AM  
Blogger Ang said...

VERY well said Jenna. You are right about 'New Years Resolutions'...usually too big to achieve. I like the idea of 'One Hour Better'. I posted your blog to my Documents to help remind me. Thank you for sharing. Oh, and keep your head up. I know what it feels like to take 2 steps forward and get kicked 1 step back. You can do this. You have come so far already. This is going to be a great year!

December 29, 2009 at 8:30 AM  
Blogger BlueGate said...

Nicely said, Jenna. From one farm girl standing outside in the snowy dark of night, to another : )

December 29, 2009 at 8:31 AM  
Blogger Mimi said...

Jenna--WOW!!! You are so young to be so insightful and wise. You are such a treasure. I'm thankful for discovering you this past year. I look forward to the coming year and your finding and getting your own farm. I'm just excited about it for you. Mimi

December 29, 2009 at 9:27 AM  
Blogger Mary Aalgaard said...

Your description brings me home...I'm a MN farm girl, not on the farm anymore, but the roots are still there, the ability to pause in the moment and truly see it. Yes, that's the key to a peaceful life. Enjoyed your writing!

December 29, 2009 at 9:32 AM  
Blogger Patsy from Illinois said...


I want to thank you for your blog this year. There were dark days for me and your blog helped me get thru them. I love your way of life. God bless.

December 29, 2009 at 9:36 AM  
Blogger Gentleman John T said...

Simply, simply beautiful. Thanks.

December 29, 2009 at 9:38 AM  
Blogger IanH said...

Jenna, if you keep these posts up, you have a best seller -short story works in hand.
Great thoughts!

December 29, 2009 at 9:45 AM  
Blogger Maria said...


Another beautiful, thought provoking post. Thank you!

And I agree, even if you take baby steps, you will achieve your goals a little at a time.

Thank you for the timely reminder!

December 29, 2009 at 9:52 AM  
Blogger Gail said...

Jenna, I believe we often end up where we belong rather oddly. I think you have found your place to belong. I found you idea of one hour at a time interesting and it reminded me of a comment Michael J. Fox made about just doing the "next right thing." I'm looking forward to reading you blog for years to come. Just finishing up your book--a great read!

December 29, 2009 at 10:25 AM  
Blogger Rois said...

Around here we say "Today is a good day." Last year while our son was very ill in the hospital we started using that phrase.But after reading your posting I realize we have/had days when we said "This is a good moment."
Baby steps work wonders.

December 29, 2009 at 11:04 AM  
Blogger Karen Sue said...

Everyday you get up, you have choices. Choose now, persist and accept responsibility. If you can't go right, figure out how to make left work. If someone or something trips you up, get up and go on.
I liked 'The Traveler's Gift' by Andy Andrews. Good reading ...

December 29, 2009 at 11:39 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Jenna, How do you come up with what you write. I don't care,keep doing it. One blog well put. I hope the new year treats you better all around.

December 29, 2009 at 11:44 AM  
Blogger Conny said...

Again, I admire your ability to stand still and take stock of where you are and the promise it all holds. Not many folks can do that.

Looking forward to continually reading your blog - one day at a time.

December 29, 2009 at 11:56 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Around here, we call it the "plus 1 percent", meaning that we achieve consistency in doing well, then take 1 % increases. Thanks for the reminder!

December 29, 2009 at 12:32 PM  
Blogger Debi said...

Jenna, you paint such a vivid beutiful portrait of that area. When I read that it felt like I was trasported back in time to my beloved Adirondack Mountains. There wasn't a day that went by that I wasn't in awe of it's beauty and felt totally blessed.

You are wise beyond your years. I think that most of us who have a decade or more on you, are wishing that we'd had even half the sense that you possess now. You are not only a shepherd of sheep, but of people too. You're guiding a whole group of people toward a better way of life.

I love the hour by hour philosophy. It reminds me of the saying " A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step." For those of us who are older and have many thing that we want to implement or change, the task can be overwhelming. But this is a great way to get it all done one small step at a time.

December 29, 2009 at 12:47 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

Yes. We can only do what we can do...right now. This hour. Love the thoughts, thanks for sharing as we take these first steps into a new year!

December 29, 2009 at 12:50 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Jenna, in Fiddletown the color of snow at twilight is Periwinkle :)

December 29, 2009 at 1:29 PM  
Blogger ashley english said...

No wonder my wife Ashley (Small Measure) has such good things to say about you. Her small measure philosophy fits perfectly with what you've said here!

So many people get too hung up on the intimidating pile of things that they could be doing to make the planet and their lives more sustainable, so they lose sight of the fact that any small measure is a good measure. People let fear of messing up, or being judged, or of failing to do everything imaginable, keep them from taking small steps to make their lives and the world a better place. It is great to see people like you who embrace the philosophy of focusing on the benefits of small measures :^)

December 29, 2009 at 2:09 PM  
Blogger ashley english said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

December 29, 2009 at 2:10 PM  
Blogger ashley english said...

hiya, jenna! that comment above wasn't me speaking in the 3rd person, it was from my hubs, glenn. when i set up my blogger account, i didn't yet have a g-mail account, so i used his. now i can't figure out how to change small measure over to my g-mail address, so, his comment ended up with my photo on it. oops!

December 29, 2009 at 2:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lovely words and thoughts - thank you for sharing them. :-)

December 29, 2009 at 3:31 PM  
Blogger Angi said...

Great post!

December 29, 2009 at 5:13 PM  
Blogger K. said...

Jenna, thanks for this gift of a reminder. I know the blue light, isn't it unreal? Blessings on your journey.

December 29, 2009 at 5:42 PM  
Blogger Pilgrim Soul said...

Amen, sister. Life is absolutely amazing. Even the hard stuff. I mean, we get to wake up every day! My approach is much like yours -- strive to be better day by day, hour by hour. Who knows what the next year holds, or even the next day! I plan on enjoying every second of life, and being true to myself. Is it easy all of the time? Nope. But I'll do my best, and that's all I can ask of myself.

December 29, 2009 at 6:39 PM  
Blogger Paula said...

Great philosophy. One hour at a time is a GREAT way to live in the present. Which, from everything I've read, leads to greater happiness.

December 29, 2009 at 6:58 PM  
Blogger Madame said...

Jenna, I love your blog, it makes my day. Thx for another thought provoking post.

December 29, 2009 at 7:35 PM  
Blogger Rosanne said...


and winter brings the deepest, richest blue twilight skies here in Virginia, though in our parts we don't get much snow.

May you have the happiest of years and may your dreams of a place of your own come true!

December 29, 2009 at 8:11 PM  
Blogger John Taylor said...

For such a young woman, you have wisdom beyond your years. Very well said.

December 29, 2009 at 9:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When the Student is ready, the teacher appears...

December 29, 2009 at 10:45 PM  
Blogger Becky Rawson said...

Absolutely sweet advise Jenna!
I needed it about now - this minute! :)

December 29, 2009 at 10:56 PM  
Blogger Carrie in Wisconsin said...

I LOVE this advice! I was just thinking on resolutions on the way home tonight because they were talking about them on the radio. I don't make any big time resolutions either because I know I'll never keep them! But I will say this, I look back on the last year, and find that I made slow changes myself that have made quite a difference. And, all because I found your blog!

December 30, 2009 at 12:23 AM  
Blogger Judy said...

I am so glad that I found your blog about a year ago. Your writing is an inspiration and a breath of fresh air. Thank you for sharing it with us. Peace and Happy New Year.

December 30, 2009 at 8:23 AM  
Blogger EvaMarie said...

Dear Jenna,
I just read your book and had to check out your blog. Both are outstanding and such an inspiration to middle-aged chicks like me who think like you do. I can't believe you're so young and courageous!! I will be going forward one hour at a time and keeping up with you. Thanks so much for sharing your gifts.

December 30, 2009 at 9:15 AM  
Blogger Jen said...


This is perhaps the best and wisest advice I've read for the new year so far. Every minute, every hour, every day is a new chance to get things just a little close to "right", to what we dream of. Thank you.

Happy New Year,

December 30, 2009 at 10:07 AM  
Blogger CorinneLouise said...

Thanks Jenna for this insight, happy new year to you.

December 31, 2009 at 3:06 AM  
Blogger Sarah Rachelle said...

Good advice and well put. Thank you.

December 31, 2009 at 9:34 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

This reminds me of the golden hour in CO. As the sun sets, every so often the world is turned to gold. I love when that happens; the house, the trees, the snow, the critters are bathed in a golden glow.

December 31, 2009 at 6:49 PM  
Blogger Kalena Michele said...

Beautiful. I'll remember that.

January 1, 2010 at 10:02 PM  
Blogger Julia said...

A couple of blog "fingers" posted me this way and it was worth the click. I like your style, I like your method. I am trying to live it. And I love those moments; they are gorgeous and you did a gorgeous job of writing it down.
Happy New Hour!

January 4, 2010 at 11:51 AM  
Blogger Lil said...

This post really resonated with me. Great idea and well written. Thanks, Jenna.

January 5, 2010 at 1:47 PM  

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