A Novel Breathes Life and the Wisdom of the Elders

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My friends, you must read Big Magic by Liz Gilbert.  I keep referring to it.  I loved how it stated that genius lands on people, not people become geniuses.  An idea has its own entity, its own life and “lands” on willing recipients.  Sometimes a recipient isn’t ready for it and it goes to another person.  That is the reason we see books, movies, songs that we were going to write.  With this in mind, I asked for an idea to land on me.  I wrote snippets in California.  I asked every day for an idea.  And one landed on me last week.

I then sat in front of my computer, a first time novelist, trying to construct a “proper” novel setting.  Where do I insert dialogue?  How many adjectives should I use?  How do I set the pace?  I have been reading novels this month trying to see the map of it all.

When I do my work in herbalism, I just kind of zone out, so to speak, and do the work.  My hands move deftly to the right plants and combinations, and I can “see” easily.  If I were to overthink it, I wouldn’t get much done.  I went into that same zone and just started writing.  It was as if I were meeting the characters myself as they hopped from fingertips to screen.  “Oh, well, hello, nice to meet you!”  “Are you coming back at the end of the book?  How nice.”  The prose and which person I used to speak changes and surprises me.  I am not writing this book, it seems, I am just privy to how it is creating itself, much like my paintings, much like my recipes, much like my work as an herbalist, I am merely the middleman…woman.

The book starts in the nineteen thirties.  As I was visiting my grandparents yesterday I asked a few basic questions, like did they drink tea or coffee more?  Did many folks have cars?  I told them I was trying to research the Cherokee land disputes that took place in the 30’s due to land rushes and oil companies.  Turns out Grandpa remembers all about it.  Grandma and Grandpa took turns illustrating in real life the dust bowl, the depression, the locusts, the farming, history unveiling itself.  Many, many things we never learned in public schools.  I was fascinated, humbled, grateful.

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These beautiful old dolls are among my grandmother’s.  As if my day couldn’t get any better, they were gifted to me.

Sometimes I fall into an irreconcilable sadness, wondering if we will ever get our own place, our own homestead, the city life here…I try to make the most of it.  I visit other’s farms, I try to save money (try being the key word), I cry.  It all seems so impossible.  But I can, at this moment, write….

10 Ways to Be Happier

Happiness.  Happiness is one of those things that can elude as quickly as it comes.  Particularly now that seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is settling into our bones and spirits, are there ways to assure happiness?  To establish a sort of hardly wavering inner peace?

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Here are some things that can be incorporated into our lives to help make happiness a more prevalent constant.

1. Keep a gratitude journal.  Write down five things each morning or night (Or by golly if it’s that bad, day and night!) that you are thankful for.  I did not think this would work but am amazed at how such a simple act can really change one’s attitude.  It will begin simple and perhaps grumbly or rather broad.  Thanks for my catThanks for my coffee.  I am thankful for my family.  But it will quickly turn into I am thankful for the soft fur of my cat against my cheek.  For the early morning sunrise and the strong cup of coffee to revive me.  For the sweet texts that I receive from so and so… There is much to be thankful for.

2. Meditate in the mornings.  Seriously, meditate for 25 seconds. Whatever.  I look out at the beautiful mountain peak with ribbons of lavender and rose iced across its tall stature and close my eyes.  I think of a word.  Light.  Peace.  Love.  Forgiveness.  I try not to venture off of that word.  Deep breaths.  It changes the whole game.  Yoga is a great practice to add to this.

3. Become self reliant.  Listen, it would have been real easy for Doug and I to fall into the depths of despair for a much longer span of time.  We could have gone on government assistance, picked up our food stamps, and done the whole woe is me for a lot longer.  But instead we became determined.  We have the ability to work and we work hard.  Doug got a job.  He was not able to get back into the well paying field he was in.  He is working for slightly more than minimum wage.  We opened the shop on faith.  After being homeless for seven months it would have been easy to lose faith.  Don’t lose faith.  And don’t lose faith in yourself!  We are buying fresh, delicious food.  We got an apartment.  We gave up a car.  We are making it work.  It would be too easy to keep up the blame game and feel sorry for ourselves.  Happiness reveals itself in self reliance.

4. Become the Queen of Swords.  Okay, this one might require a bit of explaining. I have a dear friend, a Hopi elder, a wise man, who explained to me that I am imbalanced.  When making a decision I will first consider the feelings of not just everyone around but the impact on dogs in Italy and the children of Kenya.  I will worry everything to death.  What will my decisions cause?  I then will consider my passions.  I will finally think of what is the best decision for me and then lastly money.  I need to be the Queen of Swords! he says.  I must balance my decisions.  To make a swift and sound decision that benefits myself is unheard of to me.  But important. We give until we are depleted. We must begin to make decisions based on our own needs.  If we are well and balanced everything else around us will fall in line.  It is NOT our responsibility to ensure happiness and fairness or to take care of the entire world for everyone.  It is only our responsibility to live our life fully, be kind, and take care of ourselves first so that we can care practically and fully for others.

5. Do more of what you love.  Instead of being so busy caring for others, making ends meet, doing chores, doing what we think we ought to be doing, we ought to be coloring, or painting, or gardening, or singing karaoke, or eating out, or hiking, or…. We are not guaranteed 84.5 years.  Each breath, each moment is an opportunity to do what we love.

6. Get outside.  Therapy is cheaper in nature.  Get outside, walk along Mother Nature’s trails, listen to the birds, see an eagle fly, smell a ponderosa tree while the sap is rising, watch chipmunks scatter, smell the rain coming, touch a fuzzy mullein leaf.  Know that our life’s problems are rather mundane and we are connected to all things.

7. Connect with Spirit.  Your idea of God, Creator, or Spirit is exactly right.  Your connection with Spirit is written in each of your cells.  Worship with smudge herbs and a feather, with the Bible, with a candle, with a whisper of thanks, or by picking up trash.  Be connected.  Whatever your version is.

8.  Surround yourself with folks that inspire you, who love you, who make you happy.  Just because you are related to someone does not mean you have to have them in your life.  Our people enter our lives in many ways.  Since we only have so much time to offer, spend it with those that bring you up.

9.  Spend time with an animal.  A pet can truly bring joy and peace.  We take our minds off of ourselves for a moment every time we stroke the soft fur of a purring cat or take a happy dog for a walk.

10.  Watch what you put in your body.  Its mineral and vitamin content, or lack or, it’s source, it’s way of getting to you, all make a difference.  Eating powerful food gives you power.  Our mood can be directly related to the candy bar we ate instead of the avocado.  There are also herbs that help with anxiety and more severe sadness.  Find a real herbalist to make them for you (not a health food store).  St. John’s Wort, Borage, and Lemon Balm are just a few.

These are tried and true ways to add joy to your life.  To ensure happiness.  It is easier to get back to happiness when we are wavering or side tracked once you incorporate these.  Start with just a few.  Add more on.  Do what you can but ensure that happiness becomes a part of your life.  You are worth it.

 

 

 

The Discombobulated Farmer

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I can’t seem to wake up at dawn anymore.  I hear a rooster crowing from down the street.  I hear my goat, Isabelle, yelling for food at her new home two blocks away.  I try to push the pit out of my stomach.  The heaviness will not lift.  I turn over and fall into listless sleep.  I find myself falling asleep in the car, crying suddenly, and feeling hopeless.  I guess I am experiencing a bit of depression.  Without a to-do list I feel bored and useless.  For the first time in my life I do not have a job that helps people.  I do not have a job at all.  I wonder if I fell off the face of the earth would anyone notice.  I am not feeling suicidal, just struggling with who I am without a purpose, a to-do list, a goal, a dream, a busy life.

We used to dream of these days.  We would read and write and walk and be on a kind of vacation.  However I am struggling with my own identity and fate and rewriting the chapters has proven more difficult than I imagined.  To be fair, it hasn’t been that long.  Perhaps I will fall into a gentle wave of security.  The characters in the novel I am working on introduce themselves and create themselves in times of silence.

We need to finish up at the house that destroyed me.  Giving all of my possessions away has been an interesting venture.  Folks that were in the very same situations as ours gather replacements for things they lost to give homesteading another go.  Our goal with the farm and homesteading school was to encourage folks to be more self reliant and to try homesteading.  And in a twist of fate our final chapter was to give people what they needed to set up shop.

For years Doug and I have given things away.  Given gifts.  Given medicines.  Helped people out.  Helped wherever we were needed but now that the tables are turned, so to speak, I find that it was easier to give then to receive.   To receive a blessing is to be humbled and thankful.

Our friends have opened their home to us and our cats.  As cat people they know that giving away our felines would be the final knife to me.  To lose my cats is unthinkable.  I struggle with feeling awkward in their home, with being in the way, with being a nuisance.  Rodney and Pat took us on a trip.  Monte and Erik took us out to dinner.  Kat and Rod bought us lunch and helped us move.  Sara helped us move the cats.  Kim and her family came and cleaned out the dreaded refrigerator at the near empty house.  Thank you.  It is not easy to be in need.

At a particular low point we pulled into the library and to my surprise my girls happened to be there.  Those three smiles can brighten my day.  Friends out of nowhere showed up and invited us to an event.  We have been visiting.  Grandma broke her knee and is recovering well in a rehab.  Thompson had a heart attack and two strokes.  He, too, will be alright and it was nice to visit him.  We saw our son, Andy, and his girlfriend yesterday.  Our schedule is free to reconnect and visit with folks.  I must open my eyes and see the blessings before me.  To humbly accept.  To be grateful.  To embrace this new path into the unknown.  To free myself of this heaviness and enjoy the greatest blessing, LIFE.