Wednesday, December 30, 2009

It's OK To Love Your Life

Each year around now, I turn contemplative, as the date dictates I should. Back when I was editing magazines, I'd write an editorial that outlined everything I had learned that year, and the goals I had for the following year. It was an exercise in humility ... did I do enough this year? Will my readers be sufficiently impressed? Are my goals lofty enough for next year? Ugh.
The year 2009 has been a tumultuous one for me. Virtually nothing is the same in my life today as it was a year ago. And I mean big stuff ... husband, home, job, pets, friends. As one new friend cogently stated "life circumstances changed." Indeed. But I'm not writing today to whine about all my self-induced change (because that's what it was) or lament about relics of the past. My message today is that I love my life; and it's OK for you to love yours as well.
I experienced a little epiphany the other day. As I sat on the floor playing with my early Christmas present from my sweetie, a 10-week-old Cairn Terrier puppy I named Pearl, I felt a twinge of guilt. At the moment just prior to that, amidst Pearl's puppy growling and air-twirling, I felt sheer and total bliss, utter happiness. My conscience said to me ... "shouldn't you be doing something that makes you miserable, like cleaning toilets, or 'querying' editors about writing assignments?" I texted my sweetie and asked: "What's up with that? Catholic guilt or something?" Why must I feel guilty about being truly happy, for once in a long, long time? The answer is that I don't. So it's true ... I don't have a high-powered office job anymore; I take care of a few dozen animals every day on this farm; I cook supper from scratch every night; I knit and sew the things we need like potholders, curtains and wash cloths; I clean, organize and do laundry; I cheer when I see dead rodents that the dogs or cats have killed outside (and sometimes inside!); and I wait with anticipation for my sweetie to get home from the office every night because ... I love this new life we've created together. (And I love him more than words can express.) For me, it's a life full of inquiry; so much more than when I sat in an office chair every day and was assigned the tasks of creating 5-year plans, performance evaluations, competitive analyses, and the like. Each day is different--I never know what I'll find when I step outside the door and into the barnyard--and by my own choosing. 
I was chatting with MaryJane Butters on the phone last week and I shared my "epiphany" with her. She seconded my conclusion and said "yes, why can't we just sit and play with a puppy if we want to, or grandchildren" or whatever for that matter. It's OK to love your life exactly as it is, this day. Embrace those moments of clarity, silence the inner chatter, and revel in the bliss of a puppy's gentle yip or a grandbaby's smile. We don't have to feel guilty or busy ourselves with other, "more important" work because ... there simply isn't any.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

I Heart George

For about 6 months now, we've had a pair of Katahdin sheep at the farm: Missy, the bottle lamb, and Annie, a ewe. We were waiting until just the right time in fall to bring home our ram from Bryan Welch's farm, the publisher of GRIT, Mother Earth News and a bunch of other titles. So a few weekends ago, we loaded him up (no easy task) and into the pen with our ewes he went. After doing that thing where you squint your eyes and look at a new animal and try to decide what his name should be, I wanted to name him Ramses. He looked regal and I thought he should be named after a king. My sweetie scoffed and said "I'd rather call him George or something." Yes! That was it ... George: The perfect name for this handsome creature.
George is somewhat famous as far as we're concerned. He is the grandson of Wendell Berry's ram. (If you're unsure of who Wendell Berry is, do an Amazon search and you'll find pages and pages of novels, essays and poems, mostly about agriculture, by him.) And George, what an aristocratic ovine he is ... his big eyes, his gentle nature, his luxuriating ways. He is a quarter Cheviot, and 3/4 Katahdin; enough so that he doesn't need to be sheared. I have trained him, along with the ewes, to take molasses treats from my hand. He stares at me with his expressive eyes, sizes up whether I can be trusted, then darts in between the girls to get what's rightfully his. He smells the treat first, I press it into his lips and he gently takes it and steps back. I have no doubt that come Easter, we'll have spring lambs bouncing around the farm!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Book Club Beckons

One of the things I knew I'd miss about my life in Lexington, Ky., was my book club. Having been in one for the past 10 years (one in California, and the other that I helped start in Kentucky), it has become an important part of my life. In the past, the Modus Operandi was always to hand select a group of 5 to 7 women with various things in common--work, horses, crafting, and of course, taste in books--and invite them to join the club. You always had to be careful who you invited, because group dynamics is so important in a situation like book club. You can't have people who are too opinionated, too quiet, too talkative, too this or too that. You also can't have people who never read the book because that just irritates the other members to no end. And, you always have to put some care and thought into your book selection because you are taking 5 to 7 peoples' lives (oops, I mean time) into your hands. In other words, if the book is a dud, you'll hear about it!
So, upon arrival here in Kansas, I set about organizing my next book club with a new MO. This time, I decided I couldn't wait around to be magically introduced to the fun, fabulous and intelligent women I was seeking, so I took matters into my own hands, via Craigslist! Under the community/groups tab, I posted a  chirpy note, a la Joan Holloway (on Mad Men), recruiting cool ladies who loved to read ... the kind of books I like to read, not necessarily the ones Oprah wants us to read. I love historical fiction (like The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver or Serena, by Ron Rash) and memoirs (The Glass Castle, My Life in France) so anyone game for that type of book is in!   
I got three responses for a total of four women--a mother/daughter duo, a 27-year-old single mom, and a retired reference librarian/cob-house-builder-farmer--and we meet for the first time this Saturday. I selected Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates and I already heard back that it was hated by two members. Hee hee. I loved it ... what dialog ... what messed up people! And so much to talk about, group dynamics aside. Can't wait to see how this cold-call book club turns out ... Ladies, this will be FUN!