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Category Archives: Recovering the Artist Within

Thoughts, reflections, and experiences of trying to find, honor, and appreciate the artist within. Also, follow my process through Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way.”

Where the Story Left Off

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Here I am warm and safe at home after a long weekend networking and strategizing with many other local food growers and advocates from around North Dakota and beyond. The Dakota Grown Local Foods Conference is always a such a delight. I have been attending for the past 4 years, each time in a different role. Each time with a new understanding of the challenges facing the development of a locally-based food economy within the state.

But that’s not why I came to my computer to write tonight. I came to follow up on an area that I just keep thinking about. Yesterday, for the first time, I presented to a full audience about telling our story. I used by story as a springboard to discuss content marketing, especially in the local foods.

This audience you see, they have a vision. They follow their hearts and their dreams. They follow their passions and are only sometimes slowed by the voice of reason. But yet, they are small business owners, mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, sons, and daughters trying to make a living in a way that brings them happiness.

We discussed ways they can better convey the stories of their business by uncovering the story and finding a voice. We explored what success means and how our vision and actions may or may not reflect our values. Screen Shot 2014-02-16 at 11.08.04 PM

I shared the values I identified as I uncovered my story. I encouraged the audience to pair up with someone and complete these three sentences:

My passion is to:

My purpose is to:

Someday I would really like to:

The room filled with dynamic chatter. Dreams were being shared. Connections ignited. It was a wonderful sound. But some how, in the excitement, I remained silent. I didn’t share that part of my story. I talked about how I got to where I am, through mishaps and intense life changes. I claimed responsibility for most of my husband’s white hair, mostly because I wanted to quit my job to “be happy.”

But I realize now, I didn’t share my dreams with my audience. I let my dreams be muted. I didn’t breathe life into my next steps by saying them out loud! And I apologize! I suppose, as a creative person, my initial phase of creation is through writing. For me, writing brings ideas to reality.

So here is my chance! To share these ideas that are just coming together. Here is your chance, to witness my dreams take a closer step to finding a place in reality. Here I go, telling my story, just like I encouraged others to do this weekend!

My passion is to grow. I nurture ideas. I cultivate relationships. I have the courage to try new things. 

Who says I can't climb a tree?

My purpose is to share my experiences with others, to build connections and be grounded in the present. I raise my children to be curious and aware and I raise myself to embrace creativity, openness, simplicity, and peacefulness. 

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Someday I would really like to have a farmstead with several animals, a great garden, and several greenhouses. We’d run a bed and breakfast, providing guests with learning opportunities and amazing meals with real, fresh foods. I’d have a comfortable rhythm in life and enjoy fresh air everyday. Someday. 

For now, I raise chickens for eggs and ducks for butcher. I tend a garden. I make and sell jams and jellies. I am learning to make cheese. 

DSCN7158Just last week, I completed the Farm Beginnings course through FARRMS. It’s hard to believe I have a plan in place! It doesn’t seem real yet. But you’ve got to start somewhere, right? Why not start here? 

For the past year and a half, my venture into the business world has become deeply intwined in my endeavors of personal growth and health. I have learned to respect my skills and talents. I have redefined my perspective on work, play, creativity, and success in ways that promise to help me maintain balance and honor my strengths. My business plan relied on seasonal variation and various incomes in hopes to have a way of life that benefits my relationships with my family, community, culture, and nature. 

But now there is a farm plan in place! And its not just mine! It emerged through discussions between me, my husband, and sons. 

As a family, we want to develop our small venture in backyard gardening and poultry livestock to respond to opportunities in our local community. Our passion is to grow fresh food, while balancing quality and diversity. Our purpose is to share not only quality product, but also our experiences. 

Family Photo 2012

Family Photo 2012

We want to begin raising poultry for egg and meat production and grow vegetables for direct sale and use in value-added products. In the next month, we’ll be building local relationships, making our orders, and enhancing our technology and tools. We’ll then be busy through November raising chicken, duck, goose, turkey, lettuce, spinach, kale, and chard for direct sale. We’ll be building a greenhouse and designing cold frames.

Winter Density Lettuce

Winter Density Lettuce

We’ll be growing beans, beets, carrots, cauliflower, cabbage, onions, and tomatoes for salsas and pickles. And for the preserves, we’ll be picking wild and cultivated varieties of currants, chokecherries,  juneberries, apples, and grapes. We’ll be continuing our sales at farmers markets and consider opportunities to grow through partnerships in our community. 

Variety of veggies from the garden, ready for pickling.

Variety of veggies from the garden, ready for pickling.

It’s going to be fun! It’s going to be a learning process. It’s going to be hard work. But best of all, it’s going to be ours. Our story. Our farm.  

And perhaps you wonder what we’ll be calling our business? Well, for now, the poultry operation falls under the name of Four Feather Farms. And our garden and greenhouse? It will be known as Green Leaf Gardens. 

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Will it all come together just as we imagine? Mmmm, probably not quite. Will we encounter challenges and get discouraged? You better believe it. Will we see this as a great opportunity to grow? I am sure. It is our story after all.

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The Heartache that Doesn’t Fade

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Heartache doesn’t soften over time.

The pain grows roots.

It takes residence in the soul.

We journey forward, learning as we go.

The heartache gives us perspective and deeper understanding.

It becomes part of who we are.

In that open, vulnerable space is where our love resides.

Love never fully understood in a space that will never fade. Dogwood Blossoms

Recovering a Sense of Faith

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Last year, I began reading “The Artist’s Way.” A friend recommended it to me. She thought I might appreciate some of the exercises and inspiration as I tried to love being and artist (again.) And I did!

Artist-Way

Julia Cameron soon made it into my blog posts. I wrote about my experiences.

Recovering a Sense of:

Safety 

Identity

Power

Integrity

Abundance

Compassion

Connection and Strength

Self Protection

And then, I got stumped. “Recovering a Sense of Faith.”

I read the chapter. It made no sense. Faith is a sticky subject for me.

I reread it a month later. I was simply confused.

Then reread it again six weeks later. I couldn’t quite get what relationships and boundaries have to do with faith.

Then again two months later. I let it go.

In time, I began to work on my own underlying issues. I worked on boundaries and barriers. I explored trusting my own judgment. I began valuing my own time. My priorities became important. I began valuing myself.

I began to see myself as a part of something bigger. For so long, I felt more like apart from something bigger. I began thinking about the economics of the living. Not how to make a living (although I admit, I think about that too). But truly, how to live our lives in a way in which we are living.

For so long, I felt like I was bogged down. Carrying too much. As my dad would sometimes say, “It’s like you’re trying to carry 10 gallons of crap in a five gallon bucket.” My vision of myself carrying TWO five gallon buckets overflowing with crap came through in brilliant Technicolor.

Clearly, I could not go on like this forever. Even as I tried to reconsider my relationship with work, the image of myself still held true. No wonder I couldn’t quiet get the idea of a sense of faith.

I couldn’t let go. This is one of our greatest challenges in life. After all, we are infinite beings living in a finite world. Our spirit craves infinite communications of love, acceptance, joy, and peace. Yet we hold on to so many finite things. Why can we not learn from the trees that let go of their leaves each autumn?IMG_0337

As we go into winter, are there things that simply won’t serve our well-being anymore? Do we really want to share our sacred space with things that no longer serve us? Would it be better to let the material objects move to another space where they can either be appreciated or perhaps break down into the earth again?

Letting go of my first pair of hikers was a difficult challenge. But after 11 years of holding on, it was time.

Letting go of my first pair of hikers was a difficult challenge. But after 11 years of holding on, it was time.

As a family, we had gotten used to being overwhelmed. We struggled to make room for laughter, learning, creativity, communication, joy, peace, and tolerance. And then we starting letting go of things we held on to. Like my first pair of hikers I purchased in 2002. Like the broken toys and unnecessary papers. We examined relationships that were no longer working for us and began to set boundaries. We understood and accepted our short comings, and let our sweet energetic puppy go to another home on a farm, where she can run and play to her hearts desire. We let go of the images that we have to be overly busy to be okay. We continue to open ourselves to ideas and clarify our priorities in life.

We created space for more infinite qualities to fill our home. The universe responded to this space in our lives and offered us a gift. A piano!  A free piano!

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We easily found the physical space for it in our home. And the infinite qualities that emerge from exploring the world of music of the family cannot compare. In the first days, I settled in to teach myself a special song.

This song, my dad used to sing along with my boys’ musical toys. He’d prepare his silly voice and sing, “Tell me won’t you please. Why the leaves, have furry leaves.”

Knowing very little about music, I simply thought he was making up words to be odd and funny. When my siblings and I were faced with the unexpected task of selecting music at his funeral, all I could think was how important it would be to have the “Furry Leaves” song. I knew it was a classical composition, but had very little way to communicate what this song would be. Luckily, a friend who was helping us with cleaning and planning knew a little about music. I sheepishly tried to hum the tune.

“Oh, that’s Furry Leaves.” She said.

I looked at her. Certainly Dad hadn’t sung the Furry Leaves song to her. She wrote it down for me and I laughed. It was Beethoven’s Fur Elise. My dad had probably made up those words when he was a child learning to play the piano.

So on Sunday night, I got to work. And I learned to play the first little bit of Fur Elise. Just enough to sing the words.  I now feel as though I have both received and given a gift of infinite proportion.

And I may finally have an understanding of Julia Cameron’s final chapter.

What cannot be contained in words

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What cannot be contained in words

There are so many words to write.

Sometimes I write with urgency. Sometimes I write without much intention.

And sometimes, I just can’t manage to write at all.

It is not for lack of ideas.

The ideas are brewing.

They are moving through my mind, weaving in and out of experience.

They are finding a place they fit.

Larger themes emerge:

Interdependence. Intimacy. Self-Love.

Letting go. Simplicity. Trusting the Universe.

These are huge, HUGE, themes.

They fit everywhere!

They are not contained.

Not in sentence form, or even syllables.

Not in letters, or even paragraph.

The provoke story.

They call for metaphor.

They push me to write, perhaps in a way I haven’t before.

And in time, they become part of me.