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Archive for July, 2009

Give a little, get a lot.

Since moving into our home a little over two years ago, I’ve been busily “renovating” the modest gardens around the house.  There were some good bones, but at best the plantings and layout were a manic hodgepodge of “if it’s different, it’s better.”  The first summer here was focused on the front yard, transforming it from meadow gone wild (which looks absolutely hysterical in a not so good way when you’re in a nearly urban area) to having some form of loose structure and rhythm.  Last summer was about tearing out about a third of the grass in the back yard to put in a well-organized and extremely useful vegetable patch/kitchen garden.  This year brought about tearing out another chunk of the grass in the back yard to put in a perennial herb garden.

If you couldn’t already tell, I really don’t like grass.

There is something that is so satisfying about good landscaping.  Now, good is a relative term, but if I look at the gardens this year (the third summer) versus that first year I see so much more wildlife on our tiny patch of land.  Obviously, I’m not the only one who’s happy with the changes.  Even in this oppressive July heat, I can sit back and enjoy all of the work that I’ve done and know that it’s not just benefiting me.  The sheer number of bees is a huge positive, what with all of the Colony Collapse Disorder in the past few years and seeing the cucumbers and pumpkins forming while the tomatoes ripen means I can pass this on to family and friends over the upcoming months.  It’s truly amazing to me that a little elbow grease and a little faith can give so much back in such a short period of time.

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Simple Pleasures

Not working a full-time job has given me time to reflect and complete things at home that I’ve literally been trying to finish for the better part of two years.  Thank heaven for small favors, right?  But I’m left with this niggling feeling about jobs and working that just won’t completely dissipate, and I can’t figure out where the concept of actually living became so devalued in today’s American society.  When did we become too busy to actually enjoy the processes of life?

A few weeks ago I put up 41 half-pints of strawberry jam (half of that being strawberry vanilla), and on completing my handiwork when all was said and done came an immense sense of satisfaction that I had taken the time and effort to do something that positively impacts the lives of the people I care about.  That, apart from bringing the simple pleasure of the taste of perfectly ripe June strawberries in the dead of winter, also contributes to the well-being of the person without preservatives, agricultural industrialism or marketing.  Is there a reason why crunching numbers or answering phones have become more respectable careers than maintaining the health, happiness and general wellness of ourselves, friends and families?

Perhaps the best memories of my childhood were spent outside in a garden or in the kitchen with my mother.  There were also the years of constructing furniture, porches, decks and finishing the second story to our house with my father.  We did things together, we made things with our own hands and ended up improving our quality of life because of it.  I went on into my adult life knowing how to preserve fruits and vegetables, bake most types of desserts with ease, operate basic power tools and an innate ability to look at a plant and have a general arsenal of tools to be able to make it thrive.  I didn’t realize until later on how happy I would be to have endured some of those absolutely socially terrible years in the country – in the end, they gave me skills I could have never learned in an urban area.

I’ve been given the opportunity to reflect on my life and my goals due to the economy, and I’m taking this very seriously.  What will be enough to let me enjoy life while working or otherwise?  I’m not so idealistic to believe that any job I take will fulfill my life, that any career I choose will be enough to hold my interest endlessly without having the ability to evolve over time.  What are the things that make us happy on a daily basis?  What are the things that enrich our lives if only we’d take the time to stop and notice them, integrating them into our daily existence?  This blog is serving as an exercise to help us find out and act as a reminder when everything goes topsy-turvy.

I have no idea where we’ll go from here, and there is excitement in the possibilities because the only other option would be fear.  Maybe it’s that little bit of Abigail Adams that’s rubbing off on me – or maybe it’s my mother, as the two seemed to share a fantastical amount of fortitude and resilience in the face of adversity.  The only things you can work with are what you already have, and with a little ingenuity, smarts and general craftiness I’ve seen first hand that one can in fact make something out of nothing, lemonade out of lemons and even make money grow on trees – and none of these things are feats you can accomplish within the confines of a cubicle.  For that, the superior domestic engineers in my life earn my respect far more than any VP of Executive Marketing ever could.

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