Sunday, 28 August 2016

Not so Rich and Famous

Well, I finally did it, dear readers. After publishing 135 blogs and chugging away at CrowDayOne for three years, I signed up for a workshop on blogging to find out how it’s supposed to be done. When I first started this blog, I was flying by the seat of my pants, and really, it’s still a wild ride every time I sit down to write. Maybe I was missing something?

The ad for the free webinar course showed up on my Facebook page, and I couldn’t resist. The young man who was giving this talk  had grown his blog readership from zero to a zillion (okay, I exaggerate) in just 18 months. Wow! Imagine that! He said we could do that, too, and he’d tell us how for free. We could even sit in our jammies in front of the computer during the presentation. Technology is amazing, isn’t it?

It was a good presentation, and I learned a lot. Not just about blogging, either.

I learned that bloggers need to have a platform – the foundation on which you stand, and from which you speak. It’s what really engages you, and what you want to share with the world. The teacher named 5 common platforms, and hey! I recognized myself in one of them: the Artist. The artist has a love for beauty, and tries to find it everywhere. She wants to open her audience’s eyes to the beauty, too – the beauty in nature, in relationships, in personal growth, and so many more life arenas. So I’m an artist! Who knew? Well, I guess I have known, but sometimes it is hard to name the thing you are; it seems somehow presumptuous. But of course it is not. You are who the Creator created you to be.

 Life Lesson One: Claim your name. Be who you are.

Next: I learned that if I was willing to do the work, I would see the results. I too could have 100,000 readers, said the teacher. He listed the tasks: build an e-mail list, follow and interact with other, more famous, bloggers; network with them, offer to do guest posts;  give away something for free (like webinars). In other words, knock, knock, knock on every door, and if the doors open, walk on through. Hmmm.

So far, I have done very little of the work to increase readership. Why not? There’s this little niggling voice in the back of my head that says, “Answer the question, Jessie. It’s important.” And so I have been noodling about it as I went about the daily grind this week: vacuuming, canning, laundry etc. What is it that I really want in life? Why do I do what I do (in my case, writing a blog almost every week)? Would “success” make me happier, or would it unnecessarily complicate what I already have? I began blogging to fulfill a dream and to give myself a challenge; I often feel compelled to write, and consider it a calling. Is that good enough? Whew, these are hard questions but worth wrestling with. Who knows what seeds I am planting as I struggle with these questions, seeds that will sprout and grow – in my life, and perhaps also in yours, too.

Life Lesson Number Two: Avoid avoidance. Answer the tough questions.

The third point my webinar teacher  presented was the money angle. He quoted Walt Disney: “We don’t make movies to make money, we make money so we can make more movies.” In other words, it’s okay to turn your love into your life’s work, and it is not grubby to ask money for the thing that you have that others want. (He then proceeded to try and sell us an on-line course that would help us, too, become full-time bloggers with a zillion readers, books to sell, and fame and fortune, a bargain at only $200. I didn’t buy it.)

I agree with him: it’s okay to ask for money. Some websites and blogs are amazing, and if someone works hard to put it together so I can learn and grow, I’m willing to pay for it. But speaking personally, I don’t need to be paid for what I do. In fact, I do not want to be paid for what I do. At this stage in my life, I’ve found that it’s all about giving things away – possessions of which I have too many, and a bit of  rudimentary “elder’s wisdom” that I’ve accumulated over the years. I think that if you’re a person of a “certain age” you’ll know what I mean. Giving brings its own joy and that is reward enough for me. 

Life Lesson Three:  Do what you love first of all. All else is a bonus.

I signed up for a webinar on blogging, and ended up learned lessons about life. As we Canucks say, "Beauty, eh?"

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Harvest Gold

This summer is moving way too fast for my liking. The flowers are beginning to die, and there’s a lot of dead garden waste in the compost. Decay is in the air.

We had our last meal of peas last week, and the pea vines are destined for the compost heap.
 But, there’s a good side: it’s harvest time.

Take our zucchini. (Yes, please, take them.) Why do we do this to ourselves? Have we forgotten the utter boredom of trying to work our way through half-a-dozen baseball-bat-sized Zees in other years? Sigh. Time to get out the Zucchini Cookery Book (copyright 1978, when Z was the new exotic wonder food.) Its cover proclaims, “Buried in Zucchini? ... if you try all our Wilderness House recipes [70!], you will use 93 pounds of Zucchini.” Oh, goody.  I don’t care what exotic name you call it – Zucchini Gazpacho, Zucchini Salerno, Zucchini Mousseron – it still all tastes like zucchini to me.

Then again, it’s part of the harvest. I love that word. It conjures up all kinds of memories. When I was a little girl, harvest time on the farm meant that crews of neighbouring farmers circulated farm to farm to help each other bring in the harvest.

 It also meant a whole lot of extra mouths to feed  on threshing day, and there was a fierce competition amongst the neighbourhood women to see who could provide the best meal. The men, hot and sweaty, would give themselves a quick wash outside under the pump before sitting down. Bowls of potatoes and vegies, pickles, roasts with gravy, and applesauce circulated; plates were heaped high.

We kids were waiters and watchers; this feast was not for us until after everyone had eaten their fill. And everyone knew that the highlight was yet to come: pie. Raisin pie, apple pie, lemon least three different kinds. My mom and her friend were awfully nervous  – they knew only simple Dutch cooking.  Would their meal meet with approval? They probably didn’t realize that every other woman on the circuit was asking themselves the same question, and every man around that table was revelling in the best meals they’d probably get until the next harvest rolled around.

Another memory that’s associated with Harvest is canning. The RS has been hovering in the kitchen this week, watching me canning up a storm. He’s scratching his head, commenting, “You’re working too hard. It’s hot. Why are you doing this?” “I’m enjoying it,” I tell him cheerfully. (I know my man: he’s feeling guilty, because “it’s too hot to do anything today”, and so he’s watching the Olympics. I let him stew in his guilt juices – I’ll get something good out of this! Maybe even dinner out.) He watches me a bit longer, then a light dawns: “You’re writing a blog, aren’t you?” My man knows me, too. Busted. Goodbye, dinner out.

When the children were younger, when I was a full-time homemaker, I used to preserve boxes and boxes of fruit – peaches, pears, cherries, applesauce. It was what you did to feed your family. Mom did it too. How eagerly we waited for the call announcing that the peaches were ripe in the Niagara Peninsula. Our family squeezed into the Volkswagen early the next Saturday morning to make a day of it. We’d do fun thing in the morning, have a picnic, and then it was time to do some serious buying. One bushel at full price – peaches that could last for a few days, for mom to can after the weekend. And one bushel of cheap, cheap "seconds": falls, bruised and almost overripe. Mission accomplished, the Volksie headed home FAST, my sister and I slurping on peaches in the back seat, juice dribbling all over. Those cheap “reduced for quick sale” peaches were deteriorating by the minute, and mom had to get them canned that very evening. I have memories of sweat pouring off mom’s brow and steam filling the already hot kitchen, as bottle after bottle emerged from the canner, later to be lined up on the basement shelves and consumed with pleasure all winter long.

I don’t can every year, but the garden has been productive this year, and truly, I do enjoy it. There’s an element of nostalgia, I’m sure, but there’s also the satisfaction of knowing that our food is not going to waste. We planted those seeds and tended them with care. Now it’s time to carry the harvest over into the winter months. With every mouthful, we will remember our blessings. I love seeing all those bottles lined up on the shelves: pickled cucumbers, beans, and beets; peach chutney; 3 kinds of jam. And more to come. What bounty!

“You know, I think we’re in the harvest years of our lives,” I comment to the RS when he comes back to see if I’m STILL working. He grunts. “Now you’re getting heavy,” he says and quickly scuttles  back to the den, to the safety of the Olympics, before I can begin pontificating his ears off. I guess you, dear reader, could do that now too, if heavy is not your thing.

But if you’re still reading, let me explain. In Backyard Parables, gardener Margaret Roach writes about the stages of her garden, which parallel the stages of life, starting with Conception, in January–February, when you order seeds and make plans, and Birth, as the first green shoots  push through the soil. Youth comes next, when everything grows so fast. In the season of Adulthood full potential is reached. And then comes Senescence, which signals that the cells are beginning to die. Decay begins, and that could be a real downer, especially in life which is not as vigorous as it used to be. Good news though: it is accompanied by the joy of  harvest. At harvest time, all the work you’ve put into the garden – and into life – is coming to fruition.
The garlics (70+ heads) are hanging up to dry for winter storage.

and with tomato sauce yet to come...

Some plants – and some parts of our life – aren’t all that productive. But here and there you will find evidence of abundance, beautiful, complete, and awesome.

And abundance? Well, that’s harvest gold, better than any Olympic medal. That’s worth celebrating.