Juggling

I can’t juggle. I tried to learn once-upon-a-time and failed miserably. Hand-eye coordination is not my strong suit, unless it is the hand-eye coordination required for seeing a picture and pressing a shutter button. But the last two (or three) weeks have been one endless juggle. And it has been fun (I can’t believe I’m even saying that, but it’s true). In the past, busyness hasn’t necessarily been something I enjoyed. Too much on the schedule has translated into exhaustion and overwhelm and my family not wanting to be around me. But this time the busyness has been with activities I enjoy, and which are visible indicators of entrepreneurial progress. That’s exciting.

The goal always seems to be to find some sort of a balance, where everything that needs to be accomplished can be accomplished, without having to fish it back out from where it fell between the cracks. I’m not there yet. The last few weeks have been full of family portrait sessions and lots of piano students, so it is exciting to see progress in that regard, and a weekend trip to Boulder for a portrait workshop further added to the chaos. Hopefully, and hopefully soon, the chaos will resolve itself as things settle into routine, and I do look forward to that. But for the time being, it is a good kind of chaos.  Not sustainable, but worth it.

I remember the chaos and the juggling when Dad first started our family business back in Illinois. It is a truth learned very quickly in starting a business. Entrepreneurial endeavors always are accompanied by a certain level of sacrifice, and right now I just might be sacrificing my sanity. But so far, no one is complaining. So I will continue juggling.

 

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A Cat’s Contentment

At the request of my friend’s daughter, I snapped a few portraits of her treasured cat, Hobbes, sleeping contentedly on the sofa. He is so golden, he almost seemed to glow in the bit of sunlight streaming in the window.
IMG_4910eCats are satisfied with so little. Content to prowl around outside, content to come in and doze on the sofa or a bed, content with enough food, content with something as simple as a shred of paper to play with, content with a little affection and a little sunlight. Cats demand very little. A stroke on their cheek and a rumbling purr resonates.

Yet we human creatures are never content. We are always seeking lustfully after the next fad, the newest this or that, the best of this or that.  We desire the next adventure, the best experience. So much of our culture and our industries are built on discontentment. Magazines like House Beautiful capitalize on people’s discontent with their home decor and wall color choices. Travel magazines fuel and are fueled by discontent in where we are and what we can afford to do. Women’s magazines fuel and are fueled by discontent in my body, my clothes, my house, my family, my life, my kitchen, my husband.

I’m speaking in pretty broad terms here, and don’t misunderstand me as condemning various publications or condemning the idea of taking a vacation. Because I’m not.  But if we were content with what we had and only ever bought what we needed, and not what we lusted after, our whole economy would come crashing down. There’s nothing wrong with the new pair of shoes or the vacation or the nicer car or new paint on the walls. There is nothing wrong with beautifying one’s home or enjoying good food. We just need to be aware of our sinful human tendency to think that those things will bring lasting satisfaction. We mistakenly think that we will be better satisfied by a once-in-a-lifetime vacation to the Caribbean than by warming our fingers around a mug of hot tea, basking in the sunlight and reading our favorite book. Human beings are restless, discontent creatures, seeking satisfaction from things and experiences rather than seeking satisfaction in God’s provision for us. The modest plenty we have never seems to satisfy.

King Solomon, as well as other proverb writers and God Himself frequently drew lessons of one sort or another through considering God’s Creation. In the Book of Job, God reminds Job of His greatness and majesty by bringing to Job’s mind numerous creatures which God created and sustains, and which humans can’t even come close to understanding. Lessons and encouragement are learned and gained through considering characteristics of God’s creatures, how He cares for His non-human Creation, the instincts He gave to His animal creatures, and so on. In Proverbs 6, Solomon writes the following:

Go to the ant, O sluggard;
    consider her ways, and be wise.
Without having any chief,
    officer, or ruler,
she prepares her bread in summer
    and gathers her food in harvest.

Consider the cat, then, and be content.

A Day Off

Fall is here at last! The chill of coming winter has started to nip at the nose and the fingers and the toes, and our first frosts happened days or weeks ago. It is the time of year that particularly beckons for me to be outdoors. I took advantage of my new schedule with empty Tuesdays and drove the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway yesterday. Trixie was my little driving buddy, getting thoroughly in the way, sitting on my camera bag, and sharing a bag of pretzels with me. Dogs are such good company. Although I shorted myself on time a little bit and didn’t have as much good daylight left as I had hoped, it was sufficient. The golden leaves and the autumn glow make for wonderful picture taking. The drive home was a later than I had expected, so we got to Pactola right past sunset. So much beauty.
IMG_4926eIMG_4976eIMG_4969eIMG_5029eIMG_5038eThe change of seasons is invigorating. So much anticipation of wonderful things to come.

 

Cheap Renters

A recent Sunday-afternoon hike to Bill Falls (a.k.a. Hippie Hole) reminded me once again of how much ownership people think they have over these places that don’t belong to anyone, yet belong to everyone. As the sounds of loud music and profanity-laced conversation reverberated through the canyon near the Falls, I moved downstream, away from the chaos. It is truly amazing how many bikinis, beer bottles, and profanities hang out at Big Falls when the weather is nice enough for swimming. One reason my favorite time to go is winter. No one else is there.
IMG_4055eWhen I go deeper into God’s country, I want to see God’s order, not man’s chaos. I want to hear the silences and sounds of solitude. I want to smell the freshness of the wilderness, not beer and chlorine (yes, Big Falls actually smelled like chlorine…). I want to hear the music of the creek, not rock music. I don’t want to see garbage clogging up the creek. I don’t want to see broken glass, bottle caps, misplaced sandals, and abandoned pool toys. Essentially, I want to see less of people. More particularly, less of the profanity-spewing, intoxicated, pot-smoking variety. I like going there and seeing people having good, honest fun. But why does “fun” now have to include drugs and alcohol? Honestly, it is no wonder so many of the events for the local search and rescue involve Big Falls. When you combine beer and boulders and deep water, the results are likely to be devastating. As they too often are. We have these beautiful places to enjoy, places that are relatively untouched, and it is a shame that they are overrun during the summer with drugs and alcohol. When I see people with their piles of beer bottles (yes, literally piles), I find myself wondering whether they even care to remember the hike or not.

It is irritating to hike down to arguably one of the most beautiful corners of the Black Hills, with the graceful Falls, the pools of water, the towering granite crags, the mountain goats, the lush foliage in beautiful fall colors…and be greeted with a profane atmosphere that would merge well with a college campus, piles of beer bottles, and exceptionally skimpy swimming suits.

And this dynamic I think we have to blame on locals. Tourists don’t know enough about the area to go there with coolers of beer (the mental image of someone trying to navigate the trail to Big Falls carrying a cooler of beer is hilarious, by the way). So all you local kids who think it is cool to go down there to drink underage and smoke pot, get a life. Leave the Falls alone, so those not into drinking and pot smoking actually feel welcome there. And, just a thought, it might save you a fine or jail time. Sarah and I went to Big Falls much earlier this year, probably in May, and pretty much decided never to go there by ourselves again, at least not without taking a gun with us. The feeling of vulnerability is intimidating, when as females by ourselves we realized that the guys up on the rocks were smoking pot and watching us. At least I had my hefty lens with me. I knew I could do at least a little damage with that.

So please excuse my rant. But these Hills, these scenic spots, do not belong to us. They are on loan to us for a little while. I wish people would quit acting like cheap renters.

The Freedom of Inconvenience

There is something wonderfully simple yet gloriously complex about the process of watching the tree bud out in the springtime, watching the flowers shed their petals and be replaced by infant fruit, then watching the fruit mature, and ripen, then picking that fruit at the right time and processing it, canning it as various delectable spreads or syrups or sauces, stacking the jars neatly in the pantry to be used at a future date…the process is immensely satisfying. I love the thought that must go into identifying the fruit, identifying its readiness to be harvested, sorting it, juicing it, and canning it. The thought and learned skill that goes into the entire process, whether it be the observation and waiting, or the careful, gentle work, the meticulousness, the specificity – they all contribute to the satisfaction I get when looking at a row of jars of jewel-bright jelly.
IMG_3912And yet the whole process is terribly inconvenient, to our modern way of thinking. I was in the middle of making a batch of spicy wild plum sauce, and Sarah commented facetiously on “how much money we’d save” on spicy plum sauce, by having canned it ourselves. “Wait…we don’t buy spicy plum sauce.” And she is right. We don’t. I’ve never tasted spicy plum sauce, I’ve never used it, and I didn’t even know it was a thing until I found the recipe and decided to use some of my wild plums to make it. Why bother, honestly?

As I have been canning over the past few weeks, it has occurred to me how much time actually goes into very little of a finished product. The time it takes to pick fruit and properly process it means a lot of time goes into each finished jar. It would be so much faster just to buy it at the store.

But there is no satisfaction when admiring a jar of store-bought jelly, or a factory-sewn skirt, or thawing out a frozen meal. The satisfaction comes from having a task, completing the task, and knowing it was completed well. There is something deeply fulfilling about being capable of taking a task from start to finish, whether in the process of foraging and food preservation, or in the art and science of reading a sewing pattern and ending up with a beautiful handmade garment or other item. There is something joyous about starting with an empty stockpot, and serving up something delicious from scratch. There is something invigorating about taking a cluttered house and turning it into a haven, or taking a pile of laundry and seeing it flutter clean and fresh in the sunlit breeze.

My 40-minute commute to work could be seen as an inconvenience or as an opportunity to pray, listen to music, or just to ponder life. Our 45-minute drive to church is time to visit with family. The time it takes to do dishes by hand is time my sisters and I like to spend listening to podcasts or laughing with one another. When I have a task like canning that requires hours of my time, it is freeing and invigorating to be forced to slow down for the time it takes to accomplish that task and focus on one single thing, rather than the million “important things” that crowd into my mind. It is freeing to have to stand outside in the sun and fresh air while hanging a load of clean, wet laundry on the clothesline. It is freeing to be carefully chopping vegetables for a fresh soup. It is freeing to kneel over a length of fabric, pins in hand, or feed the fabric carefully through a sewing machine.

The inconvenience is freedom to me.

 

 

Change is in the Air

I hate change. I naturally kind of revolt at the idea of change. So I have actually been dragging my feet about this for almost a month. But it is time to embrace the change!

When I first began to write this blog two and a half years ago, I wasn’t entirely sure of my focus, or even for whom I thought I was writing. We had just moved here, and initially I was simply chronicling our move to the Black Hills from Illinois. But over the last two and a half years, a lot has changed, and I’ve found my focus broadening in some senses, and maybe narrowing or becoming more focused in other ways. This year and this next year are also going to be times of transition and change, as I transition from work as a medical scribe full time to teaching piano and working on growing a photography business. Due to all these things, I’ve decided to change the name of my blog. I wanted to make this as an official announcement before I actually change the name, particularly since some of you have been following my blog more or less since the beginning! Until the name changes, I’m not going to announce it, but rather provide a head’s up that some changes are in the works!

The new name isn’t particularly meaningful, but I wanted to rename the blog in a way that would (I feel) more accurately reflect the content that I am writing or want to write, in the sense that it would broaden the focus from strictly “homestead” to country life or the country spirit in general. I have no idea what the future holds, so broadening it in this way would potentially allow for future changes that God could bring. At least, this is the goal of changing the name. It will also be a way to unify a few of my different pursuits, since I am in the process of launching a photography business and will before too long be sharing my website/portfolio officially. And since I also am officially teaching piano, a name change on this site would allow me to unify all three of those things endeavors, to a certain extent, as far as “creating a brand” goes. It would be nice to be able to direct people or potential clients to similar websites, rather than three completely unrelated ones. So keep a look out for that change…Other than the name, nothing else will be different for now.

Thanks to all who read this blog and for being a reason to continue to write! Your feedback is encouraging, and, speaking for probably all bloggers, it always gives a boost to the day!

Looking forward to seeing where things continue to go!