Today, something really simple happened. And it changed where I'm at with this entire project.
I've been gestating houseplants lately. I think, because Matt and I decided not to have any more children about one year ago (and we would typically be scheming the next baby right about now), I've decided to place my nurturing capabilities into other venues. I've also been weirdly obsessed with getting a family dog, which is probably also connected, but that is another post.
In acquiring these great, assorted houseplants, I had to assimilate them into my environment. Which is probably not as traditional as you might think. (imagine that)
I put out a general request on Facebook, here in Laramie, WY, that I would gratefully pick up castoffs from folks who were willing to "botanically relocate" their surplus houseplants to a devoted home. I spent as much as the owners would allow learning the story of the plants' homes and why they are being so trustingly signed over to my care. I felt I owed the plants that responsibility.
The plant in the picture was living in a run-down trailer home with a woman and her three boys. She was so inspiring and interesting... she recently graduated as a statistician and was relocating to Washington, DC (her youngest asked her if she was going to work for the President and she thought about it and then said, "Yes! I guess I am."). She was doing this all alone, without her ex-husband, and knew that in moving her belongings, three boys, and severals pets, the plants "weren't going to make it." Wow. She was SO GENEROUS, with her time and her amazing plants. Had I not had a meeting that I had to run off to, I could have dug deeper into her story all morning. As it was, we talked for as long as I could stand in the drizzling rain with her two pit bulls and I drove back into town and went to work.
I wish I had "before" pictures. When AJ saw this houseplant, he was shocked and quickly set to work rearranging the living room furniture to help decide where to put it. Then he hid medium-sized toys in the plant for his little brother to find. It was THAT big and out of control.
I walked around it for almost a week before getting a large tree-trimming tool to tame the wildness. I like to arrange flowers, so I felt like the task held similar strengths. After pruning several unwieldy "trunks," I set to the task of tethering it to stakes and to itself, to help it grow in a more unified manner. Things that grow too big, too fast, with no structure, are not always the ideal. Of course, neither are those that are too confined... I also acquired a couple of jasmines, intricately vined into the structured shape of heart. And I (not so) secretly delight when their vines go shooting off into the general dining room space. I also love those that refuse to be contained.
All of this is a slow lead-up to the actual paradigm-shifting event that happened today. There are two plants, an orchid in the short stages and a variegated purplish-pink leafed plant of some kind, that routinely leak any amount of water all over the table top where they rest. It is a simple fix, right? Yet, have I done anything about it?? No. For weeks, I've been watering these babies and then watching them bleed all over my table and mopping it up.
I walked into the garage today and realized I had two perfect solutions. Not even looking, sitting right out on the counter in there, were several of those "watering saucers" (I'm sure there is an official name for these, but I have no idea what it is. So I relate it to tea.) And guess what else? I only had two sizes and each fit the plants that had been overflowing all this time. Coincidence? I think not. (Okay, maybe it is, but as a therapist and person who seeks meaning, I have decided it wasn't).
My epiphany was that within all the natural, beautiful, untapped potential of nature or our creativity or of our families and communities, the structure of a container can bring meaning and simplicity to the complexity of all of it. If you've been following my blogs, I've been trying to embrace the wild, unpredictable nature of it all. But it hadn't occurred to me that MAYBE the wild, unpredictable nature needs my structure and predictability to hold the elements it actually depends on to survive. Yowza.
So, here's where I landed with all of this. And, granted, this wasn't a lightening bolt of inspiration... this was a few-glasses-of-wine-with the-kids-in-bed kind of epiphany. Some guiding principles, all of which fit into how we raise our kids, our food and, generally, how we show up in the world. This might be my longest post yet!
Everything we do, every new venture we undertake, is infused with the following characteristics:
Freedom. We are not doing this out of obligation or martyrdom. We believe that we are free to make those choices we make, with our family, our food, our individual lives. We can choose something different. And THAT is liberating.
Creativity. We can live out the option that gives each of us the highest degree of self-expression, for no other reason than we have a duty to bring our voice into the world. Other people might not get what we are doing and that is TOTALLY okay. Actually, it makes it interesting!
Natural and organic. Not the food certification, but a broad-based way of living. That one thing naturally leads to another. Building on the natural strengths of the land, the animals and each of the people we work with. Unaltered. But not unrefined.
Simplicity. "Chop wood. Carry water." Not making things more complicated is actually THE way. Taking a solid foundation of old-fashioned knowledge and using that to the best of it's advantage with all that we have learned since then. Which might not actually be as much as we think.
Interconnectedness. Nurturing all of this in a way that supports our resources and putting those relationships at the center of what we do. Our relationship with the community and our community's relationship with their food. Our relationship with the animals and our commitment to giving them the best life possible, which is represented in our food. It's all connected.
Responsiveness. Not reactionary and not trendy. But truly responding to the needs of those around us. Our earth, our family, our animals, our members, our community. All of it. It is an experiential-based learning that cannot be read about or taught and, even at it's messiest, is a powerful tool.
Predictability. As much consistency as the wild alchemy of Mother Nature allows. When we can provide the best possible circumstances for nature to do it's thing and then create the space for that to actually happen, it's a beautiful thing. And to know that our animals, our land, or even our family and community can trust the safe structure we provide is our definition of good stewardship.