personal writing

THE PARABLE OF THE RED CLOGS

 
Rosie in the kitchen
bloomers 2
pink blanket knitting

Allow me to describe what I keep referring to as The Parable of the Red Clogs, a tale of desire and displacement. 

We live in my grandma's red brick house, situated in a town that can't sustain a new business to save itself unless it's a hair salon, of which our town has three. There is, though, one old standby that has lasted decades and will carry on in perpetuity no matter it's eventual fate: the hardware. Weathered, unchanged, too good to be true but, actually—impossibly—it is true. Fortunate to us, it is situated in a way so it is what we see out our westerly windows. Specifically, we see a vintage light-up street sign that says DUTCH STANDARD PAINTS inlaid on a red clog motif. If ever the hardware goes the way of mom-and-pop hardwares the world over, I hope I can buy the sign off of them. It is a relic of childhood, a totem of small-town survival and grit in the age of Amazon, and it's a sign with a red clog . . . and I love clogs.

I am the proud owner of a pair of navy rubber German clogs with a tipped-up toe. I live in them, even in winter. They look identical to the clog on the hardware sign, except for the nagging and obvious difference that they are not red. The company sells a red pair. Do I need them? No, I do not, except when I am going through anything hard, whereby my answer becomes Yes, clearly I do. Buying an identical product that I do not need goes against my personal ethos and feels irresponsible in a time when we are raising a baby on a single income and trying to purchase land. Yet, when I am feeling blue, unappreciated, lonely, and sometimes even when I'm hungry, I hear on repeat: You deserve the red clogs — No, you need the red clogs.

beer

What I need, I know, is companionship with humans and especially with God, not German rubber. Displacement of emotion is a curious, real thing. The mental back-and-forth over the clogs happens often enough that I use it as a gauge for how on- or off-track my faith compass is. Does that sound absurd to you? Maybe it is. But by assessing how badly I desire Stuff, I know how badly I need to express gratitude for what I do have. In my life gratitude is found through prayer. Prayer and paying attention; the former makes the latter notably easier.

A quick examination shows just how much God has put into my life; all of my wildest dreams have come true through what can only be divine intervention. I have wild dreams percolating yet, but on the whole I am blessed beyond reason. Our two-month old is growing astoundingly and I get to witness each moment of her life. My husband loves us and cares for us and makes me laugh every day. I know how to knit us clothing and, as of recently, how to sew. I can darn a goshdarn sock. Mark brews delicious libation for our whole family to enjoy. I live near family and we eat healthful food. Junk food, too. What else is there to want for? Not red clogs. (At least . . . not today.)


—S

A WOMAN LIKE HER

 

Mark and I generally envisioned this blog being about beekeeping and hearty roast recipes and goat herding. To a degree, it is. The thing is that life is swirling and twirling and moving and shaking with the grandeur of family, of life and of death, of encounters with faith and with humanity that change your heart forever. And how can Mark and I possibly keep to writing about the goat roast we ate last week when these currents are happening elsewhere? To us it would seem inauthentic, and thus our blog is 50% farmstead writing and 50% super personal writing. Cue this week, in which my mama Retires. Capital R, Retires. She has engendered real change, genuine growth, and joyous communion with, literally, thousands of people—all because of her simple way. Her deep optimism, which says that life and people are Good, suffuses a room—a whole company, actually—with such light, such warmth, that it can feel impossible to step away. As her youngest daughter, I am heartily biased, but actually I am blessedly privileged. She is mine, as much as someone can be someone else's. To me and her kin, she is the queen of our hearts. I am awash with all of the pride and gratitude that one can feel for a mama who devoted decades of hard work in order to create something better for her family, for her employees, for her company. Just like her dad, my remarkable grandpa in Heaven, she shows dignity to everyone. There are no caveats, no exemptions from this dignity. It is her simple way. How could I not write about this moment? I am continually moved by this awe-some mama. To be a woman like her: my greatest dream. In her words, which are more elegant than my own:

"So this is a big week in my life. An ending, a closure, a turning point. This is my last week working as a store manager for Walmart. I am turning in my keys and the responsibility that goes with them after a 19 year career. I want to let you know that as much as I am looking forward to focusing on my precious family and my own business, this is bittersweet. I can not say loudly enough what Walmart has done for me, my family, and more people than I can count.
I would never have dreamed that this stay at home Mom, looking for extra money for Christmas gifts, would take a job stocking overnights and end up managing 500 people and a $115 million dollar store. I had ZERO retail experience and no college degree when I took that temporary position. This company backed me every step of the way-seeing and believing in a potential I didn't recognize. I was encouraged, challenged, trained and given opportunity to advance. It was tough-of course it was, it always is, right? Great effort does yield great reward. This is the thing I want every person to know-in all the sound bites of negativity, Walmart takes a beating. I have never encountered the company that is often depicted. My experience is not unique, it is repeated all across the country/world every day..I look at people I have hired for those "low paying jobs" and who are now on their way to doing even better than I. I can't count how many associates I have seen take off and build careers. I smile thinking that someday they may be afforded the chance to teach training classes at the home office to new store managers like I did, or stand on the big stage at a company convention in front of 11,000 people and speak like I did, or sit at the table with community leaders and contribute to projects that impact our neighbors like I did..
I could go on for a long time, and I already have, but it is important to me that you know the truth of my experience, and the honor I was given, and the pride I have as a Store Manager for Walmart. My friends and coworkers- I will love and miss you. And Walmart-I am forever grateful to you.
Peace and joy to all."

[P.S. Happy Valentine's Day! This is my second favorite holiday and to celebrate we are hosting a big, full-bellied feast with all of our pals out here. I hope you give an extra smooch to your partner, or your pet, or the earth!]


—S

TO OHIO, MY BELOVED HOME

 

If by chance I have not made clear my devotion to Ohio despite leaving its comforting embrace for snowier, goat-ier, more mountainous pastures, allow me to reaffirm to myself and to you that Ohio—my home—is a supreme gift to me; it is a place where my fondness will never wear thin. Sure, I don't care for the billboards (there is a law that forbids billboards in Vermont), and in my opinion Vermont has Ohio beat on landscape, but oh to speak of what this Midwestern home does have. I am tempted to capitalize the H in 'home' because it is a living, breathing, undulating thing that I can liken to a proper noun. In perpetuity, Home. 

Returning to this place is surely something Mark or I have written about here, there, and everywhere, yet with each profession of my unwavering enthusiasm for Home, I hope to be illuminating more about myself, more about the place that grew me. I should be so lucky to tell the story of the locale, and of the people, that has made me the woman I am. And that is the purpose of this blog, really—connecting ourselves to you by writing on the authentic facets that foster Mark's and my "jointly cultivated life". This time of year is especially reflective. It is generally in these weeks that I find myself flipping through my journal and Field Notes writing pads, that I am remarking on how much we've adapted, changed course, fallen, gotten up, thrived, loved, given, received. Through all of it, Home remains. It endures. Having grown up in one place my entire life is an immense gift. As my hometown develops a well-worn patina, my love for what and who it holds seems only to brighten. On the part of these photos, I tried to form words but I'm not convinced words matter much in this case. Do you know this feeling? One of total appreciation for what is, with no need for explanation. For these people and this home, I am grateful, I am grateful, I am grateful. 


—S

COME TOGETHER

 

Election Day. Say it with us: Oof.
For too many months our society has been mired in the issues that divide us, locked in stagnation over Who Dunnit and Why S/He Is Wrong. It has been a long, tough road. It has been a season that bore few fruits. Have you also felt like something is lurking just over your shoulder, waiting to pounce? (Maybe it was just our cat.) We have relished the good fortune of working with animals who care nil about politics, but we have not remained untouched by the divisive cruelty of our country. And so, for both ourselves and for you, a simple reminder: we the people are one people. Surely we can only be our best when we come together — imperfect and fluctuating and unknowing as we are. We the people have always been more than crass division and contemptuous name-calling. As a hero of ours once said:

"Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it.
Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it." 

— Martin Luther King, Jr.


—M&S