Valentine's Day is over, but can't we all still use some love? I think we can, so I'm offering quotes about love in this installment of Last Wednesday Wisdom. And because HeartWood and I both celebrated birthdays this month (guess who's older), I'm throwing in some about age and experience, as well.
In the spirit of love and celebration, I'll even give you a treat at the end: photos from a recent concert and exhibit by local luthiers (stringed-instrument makers).
There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life.
-- John Lennon
Love does not consist of gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Airman's Odyssey
The great thing about getting older is that you don't lose all the other ages you've been.
-- Madeleine L'Engle
How many slams in an old screen door?
Depends how loud you shut it.
How many slices in a bread?
Depends how thin you cut it.
How much good inside a day?
Depends how good you live 'em.
How much love inside a friend?
Depends how much you give 'em.
― Shel Silverstein
Trust in Experience. And in the rhythms.
The deep rhythms of your experience.
-- Muriel Rukeyser
No matter what you're feeling, the only way to get a difficult feeling to go away is simply to love yourself for it. If you think you're stupid, then love yourself for feeling that way. It's a paradox, but it works. To heal, you must be the first one to shine the light of compassion on any areas within you that you feel are unacceptable.
-- Christiane Northrup
Imagination has no expiration date.
-- Paula Whyman, author, in article on debut authors over age fifty, Poets & Writers magazine, November-December 2016
Love is a canvas furnished by nature and embroidered by imagination.
We get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens only a certain number of times, and a very small number, really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, some afternoon that's so deeply a part of your being that you can't even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four or five times more. Perhaps not even that. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless.
-- Paul Bowles
If you have only one smile in you, give it to the people you love.
-- Maya Angelou
If I had known when I was twenty-one that I should be as happy as I am now, I should have been sincerely shocked. They promised me wormwood and the funeral raven.
-- Christopher Isherwood
The Art of the Field
What do farming and art have in common? A lot more than you might think, say Mike and Amanda Jones of Maple Moon Farm in Shelby, Michigan. To underscore the connection, they're sponsoring a FEED THE STARVING ARTIST contest with the theme, "Local Food and Local Farms" and a prize of a $250 gift card to the farm.
"The idea was really born out of a desire to increase community connections," says Amanda. "One of the reasons we farm is, we really enjoy having that direct relationship with the people who eat our food. Another element is, we feel that we ourselves bring an artistic element to farming. We wanted to draw on that bond with other artisans, whatever their art form, to create connections and a stronger community."
Artists and artisans have until March 4 to register, either by emailing Mike and Amanda at firstname.lastname@example.org or by stopping by their booth at Sweetwater Local Foods Market in Muskegon, Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon. Anyone planning to enter needs to let the Joneses know the type of art and the size of the piece, so they can plan for enough display space at the market on March 11, when voting will take place. If registering by email, please send a photo of the entry.
The entries themselves may be dropped off at the farm or brought to the market on the 11th, when market shoppers will cast ballots to select a winner. "We just ask that anyone bringing their art on the 11th have it there by 9 a.m., when the market opens," says Amanda.
Entries of all sorts are welcome, she adds. "When someone is practicing something from the heart and really putting an element of themselves into what they create, we view that as being an artisan. We wanted to leave the definition broad to be as inclusive as possible." The only criterion is that all works should be related in some way to the theme of local food and local farms.
The winner will be announced at the market's close on the 11th and will also be featured on Maple Moon's Facebook page.
"The winning piece, we will keep in exchange for the gift certificate," says Amanda. Other entries should be picked up at the market after results are announced on the 11th.
For budding artists and coloring enthusiasts of all ages, there's a coloring contest, too! Coloring pages are available from Mike and Amanda on market days at Sweetwater Market. Market shoppers will also vote on coloring contest entries on the 11th, and the winner will receive a generous gift basket from the farm.
The couple hopes the contests will forge new connections between local food producers, artists and other members of the community. "We're hoping this will draw in people who haven't been connected with their local farmers market and that others who identify as artisans will connect with this local resource and see the parallels in what we do. Our community thrives when people are able to do what they truly love. It makes us happier people and benefits everybody as a whole. If we are able to support each other in doing what we love, it's a win-win for everybody."
Love is a big part of Mike and Amanda's approach to farming, says Mike, who grew up in Newaygo County family that gardened and raised animals. "We believe growing plants is an art form more than a job. We treat every plant with respect to get the best-quality produce . . . Everybody talks about their grandparents' garden and how they raised the best-tasting tomatoes. There's a reason for that: the plants were getting all the love and attention they had. When you're putting that kind of attention into the food, you get the best quality."
Maple Moon has used organic growing practices from the beginning and is currently certified organic. Though the farm's output has grown in the seven years since its beginning, Mike and Amanda want to keep it small enough that they can still be hands-on, rather than hiring other people to do the work.
"If we stay small, we can have more control over how plants are loved," Mike says. "Our primary goal is to grow things that taste the best."
The Joneses grow "most vegetables you can think of," including "lots of heirloom tomatoes," but specialize in greens and herbs, both culinary and medicinal, says Amanda, who grew up in suburban Detroit, but took an interest in food and farming in her late teens. She arranged to work for six weeks on Nothing But Nature farm in Ohio and ended up staying more than three years.
Consumer interest in organic and locally-produced and foods is on the rise, but with those foods increasingly available in supermarkets, many shoppers don't visit farmers markets. Amanda wants to remind them there are still good reasons to buy directly from growers.
"You're not only getting fresher food, but you're also creating a relationship with the person," she says. "I know our food has to be good and clean, because I know the people who are going to use it. I see their children. I've watched babies grow up on the food. Sometimes when I'm out in the field, harvesting or working on a crop, I think of the people who come to the market who love it. That creates better connections and better health for everyone involved."
Sweetwater Market operates at the Mercy Health Lakes Village, 6401 Prairie St., Norton Shores, and is open Saturdays from 9 to noon.
Maple Moon Farm is located at 1224 S. 144th St., Shelby, Michigan. Phone: 231-861-2535
Photos courtesy of Mike and Amanda Jones
A year ago this week, HeartWood's first post went live, so this is our blog-iversary, and we're celebrating!
Come to think of it, we're big on celebrations in general, I realized as I looked back at the past year's posts. One of our earliest posts was a wide-ranging rumination on celebrations—of special occasions and special people, of big events and small moments that are just as deserving of a hooray!
After that, we went on to celebrate National Poetry Month, summer, Leaf Day, and winter holidays.
We didn't have to go far at all for some of our experiences. We stopped in at local hangouts and even went on a writing retreat without leaving home.
When HeartWood launched a year ago, that same yoga group was central to many of our lives, and our teacher Ellie Randazzo was central to the group. Her death in August was a shattering loss that still affects us deeply. I'm happy to report, though, that we continue to honor her memory by practicing together weekly at the same time, in the same place where we practiced with Ellie. Her spirit still guides us.
All of these experiences over the past year have given us plenty to think about, and we've taken time to reflect on such topics as serendipity, slowing down, home, expanding our social circles and the importance of striking a balance between on-the-go activity and solitude. We've embraced our bodies! And we've embraced our creativity, too, considering the roles of chaos and boundary crossing in stimulating imagination. And because this has been a year of divisiveness as well as harmony, we've given some thought to how we communicate with people whose opinions differ from our own.
That's a look back. Now it's time to look ahead. When I started this blog, I vowed to stick with it for a year, then reassess and decide whether to keep going. How to decide? Feedback and figures are one measure, and on both counts I'm encouraged. The comments I get from readers and the growing numbers of page views and individual visitors tell me this endeavor is worth the time I'm putting into it.
What's more, I'm enjoying this undertaking way more than I expected to. It's satisfying to have an outlet for my own writing and a place to share guest posts and interviews and to know that someone is actually reading this stuff and maybe getting something useful from it.
So here's to another year of HeartWood, and here's where you come in. I'd love to know what kinds of posts you most enjoyed in the past year and what topics, events, places and people you'd like to see featured in future posts.
Oh, and I know it's not polite to ask for gifts, but if you're wondering what to give HeartWood on this special occasion, a few more subscribers would be really terrific. My goal is to double (or more) the number of current subscribers over the next few months. So if you haven't subscribed, please consider signing up (see form at right side of page). And if you're already a subscriber, please encourage one or more friends to subscribe.
Now, on with the party!
So here we are, one month into 2017. Remember those intentions you started the year with? Those goals you were going to pursue and ideals you were going to embody? How's that working out?
For all the resolve we start the year with, it's easy to get sidetracked. That's why I try to reboot my resolutions (or intentions, if you prefer that concept, as I do) from time to time.
If one of your intentions is to build connections with other people, my friend and former coworker Colleen Newvine Tebeau has some great suggestions for enjoyable ways to make that happen. Colleen is a journalist turned MBA whose marketing consulting firm helps small and mid-sized businesses with practical strategy and tactics. She's also one of the most joyfully social people I know. So when I read a recent post in her blog, Newvine Growing, about cultivating friendships, I knew I had to share it with you.
Colleen lives in Brooklyn, New York, but her suggestions work just as well if you live in a small town. Maybe you don't have a neighborhood cocktail bar to frequent, but you're probably not far from a coffee shop or café.
But before I give away any more of her tips, I'll turn you over to Colleen. Here's her post on building social connections.
Make this the year you value your relationships
by Colleen Newvine
If you're making resolutions, I’d like to recommend you aim for a different ambition than the typical "lose 10 pounds" or "quit smoking." Focus, for a change, on increasing and improving your connections to other people.
Why? A New York Times article headlined, “How Social Isolation Is Killing Us,” said in part:
Social isolation is a growing epidemic—one that’s increasingly recognized as having dire physical, mental and emotional consequences. Since the 1980s, the percentage of American adults who say they’re lonely has doubled from 20 percent to 40 percent.
About one-third of Americans older than 65 now live alone, and half of those over 85 do. People in poorer health—especially those with mood disorders like anxiety and depression—are more likely to feel lonely. Those without a college education are the least likely to have someone they can talk to about important personal matters.
A wave of new research suggests social separation is bad for us. Individuals with less social connection have disrupted sleep patterns, altered immune systems, more inflammation and higher levels of stress hormones.
One recent study found that isolation increases the risk of heart disease by 29 percent and stroke by 32 percent. Another analysis that pooled data from 70 studies and 3.4 million people found that socially isolated individuals had a 30 percent higher risk of dying in the next seven years, and that this effect was largest in middle age.
Loneliness can accelerate cognitive decline in older adults, and isolated individuals are twice as likely to die prematurely as those with more robust social interactions. These effects start early: Socially isolated children have significantly poorer health 20 years later, even after controlling for other factors. All told, loneliness is as important a risk factor for early death as obesity and smoking.
If you need more convincing, I suggest you read the full article by Dhruv Khullar, a resident physician at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School.
How to get started? Consider throwing a party
I love hosting parties, from intimate dinner parties to jam-packed cocktail parties. When people come to our parties, they sometimes say wistfully, "You’re so good at this. I wish I knew how to throw a party like this."
Here's the truth: I began throwing parties in part because I was lonely. When my ex-fiance and I broke up, I realized I didn’t have close girlfriends to commiserate with, and I made a conscious decision to cultivate friendships.
It felt less threatening to invite women I didn’t know well for a group gathering than to ask one out for a girl date over coffee or drinks. I began hosting clothing swaps because inviting people to join me for an activity felt like a more attractive offer; they didn’t have to want to hang out with me, they just had to want some free gently used clothes. I wasn’t experienced at hosting but I learned as I did it more. Slowly some of those women became friends, and I still host clothing exchanges two decades later.
If you feel shy about asking someone for one-on-one plans, consider hosting a small group at your place. If you don't click with anyone who comes, you can casually drift to another conversation or excuse yourself to tend to some unspecified task in the kitchen.
Hosting doesn’t have to mean a lot of work. When the economy tanked in 2008, we hosted happy hours at home to give our friends a less expensive way to socialize. We'd tell people to bring whatever they wanted to drink and eventually we’d order pizza and ask people to kick in. That’s really it. All we offered was the venue.
You could invite a couple of people to watch movies and get food delivered or throw a frozen pizza in the oven. Host a potluck dinner. Set up an activity you’d like to do anyway—make beer or jewelry, do scrapbooking, get out your musical instrument—and ask acquaintances you’d like to know better or friends you don’t see often enough to join you.
If you’d like to try hosting, here are a few posts I’ve written with suggestions:
Become a regular at a bar or coffee shop near you
Socializing at home isn’t the only option, of course. You can enjoy a bar, cafe, coffee shop or other gathering place near you.
Ray Oldenburg wrote a book called The Great Good Place in 1989 that spoke of the "third place"—someplace that's not home and not work, but another spot where you connect with your community. Going to your third place isn't just about scheduling a date to meet people you already know but about chatting with whoever’s there.
That means putting down your phone, making eye contact and opening yourself up to strangers.
The development of the individual depends on meeting people from different walks of life, and getting to know them. That's good for the individual, and it's good for the community. Coffee shops are great, and bars are great—they offer an edge because of what you consume, and you can relax and warm up to other people.
In a recent interview in Imbibe magazine, Oldenburg said:
The development of the individual depends on meeting people from different walks of life, and getting to know them. That’s good for the individual, and it’s good for the community. Coffee shops are great, and bars are great — they offer an edge because of what you consume, and you can relax and warm up to other people.
We feel fortunate to have fallen deeply in love with a cocktail bar a block from our apartment. It's a place where we go to celebrate as well as to sulk or mourn, and where we feel welcomed and cared for, more like family than customers.
It's the first time in our lives we truly feel like regulars someplace. It took trial and error to find the right place and to connect beyond a simple business transaction.
Here's some of what worked for us in finding our local hangout:
My husband, John Tebeau, is writing a book about 50 great New York bars, not places with the very best cocktails or the hippest places, but bars that are beloved gathering places.
Visiting dozens of bars to scout them for his book has given us copious practice engaging with barkeeps and regulars, and as someone who used to find sitting at the bar intimidating, I can tell you that the more you do it, the easier it gets. I’ve learned to read the body language of patrons open to chatting and to gauge when a bartender has time to socialize versus needing to focus on the task at hand. Like hosting parties, it gets easier the more you do it.
Bring a social element to something you'd do anyway
Ari Weinzweig, co-founder of Ann Arbor institution Zingerman's, taught a webinar on time management last year that was beautifully philosophical—it wasn't about shoehorning more productivity into each day but about living well by prioritizing how we spend our time.
One of the practical pointers Ari gave was to combine priorities so he can accomplish more things he values simultaneously. For example, if you want to exercise and you want to socialize, work out with a friend. My husband, John, had a standing racquetball date with a co-worker twice a week when we lived in Ann Arbor. That's part of why we're still friends with his racquetball partner, Bob, two decades later.
I once read about two moms who swapped helping each other clean. They'd both spend an hour cleaning one family's house, talking as they did it, then they'd switch to the other house. It turned a grudge task into bonding time.
What do you do—or what would you like to do—that could work as a social activity?
Make it a priority to show people you love them
I hear a lot of people, especially in go-go-go New York City, saying they just don’t have time to socialize. They work long hours, wrapped in a long commute on each side, then maybe they have the demands of parenting waiting at home.
I get that you might already feel you don’t have enough hours in the day, and squeezing in a brunch date sounds more stressful than relaxing.
But if you value your relationships, can you prioritize maintaining those connections enough to make time? Is there something you’re doing that you could ditch to make room for friendships, or could you make better use of downtime? Can you combine socializing with another activity, like Ari suggests?
I have one friend with a high powered job who leaves substantive voicemails, so I feel connected even if we didn’t get to chat. Another friend who travels a lot sends thoughtful texts about something happening on the trip or something that reminded him of me. A successful business owner friend routinely leaves cheerful comments on my Facebook posts. They’ve found ways to fit connection into their busy lives.
John and I spend a few hours every couple of weekends calling and writing people we love. We send postcards and texts as we drink our coffee. We value this enough that we schedule it in our shared Google calendar.
Excellent ideas, Colleen! And I know many HeartWood readers have come up with great ideas for connecting with others, too—from the women's hiking club to dominoes games and craft nights. Share them here, and build more connections in the process!
Written from the heart,
from the heart of the woods
Read the introduction to HeartWood here.
Nan Sanders Pokerwinski, a former journalist, writes memoir and personal essays, makes collages and likes to play outside. She lives in West Michigan with her husband, Ray.