Sunday, November 6, 2011

Joy Where You Least Expect It (aka Brussel Sprouts)

I recently made my last foray into the fields to clear out the brussel sprouts before a super hard frost takes them away. My husband harvested the last of the spinach so that I can freeze some spanokopita. I’ve tried twice now on the spinach, feta, phyllo layered pie and each time the 9X12 pan got eaten before it ever hit the freezer. I love this dish as a Christmas appetizer and we often do not have garbage bags full of baby spinach during the holiday season. So stock up I must.

It was the first Saturday since the beginning of May that we could call our own as market ended for us last week. It was a sunny, warm, November day (I can honestly say that I can’t remember ever saying November, sun and warm in the same sentence before). Our children played in the mud. Life was pretty good.

As I made my way down the row of brussel sprouts plants I remarked on the pure joy I was getting out of being there, doing this. Wasn’t this the same job that had drained me of all joy just weeks prior? And yet, here I was, in heaven. Upon further examination (cause you know I couldn’t leave it unexamined), I realized the joy came from not worrying about how many pints I would pick. What the labour costs would be if we paid someone to do it. What we would price them at. Whether they would all sell and how I would preserve them to prevent any waste if they didn’t sell. I loved that the only concerns for that moment were between my hands, my knees, this plant and our dinner table.

This was always the part of farming that made my heart sing and my spirits soar. Feeding the family. Feeding the neighbours, or the food bank or our parents or nephews or dogs or friends would be fine too. It is the business of it all that doesn’t suit my fancy.

I have always wondered whether it is possible to create a business out of your life’s dream and still get enjoyment from the process. I suppose it depends how you go about it and what motivates you. If money thrills you then the business would be the beginning and end of it perhaps. If the creation aspects were the only parts that got you going, then making money from it could be a bit of a problem. But if you know this in advance, perhaps there are ways around spoiling your passion with business that I have not found yet.

As a songwriter in my thirties, I marveled at the very talented people who put their music out there and toured their little hearts out without losing themselves. Or perhaps they did and hid it well. One friend of mine who found great success in the UK and Canada agreed how lonely a life it was to be on a stage singing to a crowd of people. Nobody every talks about this.

I recall standing alone in a bar in Toronto one night, it was nearing midnight (an hour that I have never done that well at) and I was getting ready to go on stage. This was probably the pinnacle of my foray into the musical industry. The best gig I’d had to date. It was at this moment that I realized that this life was not for me. I was a homebody. An early-riser. And someone who did not care for performing exactly. I enjoyed the community of musicians around me and the songwriting process, but not the actual delivery of the songs. Perhaps if I could have been smart and hired a publicist and a tour manager, this would have allowed me better to focus on songwriting and my relationship with my instruments. Instead, I felt drained and overwhelmed from it all.

Drained and overwhelmed. Doesn’t that sound familiar?

I now know I’m not someone who fares well with making a business around my artistic endeavours. My creative self is a free-agent and needs to fly without limits or boundaries or schedules. That said, there is a side of me that thrives on driving towards big, lofty things. Not expectations. But grand ideas about possibilities. Contradictory, I know. I want to learn how to bridge the gap so that I can continue to do the things I love without having them consume me.

So somewhere between the songs and the brussel sprouts, I found joy again where I had grown weary. There is hope for me yet.

I want so badly to remember what it was like to write songs for the pure joy of it. They once came to me like a voice from the heavens and guided me through anything if I’d let them. I never felt like their driver.

I once hated brussel sprouts. I was that kid who ate one a year because I had to try everything on my plate. Now I have discovered that they are an extreme delight and I can’t get enough of them. Perhaps it is how they are grown here or picked or stored that makes them sweet, not bitter. Bursts of gorgeous, buttery, baby cabbage without need for the butter. My son can eat a dozen of them in one sitting.

So this is the moral of my story. There is joy to be found where there was once fear. Where hate once dwelled, a love can grow. What was drained can be filled again. What was overwhelmed can be renewed.

And November can be warm and sunny, especially when you least expect it.

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