Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Premembering: Building the Future with the Past

Why do we write down our thoughts? A while ago I changed the name of this blog from Feminist Farmer’s Wife (a journey about how a wife and mother finds her footing in a farm setting) to Inspiration Station. It was something about getting out of a dark place and surrounding myself with hope and possibility, things that were inspiring, and being more kind.

I wanted to stop complaining and worrying and obsessing in my writing and make my words into something more productive. Something that people could use. Instead of recipes for food, patterns for knitting, plans for chicken coops, I wanted to form quilts of ideas woven together. Connect things that might not naturally be brought together. All in the hopes of building a future that would be more enjoyable to live in. For all of us.

A year later I have noticed something very powerful. Where I once believed that you could make things come true by simply writing them down, I now see something different going on. I recently learned of the term ‘premembering’ from my favourite writer, Martha Beck. Premembering is basically getting a sense of something just before it happens. Like all memory related things, the thoughts can be jumbled, they are not always accurate or clear. What if the ‘memories’ of the future are coming to you, all the time, and you only need to find a way to make sense of them?

Writing things down about the future – that’s a form of premembering. A sort of diary about what is to come. The things you dream about, envision, wish for, want to build in the world. Now hold on a minute, I didn’t say you were psychically imagining what was going to happen next. I just mean you start to lay out the path a bit. Push aside debris to make some openings. Map out a little direction. Tell the world you’re ready to go whichever way it can take you.

Last fall we had an unfortunate event happen to our space. After spending literally years cleaning up the leftover construction materials from the addition we put on our house, we were finally starting to make progress when some neighbours offered us some lumber from a shed they were tearing down. As garbage loads were now costing locals a fortune, people were looking for creative ways to get rid of their junk. For us, this looked like a truck backing up on a day that we were not home and unloading all of this ‘lumber’ (aka the entire shed in a heap) onto our lawn.

I was not pleased with the mess. Many months went by and I complained about what I saw out my window. I cursed the pile of garbage on our lawn. Until I walked over to it one day and had a good look at what was there. Some two by fours. Some strapping. Siding. Plywood. Floorboards.

I pulled out a crow bar, a hammer and an empty bucket for the old, crooked nails and got to work. Hours and hours of disassembling eventually led to neat little piles of lumber of different shapes and sizes. My husband had already been going at the pile for months and putting what we couldn’t use in the furnace. I was tackling what was left. If you know anything about me, you’ll know that nothing makes me happier than reusing something that would otherwise go to waste.

Such were the beginnings of a new raised playhouse. Poles were sunk, a second story floor was hung, a frame was built, ladders hung, nets and slides positioned, old windows dragged out of corners of the farm, tin brought from our parent’s house. Save for the slide and net, all of the materials for this playhouse were from recycled materials.

Next came a portable chicken coop. It is the triangular variety good enough for 3-6 birds. It is light and easy to move, has a nice little swinging door, and a perching branch leading to a nest box where the chickens can lay their eggs. So far the new chicken coop is working swimmingly and allows us to pasture our hens without concerning ourselves about predators (including our resident fox).

As my children grow past the stage of toddler toys and games and into the realm of exploring and climbing for their independence, they now have a perch for themselves. From their new house they can look over the entire farm and enjoy some privacy away from Mom and Dad (though I positioned it where we can see them from many of the working stations on the farm).

Though it is not yet finished, it is getting there. Yes, I have been away from writing for a bit. Just imagine me out there with my hammer and nails and a big smile on my face. Perhaps you’ll forgive me.

You see, I believe that you can use the mess you’ve got to build something good in your future. You may not see your lot as anything but chaos, but something inside of you may already know exactly what comes next. You just have to walk over to the pile of junk, get out the tools you have and start working.

A year ago I honestly did not think it was possible to regain any sense of confidence in my life again. So caught up in the day-to-day demands I was, that I lost myself entirely. And somehow I seemed to have premembered my way back into something more productive for everyone around me. A balance that suits my family and me, at least for now. None of it could have been planned. There was only one foot in front of the other. One nail pulled at a time. Next comes a blog about the present I think. Can there be such a thing? What do you think that would look like? Or is it technically impossible to write down your thoughts and still be in the present moment?

I’ll have to get out there with my pile of lumber and think on that a little more.


  1. It has been neat to watch your growth Julie! Inspirational as well (I'm still sticking with dairy-free, gluten-free, and processed sugar-aware if you will). I think anyone can do what they set their mind to and setting one's mind to it is creating a path to follow. Pre-planning and dreaming and imagining all plays a part.

  2. I like that you look beyond the pile of junk and see all the possibilties. And trusting that something good will emerge, you just gotta pick up the hammer. One thing I do know about your next blog is this: It will be creative, inspiring, and honest, and I'm gonna love it!

  3. Julie, I think it is so important to write down our thoughts, our feelings... I can see from this post, that you are going through a process of change, of renovated hopes, and possibilities. Like you, I tend to obsess and complain, and like you, I find myself in a new path of renovation and hope.

  4. Where are you Julie? I need some inspiration!

  5. Recipes are still helpful to people. Especially if they contain healthy food ingredients. You could make a recipe of a pie that someone really wants to make and instead of them using bad ingredients found in other recipes. They follow yours. This could be their first step to improving their health. From there they can make lots of other changes. Your blog posts do have impact on other people's life's.

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