Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Office

I’d like to preface this blog by explaining that since writing this piece, I have since moved to my own place with a 20 minute commute to a park or 10 minutes to a coffee shop if I choose to leave the dining room table overlooking the blooming tulips. I have most of my time to myself, no dogs, and while my business isn’t rolling, I’d say it’s in a good place. Some might even call me a real adult. Some. I’m currently lying in the grass epiphanizing that I’m actually at work. When I finish, I fully intent to reward myself with a bout on the swings before meandering home past rush hour traffic. But this blog illustrates how it all started. And when I’ve changed the world to a democratic economy with my writing I’ll look back and laugh. My mom will probably look back and say “you’re welcome.”

The Office

We all get up and mill about the kitchen like we know there are tasks to be accomplished, but the only tangible objective for the first bleary moment or two is to get into each other’s way. Eventually we break off into separate duties: newspaper, coffee, breakfast; the dog sticks her nose in someone’s crotch to remind us that breakfast goes on that list, too. We have an interesting setup, you see. In this transition period between Mexico and new Asheville life, I’m starting this web content writing business from home.  I don’t advertise that I live in my parent’s basement, but I totally do. I’m actually moving in the coming weeks, and I while I will appreciate my independence once more (soooo much), I will truly miss these bizarre rituals.

Although the commute from the kitchen to the dining room is pretty carefree, I wouldn’t say that I’m in the healthiest work environment. The table is smeared with notes, writing instruments, newspaper, “file piles,” computer wires, sticky notes, table salt (how hard is it to hit your plate?), crumbs, and a couple ornamental ceramic chickens. The dogs whine to go outside to eat the squirrels. I sit at one end, calling on muses and marketing schemes for my new business, while my mother plans the 8th cabin for Barkwells. I sit at one end of the table and my mother sits at the other, both of us tapping furiously, making strange noises and muttering to ourselves.

“What?! What did you say?”
 “I wasn’t talking to you. I was talking to myself.”
“Oh. You’re so weird – you know you can’t do that in a real professional setting, right?”

Sometimes I draw an imaginary cubicle with my hands, like a mime desperate to escape his box, except I am trying to close myself in. Aside from the chaos around me, there are so many perks to having the freedom to work from home. This morning, for instance, my mom was able to carve out some time for her singing group’s rehearsal…in the living room. While I was planning out my day, prepping invoices, and managing to delete my entire Outlook email program by accident, she and her singing partner conceptualized choreography for a song about going to the gym. I suggested that they go there for inspiration, but after half an hour they both headed off to their next appointments, and it’s quiet again. Aside from the dishwasher. 

Now the dogs want to come back in, sans squirrel, thank God. 

I get a few good hours in until lunch time. Well, technically it’s lunch time, but I’ve just had some crackers and hummus (a blessing and a curse for being so close to the fridge). But Mom’s back and she’s got to make gift baskets for guests. She sweetly implies that she’s starving to death and starts pulling out ingredients for me to make a salad. I’m in a bubble of work-mode – so close to lexiconic genius that I can taste a Pulitzer (or at least a couple “likes” on Facebook) – when all of a sudden, “SON OF A B!%*H! Somebody ate my apple!!”

My mother hardly ever swears, and her voice usually can’t go that high…so I wheeled around, my work bubble popped like an alarm clock ripping me from the last moments of a dream.

“What? Sooo!? We have a million apples and they’re delicious. Use another one! You’re upsetting the dog.”
“But that was the perfect apple for my basket. I need that apple. Aaaargh!”
“Ok. I cannot help you. And it’s possible that you’re overreacting. Please make some bacon.”

She did a couple of laps around the kitchen island until she found the apple which she’d had the foresight to insert into a special basket bag. At which point, we both broke into hysterics. We finally got back on track – I made the salads (while humming the “Work Song” from Cinderella), she made the bacon, and we let the dogs back out. This is how work from home goes, right? I don’t even have any kids to juggle!  I think I’ll call in sick until my tech person calls back to fix my email. 

Monday, March 5, 2012

A Conference on Growing

Many of my peers presently seem to be twitter-pated over crocheted footies and anything that needs a nipple.  I can’t say that I resonate with the baby-craze phase, and don’t foresee that yearning slamming into my consciousness any time in the near future. My urges to braid hair and care for small things manifest in plucking little suckers off of the splits of a tomato plant, and tucking mustard seeds into the protective womb of rich compost. But maybe I’ve been especially sympathetic with my maternally-inclined friends of late because I haven’t had the opportunity to garden.  It’s an unfulfilled instinct itching at the inner-lining of my being. And there’s nothing worse for a community than a feisty gardener wandering the streets with no place to hoe.

So you can imagine my elation (or maybe if you have never had a doll, or a spade, you cannot imagine my elation, but you can pretend to sympathize for the sake of this post) when I heard about the annual OrganicGrowers School conference at UNC-Asheville on March 3 & 4. I felt like a total has-been, an absolute poser with clean fingernails and callused hands that have been smoothed over by the dainty repetition of typing. But these growers are the businesses that I aim to support through WinnersWords, so I figured beyond the personal growth opportunities, the weekend would also be great for networking and my first chance to say super pedantically “Why, yes, this is a business expense.”

The bagillion different tracks to choose from appealed to a vast array of individuals who weren’t just attending to become better farmers. There were classes on basket weaving with kudzu, poultry basics, soil sciences, 10 things to do with a deer leg bone, edible landscapes, vegetable gardening 101, human waste compost (Yes that’s real. Yes it’s sanitary. Yes it’s awesome.), for-profit management of large-scale farms, and the list goes on and on. It was a weekend full of knowledge spent with very enriching company. The teachers were spectacular, and  I got to visit with old friends from karate and Knoxville, and newer friends that constantly invigorate me with their drive for sustainable progress and vivacious demeanors.

We could bounce among the various tracks, but I consistently found myself in classes pertaining to wild herbal medicines and medicinal foods. I took courses on how to identify them (although I might want another 3 of these so I don’t wind up poisoning myself), how to harvest them sustainably, and how to prepare them. I participated in a half-day workshop on medicinal foods in which we infused herbs into chocolate, learned about broths and experimented with different honeys (honey is a corrigent – it helps carry other medicinal herbs or foods through the digestive tract, so we learned how to incorporate healing agents like turmeric and rose petals into it).  Super delicious and fascinating. Another class went through fifty different foods off of which one can survive in the wild, ranging from greens and nuts to animals. I don’t intend to go out and can skunk any time soon, but the idea that I can make a salad from a walk in the woods, that the world can be my grocery store and a flower bed my medicine cabinet has been something I’ve attested to for quite some time without the education to back it. The world provides us everything we need – vitamins, anti-inflammatories, grief remedies, aphrodisiacs, cartilage rebuilders.

It speaks to us, too. It is intending to educate us and we are so busy making fun of the “mother earth hippies” and mowing it over for profit that we can’t hear its lessons. Every time I walk out into the woods, I feel like I’m on the verge of discovery, but I can’t figure out if that’s discovery of self, of some “beyond” or simply a re-centering that balances the two. These classes spoke to the mindfulness that I have been seeking in all aspects of my life. And it’s almost like role-reversal. In the garden, I am the steward. And in the woods, I am the child waiting for the lesson to be whispered to me.