Posts Tagged ‘farming’

I Swear, I Don’t Have a Crush on All of You

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I blush. A lot. It can strike at any time, anywhere. I blush when i have to speak in front of more than four people. I blush when someone asks me a question and I have to answer them in front of someone else who happens to be eaves-dropping. Even if its freezing out, and I forgot my coat, and I have no hat, I still will feel that familiar flush of heat rise up through my cheeks, feel my arm-pits begin to sweat. It happens when I run into a cute boy, who I had a crush on briefly five years ago, and we’re talking about the weather. It doesn’t matter that i’m not interested in him, and it doesn’t matter that i don’t want him to have the impression that I’m interested. I blush anyways. I blush even at times when I’m on the phone, being interviewed by someone who CAN NOT EVEN SEE ME. I even blush, apparently, at the dentists, reclined on that chair, under that un-godly light, with Dr. Whosywhats forcefully flossing my teeth, as he tells me I have sensitive gums.

It happens when I feel embarrassed, about anything. It also happens when I don’t feel even the slightest bit embarrassed. Which then, undoubtedly, makes me feel embarrassed. I blushed today in fact, in the grocery store, when I ran into a guy who once helped me work on my plumbing in my trailer (I’m talking about my actual plumbing in my literal trailer – relax). We talked as we waited to check-out our groceries. I then realized, when I stepped outside into the brisk afternoon air, I was blushing. And so that we are perfectly clear, I do not, and never have, had a crush on my ex-plumber.

This last summer I was at a dinner with some neighbors and friends. The topic of blushing came up, as one of my friends it turns out, also has a lifetime of blushing experience. She described the years of anguish she experienced through her teens and early twenties. How she used to avoid large groups, speaking in front of people, talking to attractive men. It was only when she became older, and when traveling abroad she came across a series of lovers who considered her blushing not just acceptable, but downright cute, did she begin to accept this part of herself and relax around her body’s untimely demonstrations.

Listening to her struggles made me realize that at some point, long ago, I stopped realizing that I shared her affliction. Even a few minutes of her speaking passed by without me even making the connection between our almost identical symptoms. Because while there was a time that my blushing limited just how many times I was willing to raise my hand in class, that era has long ago passed. Its not that nowadays I’m completely unaware of what’s happening – that a blush is forming – its just that I’m able to hold that awareness more lightly, more of the time. It like in meditation – I don’t ignore the thought, but merely recognize it is there, like a bubble floating above my head, and then i blow it gently away. It works most of the time, and I’m able to proceed forward in whatever it is I am trying to do, instead of crawling into a cold, dark hole (which is what I would prefer to do, were one available).

I was thinking about this whole phenomenon recently while reading the book, “Big Magic,” by Elizabeth Gilbert (For the record, I do actually have a crush on Elizabeth Gilbert).  She tells a short story towards the end of the book, a true story recounted to her by a guy at a party, about his little brother’s trip to France to live as an artist for a year. Long story short, this American kid in France meets some cool bohemians one day who take a shining to him and invite him to the party of the year, letting him know that its most definitely a costume party, and also that all the biggest muckety-mucks in Europe were going to be there. So he works the rest of the week on this elaborate and amazing costume, rents a car and drives three hours to this beautiful castle outside Paris, changes in the car, walks up to the door, gets let in by the butler, and enters the great hall. That’s when he freezes. Everyone is indeed in costume, except he quickly realizes that there was a theme which was lost in translation. The theme was “a medieval court,” and so all these famous people are waltzing around wearing period-gowns and heavy brocade vests and glittering jewels and all the finest that renaissance royalty would have worn.

And this American kid is dressed as a lobster.

A full-on, head-to-toe lobster, complete with red spandex and red foam claws. So he has two choices: run or go with it. He chooses the later, because he spent so much energy and creativity on his costume, and he drove this far, and he’s learned from being an artist and continually putting himself out there, that he has little to lose. And he’s right. He sets off across the dance floor. The music stops and everyone stops their conversations and stares, until someone asks him what he is. He bows and says, “I am the court lobster.” Everyone laughs, everyone loves him, and he spends the evening dancing with royalty.

I love this story. I love it because this kid puts himself, and his costume creation, out into the world even when he knows that it may not fit-in and it may not be well-received. He could have easily been criticized, ridiculed, or shamed, and he knew this. You could say that he had no choice at that point, but he did. He could have never accepted the invitation, never created such an elaborate costume, and never even driven out there. And this is kind of how I feel every day. I imagine it is how many of us feel. When I publish something that I’ve written, or stand up in front of a group to speak, or even when I just leave the house and go to the grocery store – I often feel like a lobster. And when I blush, which I do in all of those situations, I actually look like one too.

What i realize about us blushers, is that our vulnerability is more visible than it is for most. We don’t have the luxury of putting ourselves or our work out into the world without looking like lobsters. And so we have learned to go with it. We have learned to stand up at our friend’s wedding and give a toast, dressed as a lobster. We have learned to make conversation in line for the bank, dressed as a lobster. We give farm tours, chat with neighbors, approach shops to sell our photographs, magazines to print our words – all while dressed as a lobster.

But as i get older – spending more and more of my days among farmers, flowers, and bees; and where how you handle a digging fork matters more than your chosen costume – its a vulnerability I’ve come to value. I am glad that I was put on this earth as someone who has a much harder time hiding her feelings. What once felt uncomfortable and unfair has morphed into feeling gratitude for the increased connection and intimacy my blushing affords. I have found that being vulnerable, and the practice I’ve had at it from my blushing, gives me a deeper access not only into my own life, but also into the lives of others. Being vulnerable, whether I intend to or not, is permission for others to be vulnerable as well. I feel as if I was forced, and am now choosing, to living more fully and with less caution. I can spend less time doing the complicated and impossible dance of trying to seem cool, calm, and composed in front of others – and spend more time being creative, adventurous, dorky, and brave. I can go for it, like the kid in the lobster costume. Besides a little discomfort, a slight fear of judgement, there really is no down-side to vulnerability. Life is more fun, more connected, more expansive, and definitely more exhilarating.

Maisie Ganz

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Are you a blusher too? Please share in a comment below!

a carpenter’s confidence

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i am a farmer, which means that besides an implicit expectation that i know how to make things grow, i am also expected to be able to build shit. fences, sheds, shelves, greenhouses, work-tables, irrigation systems, and of course, the perfectly shaped garden bed. i have never been a confident carpenter. i was not a child who was given a hammer at age three, my own toolbox at age five. i did not work alongside a parent building our home. i did not even put shelves up in my dorm room once i got to college, or in my first apartments later on. i have a memory of my 10-year-old self, attempting to make a treehouse. i hammered three random two by fours up the trunk of tree and climbed up to the third rail. i was maybe 5 feet off the ground. i was high enough to look into the kitchen window, that’s about it. so naturally i emerged into adulthood believing that i was was basically building-impaired.

but that’s because no one ever told me the secret truth: building is not that hard. building is not a man’s work. men are not better equipped to build a shelf in the garage (unless they are using their penis in there when we are not looking). men are not born with a knack for calculating measurements or using a saw. and yet, this is kind of what i thought. this story was even further validated as i began to farm. time and time again my male farming counterparts, mostly my superiors, were making and fixing shit. complicated shit. broken rototiller motors. underground root cellars. outdoor kitchens. whole frickin’ houses. meanwhile i drew pretty market signs that i laminated at staples. woohoo. when a particular project was at hand i was enlisted, when enlisted at all, to pull nails. the power tools littered around me seemed large, unwieldy, and dangerous. i was told not to touch them. i pictured a circular saw coming to life in my hands, slicing through a leg or arm. so yeah, i didn’t touch them.

but then i worked under the tutelage of a manager who wanted to empower his employees – all three of which that particular season happened to be women. there was finally no chance for me to be overlooked and equally no chance for me to hide. so i began to learn. i participated in welding the spade arms on our tractor. i helped build a large greenhouse, standing on the lifted bucket of a tractor to screw in each panel. i helped to dry-wall an old shed that became our farm office. with fear in my heart i cut posts for a compost station with a circular saw. and it began to get easier. i built an outdoor bed and learned the hard way that although it sounds romantic to build bed-posts out of trees, its just not. i did all sorts of small repairs around the farm. i built picture frames. i carved spoons. and when i left that job, my going away present from that same manager was a set of tools i still use to this day.

from there i slowly built up steam. outdoor toilets for all of our farm sites, a counter for my kitchen, bamboo flooring for my trailer. i fell in love with the ease of screws, and the brilliance of pre-drilling. i borrowed an impact driver and suddenly realized that screwing a screw is not about skill as much as the right tool. i invested in my own drill set. i bought a circular saw that was slightly smaller, easier to manage for smaller hands and a lighter build. i learned to measure lumber, account for extra inches, be specific. i realized that hours would pass and i would be so engrossed in the process i’d stop only because it was time to have dinner.

my confidence has strengthened over the years. now i relish a good building project. i feel happy when i am planning, cutting, building, creating something useful. shelves are always nice. you can’t have too many shelves as a farmer. i’d picture them here but they are not exactly the belles of the ball. function, not fashion is the mantra for most farm projects. but my latest construction has been to date my proudest. finished last weekend, the last boards cut, the last screws screwed. i built a bed! and not a janky outdoor bed made out of fallen trees i found in the dry creek-bed. no, a janky INDOOR bed made from pallets i collected from behind our local hardware store! except for this bed, i have to say, is arguably not as janky, because a) it actually holds our mattress and us up and b) it looks like something that sells at crate and barrel for a whole lot o’ money. and total cost for mine? about $60.

so yeah, i feel proud. and not just because i built a bed. but because i believed i could build a bed. i imagined something beautiful then i made what i imagined. there were moments i felt lame, ill-equipped, over my head. but i just gently reminded myself that i could do this. and i realized that any activity a guy could do while drinking multiple beers, a woman could also do. i just read that less than 2% of carpenters in our country are women. this isn’t because we don’t like the sound of power-tools (though sometimes i don’t), or lumber is too heavy for our tiny little lady arms. nope, from my own experience i can say that there’s just a lot of intimidation to overcome. combine that with a lack of female role-models and an educational system that doesn’t exactly steer girls into vocational specialties (farming and building alike) and you get very few women checking the carpenter box on the census.

so i am grateful for all the men and women who have taught me the skills i use in my vocation. the teachers who have taught me to tend to seeds and the teachers who have taught me to quiet the mind. the teachers who have taught me to use power-tools safely and those who have taught me basic grammar and syntax. and today i would like to especially thank the teachers who have encouraged me to build the things of the physical world as well as the things i think up in my dreams.

love, maisie