Tag Archives: growing up


It may have been the quickest my heart rate increased in my entire life. No, I wasn’t being chased by a bear or a madman. I was at the mailbox. I had an envelope in my hand addressed to me, from Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms.

I had written a letter, fan mail, to Polyface earlier that year. It was decked out in green ink and chicken drawings, expressing my great appreciation for the books Joel has written and love of all things grass farm. It also included my intention to apply for a farm apprenticeship.


Heart in my throat, I ran up the driveway. There were visitors at the house, and I rudely rushed to my room and stared at the letter. I opened it. It was Polyface stationary, embossed green outlines of a tree, cow, pig, chicken, and fish, representing the Farm of Many Faces. I had never traveled south of my home state of New York, but I felt closer to the Shenandoah Valley than ever before.

It was a congenial card, apologizing for the delay in response and encouraging me to apply for the apprenticeship when I was old enough. Signed by my hero himself. I was tickled pinker than a pigaerating pig.

It’s been years since that card. I applied for the apprenticeship and didn’t make it the first time. I went to college and graduated. I got married. I still love farms. And I’ve realized there is more than one type of hero in ecological agriculture than the farmer him (or her) self. Farmers need customers and cheerleaders. They need people willing to prepare food from scratch, fresh from the good Earth with dirt still stuck in the lettuce. They need kitchen folk to bring that raw farm food to a state of delectable glory.

Preparing food is a lost art and looked down upon in the modern day. Why would someone with a college degree, summa cum laude, in a marketable field, ever want to be barefoot and in the kitchen?

Because I’m fighting for farms and for farmers, for better food and giving animals a life I could envy. There’s a war on, folks! Between small, ecological, humane, and big, “efficient,” factory produced food. Food is our connection to earth, second only to air and water. In a disconnected and fragmented age, it helps us put down roots.

I may not be a farmer, but I’m fighting their fight. And it is so rewarding.


Write a Letter

To an old friend:

Remember how often we’d write to each other, pen-pal? Your letters stamped from exotic places, arriving in the mailbox on sunny mornings. I would trot down the driveway to check the mail, sometimes disappointed with impersonal printed business, sometimes cheered with a wrapped message that promised to be a delight to read.

Remember how easily the words came in those days, before there was such thing as a word count, a “good story”, structure, and grammar? Pooh. In those days there were books. In those days we told each other true stories, and wide-eyed we’d read them like the most gripping young-adult novel, except- these were real, written just for us, for our eyes only.

We wrote to each other. We wrote freely, as we were moved to. Unsupervised, unrequired writing, pure joy. Before I knew that “it’s” isn’t possessive, and before I knew what paragraphs are good for. It didn’t matter. I learned, and my letters were plenty readable.

For years I wrote to you. You wrote to me. Preferring paper and pen to face-to-face talk, I would wander the hillside like Frederick the mouse, gathering colors and sounds, images of plants in the sunshine. I would bring them back, in my mind, my camera, my words. Forest air in my lungs, forest dirt on my boots, blackberry scratches on my knees, sweat on my forehead. Alone, I would gather words for my next letter, and when pen met paper I would tell you stories of the places I’d been.

Write back soon!

Your Pen-Pal

When I Grow Up

To-be-a-DENTISTUp and through college, it seemed to me that the ideal thing was to know what you wanted to do with your life and then head for it. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” is a question everyone gets asked, and when you give multiple answers, it somehow seems less ideal than a decisive, “I want to be a dentist!”

The truth is, no matter how passionate you are about your chosen field of study, it won’t be enough to satisfy you. Creative people in particular need variety to grow on and inspire their work. Screenwriters will tell you that you can’t just be a screenwriter—it’ll sap your life energy. Variety really is the spice of life.

If you know what you want to do, by all means, go for it. If you don’t, then experiment. And even if you’ve found your calling at this point in life, take a break to pay attention to your hobbies. You’ll be better prepared for whatever it is you’re made to do as a Person of Many Interests and Talents.

Seasons of Change

Spring has long been my favorite season. I love to feel the aura of growth everywhere, of the world waking up. Even at night I can sense the change through the temperature and tone of the wind.

Now it’s late summer, and change is coming again. The sun’s light is clearer with lower humidity, so everything looks brighter. The slanting rays will get much lower before the leaves fall, but this year I can feel that the warm days are numbered, and it seems the plants and insects know as well. In spring the change is more sudden, but fall’s magic is just as strong.

Morning glory, dill seeds, and cilantro blossoms in my garden.

These are the two turning points of the year. I think they’re the most spellbinding.

Oddly, when seasons change in my own life, they don’t get a warm welcome. After a few years of college and attempting to be a grown-up, I know that events I feel the most apprehension about are the ones that change me the most and result in the most learning. Driving a car. Figuring out how to manage a film shoot come rain or shine and only one chance. Attacking unexplored subject material. I fear the unknown, but after looking back on the new experiences I’ve survived, I see that excursions into uncharted territory yield the strongest memories—they make me feel more alive.

Seasons of change are beautiful. They come in bursts. And just like Autumn’s leaves of fire, they don’t last for long.

Stereopair with sumacs!