During this time of uncertainty and confusion, I continue to do what, in part, I have done for three decades on this land.
I plant seeds. I grow vegetables and flowers. I nourish them. I harvest them and I sell them. This is my supreme pleasure. This is what North Country Farms was designed to do.
But we are also fully vested in renting our guest cottage to intrepid travelers coming to our beautiful island. We share the intention behind the founding of the farm and we also share the bounty of it, much to the delight of our guests. At this time, Kauai is, appropriately, shut down to visitors. While the quiet is idyllic, blissful, and much like the Kauai I came to 33 years ago, it has crippled the economy. This is the scenario here, for me and thousands of others. And around the world for millions.
So, as the future seems unclear, I continue to do what I do. I make delicious pour-over coffee each morning. I bask in the beauty of the land that we cultivate. I treasure my lovely friends from afar. I hold my grown sons each day for long hugs. I play with my grandson. I do laundry and hang it up in the scrumptious sun. I pick flowers with dew still on them and arrange them in my home. I marvel at harvesting vegetables from right outside my house and cooking them. I relish my yoga practice. I take long thoughtful beach walks. I dip in the ocean and always feel renewed. I read, mostly novels. I watch all sorts of different streaming content from my cozy couch. I play scrabble and do crossword puzzles.
These are what I continue to do. But, also —- I read the news and attempt to remain hopeful. I see the challenges of summer’s heat and random epic rain for our gardens and attempt to find new ways to grow with climate changes. I recognize my privilege amid this shaken world and find my compassion and empathy in full gear. I ponder when our livelihood will return to robust. I cry more easily and feel more deeply.
In the thick of it, I just keep on keeping on. And trust in the future and my own and our collective resilience. Really, what other choice do I have?
There is this time coming out of sleep where it sometimes takes me a few moments to swim to the surface, fully awake. My semi-conscious mind wanders quietly. These days I have this overwhelming feeling in that place that everything is okay, but it isn’t. Then my brain touches down and I realize just where we are at this bizarre place in time.
We are fine here at the farm. Staying here and, when venturing out, being incredibly cautious and respecting all the suggested guidelines. Our gardens are producing for us and the community. Our farm stay cottage is appropriately empty. We attempt to weather that financial uncertainty like so many millions of others. Mostly we are in a state of grace. But, still, all does not feel just right. And my mind and heart feel that in that vulnerable place between sleep and awake.
The world is unsettled. People are in situations they never could have imagined. My compassion and empathy are on high alert and kindness seems the place to rest. I feel emotional, more than usual. The uncertainty is global. I wish to remain cautious, concerned, conscious and clear without being fearful. Some days that seems a reachable goal, some days not.
Everything is okay. But it isn’t.
I spoke with a friend yesterday. She is a giving and caring woman, loved and appreciated by many.
This past year she has had some health challenges. In our conversation, she admitted having a great
deal of fear surrounding this Corona Virus. We talked it through and I hope I made her feel more at
ease. But, it got me thinking. . .Why am I not fearful of this devastating virus sweeping the world? I am
not being unrealistic, nor uninformed. In fact, I am quite a news junky and certainly there is more
than enough coverage of this pandemic online and NPR radio!
I think fear is not the appropriate response. Caution perhaps. Clarity for sure. Compassion. Concern.
Cleanliness. For me fear does absolutely nothing to possibly protect myself and my loved ones from
this bizarre virus. It just sets my mind racing and my actions become ineffective. And it is a proven fact
that fear just stresses our immune systems — just what we do not want at this tenuous time.
I googled “immune system and fear” and there are several articles from medical journals on just this
So, rather than be fearful, what am I doing? Washing my hands. Eating well. Getting outside in the
fresh air. Being sure to get lots of sleep. Keeping hand sanitizer in the car for when I am out. Going to
my yoga classes with my own mat. Taking my usual supplements — an anti-inflammatory, fish oil and
just added elderberry. Breathing in deeply and exhaling a protective bubble around me and my loved
ones. Being fearful does nothing but feed anxiety and unconscious behavior.
Every night when I sink into my wonderful bed with my cozy down comforter, I am grateful.
Grateful for another day here on Kauai. Grateful to be surrounded by so much love. Grateful for the
fine organic food we grow and eat. Grateful for this piece of paradise that has provided such
abundance. Grateful for the amazing help I have on the farm from my sons. Grateful
that my daughter, while too far away, is in such a happy sweet marriage. Grateful for all the friends
who have supported and cared for me for so many years, without whom I would be lost. Grateful for my
health, which I treasure and never take for granted. Grateful that there is always another book to read
and savor. Grateful for the clean water that comes from our tap. Grateful for this
handmade-with-love home, which has sheltered us from storms, both the weather and the emotional
sort. I have so much in a world where so many have so very little. That pause each and every night is
such an important reminder.
This morning in yoga, my beautiful teacher of a dozen years says, while we are settling for shavasana, “Let the practice you just finished settle over you. Let the physical, spiritual and mental all rest in a place of confusion.” My quieted mind reels and my thoughts immediately become chaotic, with images, notions and ideas racing around like mice on a wheel. I take a deep breath. Then I giggle to myself. OH! . . . she said rest in a place of “cohesion.” Well that makes more sense. I take another breath and nestle into a comfortable and peaceful place to integrate while in my shavasana the wonderful practice I have just finished.
I simply am not sure what my life would be without this experience I have a couple of times a week in my yoga classes. The studio is serene. The teacher is kind and compassionate, with a heart of gold. The times I spend there make me stronger and more flexible, in my body and spirit. And I carry those hours spent there into my day-to-day life. I remind myself to sit tall, to breath deeply, to engage my core. And, equally as vital, to be kind and thoughtful. I attempt to weave all that yoga brings to me into my personal and business lives. I truly believe in the “ripple effect.” And, I feel certain that each act of thoughtfulness and kindness is like a pebble dropped into a still pond, with the effects rippling out slowly and clearly to the world. Heaven knows, we all need that. Just as we need more cohesion, rather than confusion.
In case you missed it. . . there was a news report earlier this week that alleged Bernie Sanders told Elizabeth Warren in a meeting that a woman could not win against Trump in 2020. Warren brought it up in the Democratic debate on Tuesday night and Sanders denied it. She then went on to create perhaps the highlight of the evening when she said that she and Amy Klobuchar were the only ones on the stage that had won all the elections they ran in and that, therefore, a woman could surely defeat Trump. It was a great moment, a tad sassy, but both classy and worthy of the applause that it created.
After the debate was over, there was the usual handshaking and congratulating between the candidates. Until Sanders extended his hand to Warren and she awkwardly pulled her hands into herself, refusing his handshake and confronted him. What followed was a heated exchange in which she accused him of calling her a liar on national television and he asked that they not go into it there, suggesting they talk another time and place.
I call foul. Regardless of the validity of Warren’s accusation, I was disappointed in her reaction. During the actual debate she professed to “not wanting to fight with my friend, Bernie.” She then adroitly managed to get in her delightful dig at the male candidates and make her point. Then to pull away from a handshake moments later struck me as inappropriate. As a politician, she knew cameras were rolling and people would be noticing and buzzing about it. What was her point? She could have taken his hand, looked him in the eye and said the exact thing.
In my view of Bernie Sanders, it seems unlikely he said it precisely as the Elizabeth Warren camp reported. My instincts tell me there was something missing from the story as told this week. There are four people running neck and neck in Iowa, and the campaigns are going to grasp onto anything in an attempt to establish an edge. But, in any case, it was, in my opinion, a low moment for Warren.
At this point, I am completely undecided about the Democratic candidates and the one best poised to take down the buffoon currently in office and restore our country’s reputation in the global community, tackle the climate crisis, the mammoth income gap and so much more. Perhaps I fall into the “Any Functioning Adult in 2020” movement. But, this kind of incident matters in this important race. I noticed and it stuck with me. We currently have enough rudeness and divisiveness in our country. We surely do not need our Democratic candidates creating more.
There is truth in growing wiser as we get older. However, the truth I have uncovered in my 70th year should perhaps not have taken so long to discover. Here it is: I cannot do it all. And alongside that starker-than-ever truth is this one: Nor should I have to at this point.
Ever since I can remember I have taken huge pride in being a strong and independent woman. Being successful in the mostly-male world of the 1970s advertising scene in New York City made that a necessity. Going through a divorce in my late 20s and having to restructure my life in that same dynamic city also tested my resolve.
There followed a relatively peaceful time in a wonderful supportive relationship and marriage. That did produce two amazing children. The crazy idea we dreamed of and initiated to move across the world to Kauai with a newborn and a toddler surely took stamina. Then the wild gargantuan project of taking four wide open acres and, while living in a barn we built while planting the land, building a home and creating businesses. And, in the midst of that, having a third baby.
I was young and vital and strong. I could take on anything. And I was a supreme giver — mostly to my children. But, eventually to their small sweet Waldorf elementary school and the community. Taking care of myself barely came to my mind. I ate well, exercise consisted of life and I was in a loving relationship. I could keep on giving and giving, working and working. And I did.
Fast forward 20 years to a flat-lined marriage and subsequent divorce. To say it was emotionally draining and financially difficult would be a mammoth understatement. But, I knew in my heart that I had to dig deep and find a way to preserve the intention behind the founding of the farm and keep this home for myself and my children, then pre-teens and teens. And to keep the businesses thriving and providing for the four of us. I was strong and independent still.
Here we are, another 20 years later, and it has somehow, magically, with some grace from the kind universe and some outrageous hard and often exhausting, emotionally and physically, work on my part, continued to do so.
While I remain vital and strong, like that younger woman whose sometimes ragged, but always blessed, path I outlined above, I am 70. I cannot do it all. I am learning to ask for help. I am attempting to create a life with time to just be. Asking for this doesn’t diminish my strength and independence. I am still that strong and independent women, just a tad more tired and in need of a tad more tenderness. That is the lesson in this for me. And I’m attempting to integrate it now. Wish me well.
As the rain pounds down on the roof of my loft office and the thunder rolls in the mountains, I have been pondering just what to say about the rain. I really like rain—–gentle nourishing rain. But, this kind of deluge is difficult for me enjoy. When the rain comes in torrents like this there is the inevitable voice in my head reminding me of the damage to our gardens and orchards. And that can translate into an income shift for me. Then that leads me to some fear-based thinking of how to make all the money work.
In no other area in my life do I posture myself in fear. So, I struggle to re- position myself in the face of this kind of storm. Try to modify my stream of consciousness to one of not arguing with the reality of this rain and not focusing on fear.
Instead, I can be grateful that this rain is the spin off of a hurricane that missed our island, sparing us potentially much worse weather, and sparing me much worse anxiety. I can, instead, find a way to appreciate indoor time. Write letters to loved ones. Open up the novel I’m reading and venture into that world. Take solace in the dry comfortable home in which I live, the great food I always have stocked up, the exceptionally fine friends I know are there for me, and my loving children who sustain me in deep ways.
And, pivotal to this place I strive to reach is a true belief that I can continue to find ways to generate the monies that wash away in rain like this. The deep knowing that I have always been blessed with abundance, and that will not change.
I desire to refocus my energy in this weather to re-centering instead of reacting. So, as I write this, the rain continues to come in heavy bands and I assure you that my inner journey is a work in progress.
Never has Kaua’i been as hot as the past couple of summers. These dog days make farming difficult to impossible. The mid-day heat finds us all wilting, nothing more so than the greens in our main market garden. Me, I can refresh myself with a swim, but the gardens just suffer. As well, there are new little sparrows and finches never seen up on the north shore until the past few years, who find our kale, chard and Asian greens delectable. They had eaten all down to the midribs. Hence, our decision the past few summers to sow cover crop and let the garden rest and replenish it with a big hit of green manure when the cover crop is tilled in.
There are a few vegetables that like the heat and beans are one of them. We grow all kinds in the summer in one of our smaller gardens. Long beans, green beans and yellow dragon tongue beans.
They are delicious just steamed with vinaigrette or butter and salt. But you might try also tossing them with feta after dressing them with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Or going a bit Asian with lime, fish sauce, some garlic and a bit of sugar–adding some dried chili peppers if you like spice.
We will till and plant again in a while, hoping to come back on line just as the weather moderates some. Our customers have been so very supportive of us with this new pattern of providing them with fresh organic produce. We are happy to at least have bananas, lychee, papaya, eggplant, pineapples and these yummy beans— all of which like the heat.
“GARDENING IS A WAY OF SHOWING YOU BELIEVE IN TOMORROW” author unknown
When are you going to retire? If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me that, maybe I could retire!
But, really — I’m not sure just what retirement would look like for me. I mean I know several loved ones who are retired. I know what their retirement looks like. Just not clear what mine would resemble.
Most of my days are full to overflowing. But, with good work and with only myself to answer to. (Well, okay, I do have to kowtow to the IRS, the State of Hawaii or the mortgage company.) Some days I wish were a bit more measured, with a more time to take a deep breath and a long beach walk. But,usually I can fit both of those into my day.
While I do less of the physical work around the farm, thanks to my sons, I still am the one who is orchestrating the scene. But, then again, many a day finds me outside doing that contemplative task of weeding or a strength-building task like trimming and hauling or even the menial task of being the chamber maid for our cottage rental. I am the list maker, the director, co-farmer, office manager and more.
For almost 20 years I have kept the intention behind the founding of North Country Farms going strong on my own. I feel accomplished and proud of this. It has been a home and a livelihood for myself and my children. But the reality is that for us all to remain on the farm, we must all work it and keep the endeavor generating income. So, for now, I remain working, not retired. And that is just fine, as I said, I don’t know what retirement would look like for me right now. I shall try and travel more, carve out more time for beach, yoga, reading, writing. And take each morning as a gift and each job as an integral part of a wonderful life.
Definition of sensual: relating to or consisting in the gratification of the senses
Definition of sexual: relating to or associated with sex
I was thinking today that perhaps I am a sensual being at this time in my life, not necessarily a sexual one. That prompted me to look up the definition of both words. Sure enough – – – I was right – – – I am sensual. Very. Not particularly sexual currently.
The way my body and mind relax under the spell of a warm sun. The completely fine feeling of immersing myself in salt water after soaking in that sun. The smell of my coffee beans grinding, promising that delectable morning java. The feel of my grandson’s soft sweet thighs. The staggering beautiful sound of the birds at dusk. The luxurious low light on my gardens at sunrise or sunset. The feeling of that deep clear breath when I first lay down on my yoga mat. The breathtaking feast for my eyes of a brightly blooming orchid. How my fresh clean sheets caress my body and smell like the sun. That first sip of a perfectly chilled glass of good wine. The heady scent of gardenias, jasmine or stephanotis. The way the grass or the sand feels under my bare feet. My senses stimulated.
In years past, I would have considered myself extremely sexual. Perhaps this is aging. Approaching seventy with my senses so finely tuned, my gratitude for the world around me heightened. It is a fine life. I am thankful for my sensual self.
I have been living in the land of the angels for the last month. My oldest son’s first son was born a month ago. They all live on the farm here so my days were initially filled with being of service to them. Laundry, meals, and my favorite of all . . . walking and rocking a newborn.
It seems like eons ago I held my babies fresh from the womb, and yet it seems like the blink of an eye. I did not forget the smell of their heads, the sheer beauty of them relaxing into sleep in my arms, the deep desire to comfort them when they seem distressed. I also did not forget the dreamy difficult times of being their parents—of being unsure, of being exhausted. So, it became my purest pleasure to help in any way possible. And in the process, I got the gift of a lifetime — to bond with my grandson.
My son and his wife are finding their way beautifully into parenthood. They seem more confident each and every day. And they are truly, madly and deeply in love with their baby boy. To watch this all unfold is a treasure to me.