When I think of August I think of blue skies, hot lazy days and puffy white clouds; of monarch butterflies and fields of Queen Ann’s lace; of storm clouds building from the heat of the day. I also think of hammering and the smell of sawdust, swallows darting through open barn windows and hours spent pulling weeds in the garden. So many of these images stem from childhood memories of growing up on a farm.
Summer is a time to build, but is also a time to slow down and to plan for the future. I remember summers spent putting a roof on the house, framing the barn, and picking stones from the apple orchards. The urge to build things, to create, stemmed from those long summers on the farm. This urge has become a fundamental part of my life. When I’m not creating, even if it’s simply a column, a feeling of guilt seeps over me.
But my process of creating carries with it the idea that whatever I make ought to outlive me: the words I write on this page, this newspaper we put together every month, the house my husband and I are renovating, and the child growing inside me.
I tease my husband by calling him a perfectionist, but I’m just as guilty. I like to think of this as an aesthetic sensibility rather than an egotistical preoccupation. By doing something as well as I possibly can not only am I ensuring that I won’t likely have to redo it, but I’m also leaving my mark on the world, like an ancient handprint on a cave wall.
I think of the farm I grew up on and of what it is like now, 25 years later, with other people living there. It was built to outlive us. I see now how important our family was in creating the vitality that brought the farm to life; we made the material things matter. The houses, the barn, the apple orchards and rock wall we built from stones picked from the fields are all still there. But the apple trees don’t produce fruit, the fields have gone fallow and nature is slowly claiming the farm back. Our dreams and our plans fuelled the farm with an energy that shaped its natural beauty. Our work produced fertile soil. But without the kind of care and compassion we gave to it, nature will slowly take over.
Every now and then I meet people who live in a world they haven’t shaped with their dreams. People who seem to drift, not sure where they fit in or where they are going. It seems a stage of youth that some people never outgrow, or perhaps it is a product of a very impoverished childhood. They seem at odds with their life, displaced and in need of foundations.
I’ve spent parts of my life without any material wealth, without knowing where my next meal might come from, but I never felt poor. Although I had nothing in my pockets I always had dreams and plans in my head. The worst poverty is the lack of ability to dream, to shape the world around your hopes and aspirations. When I think of the stark reality that many people face, days filled with endless torment and strife, it is easy to see how hope itself can die. If children have no future to dream of and the immediate matters more, than true emotional poverty has set in. Is it reversible?
I look at my life now and am surprised by the similarities it has to my childhood. Again I’m living in a house under construction, but now it is my husband and I who are shaping the world around us with our dreams. Together we plan the future of this newspaper and build it into something that we hope will outlive us.
I can’t imagine my life without the plans I have for tomorrow, next week and the coming year. I wonder sometimes where I might be in five years from now, what changes will come into my life and how I will shape them.
For now I must focus on September as we’re gearing up for The Women’s Post’s first marketing campaign; the new staff should be trained and ready to go by then, and so too should the newspaper boxes and our new signage. It’ll soon be October and we should be ready to launch The Women’s Post in Calgary, and soon it will be November and our baby will come and then…