December 8, 2019

Navigating Change

Illustration by George Danby

Illustration by George Danby

• By John F. Chisholm •

Farming is gradual improvement in thought, an education in wildly disparate subjects. They all join together at the dinner table.  Somehow.  Meanwhile, you’re unaware that you’ve learned anything until long after the fact.  I know that I’m clueless.  Then one day my wife will ask a question.  I’ll answer automatically before stopping and thinking, ‘Whoa.  Where’d I come up with that?’

It’s startling.

It’s bizarre, too.  Because I started farming simply to get away from my day job.  It didn’t work, at least financially.  But I left that day job anyway.  Thank goodness.

The realization that nothing grows overnight ― except weeds ― was a long time coming.  Everything worthwhile takes time.  I slaved away at the variegated tasks that are farming, crossing item after item off an endless list, imagining that I was getting somewhere.  It took far too long to see that I was standing at my destination.

Nobody ever accused me of catching on quickly.

Yet there have been major changes here since we started farming.  There are drainage improvements, advancements in layout and additional facilities added.  They came almost unannounced while I picked rocks, cut wood, mowed, trimmed, painted, roofed, fenced and heaven alone knows what all else.  It will be 29 years this fall that we’ve lived here.  But all those changes snuck up on me.


This is important because it applies to more than farming.  I’ve been writing a long time, too.  There are times when I’d swear that I haven’t gotten anywhere despite all those years of effort.  Then I reread my first manuscript.  I don’t recommend it.  In fact it makes me cringe.  That’s why I keep it.  I remember I was proud of it once.  I submitted it, too.

Unsurprisingly, thankfully, it never went anywhere.

The nature of mercy is misunderstood but no one hired a hit man to put me out of their misery ― or mine.

The point is that writing it changed me.  Profoundly.  Moreover, I never saw it coming.

It gives me valuable perspective.  I’ve been writing for Janine Pineo and for six months now.  Two weeks ago I caught myself wondering why I wasn’t getting anywhere.  Does anyone read these essays?  It was farming that made me realize what I was doing.  Impatience is a terrible trap.  How odd that changes, just like those on a farm, can’t be seen while standing in the middle of them.  I found myself relearning two things that I should have remembered from long ago:

Education morphs into change without your awareness.

Journeying to where you already are defines the trip.