July 2019

the real adventure

“Today there are fewer places to discover, and the real adventure is to stay home.”

This sentence has given me food for thought since I first came across it in the nineties, in the introduction to a collection of G.K. Chesterton essays put together by Father Alvaro de Silva. I wanted to use it as the motto of The Bower (my original little homemaking magazine) and wrote to Father de Silva asking for permission, which he graciously gave. Two decades along, it is becoming the motto for what I feel is my work at the moment, to get back home in all the ways that can mean, but especially in how I work and spend my time.

Looking back on the last several years, since getting back to earning a living after caring for my mom ended in late 2012, I see that I became something of a wanderer in the online world…both in the participating and the partaking…Facebook, Google plus, Instagram, Pinterest, Etsy, free webinars, forums, teaching sites, email lists, group after group after group of one sort and another. Most all of this searching and experimenting was in search of new ways to find my people, as the whole pattern of my doing business had unraveled in the years I was my sweet mother’s caregiver…the devoted customers at the shows I did, the whole world of Small Meadow Press, my creative orientation, really.

If you are mostly online for pleasure and practical reasons, it may be hard to understand how far away from home one can wander in the online world when one is there-in the main-for one’s livelihood. If you aren’t finding the success you want, or are used to (as I was pre-2009) there are So Many People and courses out there offering help in finding your way. And I have an inkling that there are certain personalities (raising my hand) who are ever curious and hopeful and aspiring and are ripe for all that the interwebs now offer. Perhaps this is what they call “shiny object syndrome?” I certainly found some goodness amongst all the dross, but tho’ some of the places I ended up had looked inviting, in the end, they never felt home-like.

Some of what I am trying to put into words is just the inevitable swing of the pendulum that we experience in many realms of life. We go quite far in one direction for awhile, then we know it is time to correct, to balance, and we swing back aways. This happens often in the material realm, as the over-full thrift stores reflect. But the balancing going on for me now is in the spiritual and mental realms…and the down-to-earth realm of crafting a life, and a business. However it might be described, I see the mists of the last many years lifting, and have found the path home and am taking first steps.

What is home to me in the online world? It is this blog. And Wisteria & Sunshine (surprise! another blog.) This is what feels comfortable, sheltered and nourishing to me. Everything else these days is receiving my careful attention and…

How does it feel?

How do I feel about who owns it and how it works?

Is it an important piece of the patchwork of my life and work, or are there alternatives that fit more beautifully into the whole?

This is where my thoughts are in all the spare moments these days, when I am not watching swallows encircling the sky above fields, drinking in the sunsets, designing lovely pages in my studio, navigating the latest hormonal symptoms or resting on the porch sofa. It feels like a real heart & soul task, to untangle our earnest, loving lives and businesses from the snarled, artificial tangle so many of the platforms and companies have made it. I know it’s not very Lesley-like to say, but I feel my job these days is to “stick it to the man” as the phrase goes, in creative and gentle ways. To not become too much a part of the matrix. And, indeed, it does feel like an adventure, one which will bring me ever closer home.

Will you be joining me as I clear a likely path?

beginning again…

The first beginning was in 2006 when I created my first blog, The Bower, at blogspot.com. Then in 2013, there was a new beginning when I made this space and unofficially changed the name of my blog to “My Rosehip Diary.” It was the year after my mom died, I was just entering into my menopause journey. I felt the need to make my home here fresh and spacious in the same way I was doing with my real rooms. There would be fascinating and challenging adventures ahead, I felt sure. And so it proved to be.

What I didn’t see coming was how confused and tangled my online life would become, tho’ it has become a common experience by now. If you’ve been a longtime reader here, you will know how sporadic my posts became a few years ago, the many good intentions I had to begin again…all the plans. But as with most everything for me, plans go but so far…it is feelings and awareness that bring things to fruition. I shared those feelings and awarenesses recently at Instagram, which was the right place to begin this most recent conversation about online life. But I want to finish and deepen with it here.

So I’ve copied and pasted my last Instagram post below, with the link to the first part, as well. I wanted there to be something new to find here while I rearrange rooms, tidy up pages that have become muddled or out-of-date, generally have a good freshening up. Sometime in the Spring, I wrote out these intentions in a Daybook page…

…but a few months ago, I tore off the monthly title and simply keep it on the mantel in my studio, because it is the work of this season of life and can’t be contained within a certain calendar measurement. Who knows how long it will take me to know I have accomplished my menopause? Or to feel as tho’ I’ve woven enough of the threads of my life into a shawl to keep me warm into the years? I don’t feel the need to know or set goals or deadlines around it, but am just enjoying the weaving.

And I hope you will enjoy it, as well. I’m trying to capture it in words and pictures in these glass pages, and in the posts you shall find here more regularly…for all of the reasons I share below and in the linked conversation. So grateful for your continued presence, and your interest in my work and words…

I’ve been mulling over our conversation and remembering other facets (there are so many!) of this online life. The publishing of this latest edition of The Bower (digital! I know!) brought it to mind. I wish I could remember how the idea came to me to create The Bower, and how I found subscribers way back in the late nineties…but I can’t. All I know is that I was finding wisdom and delight in the writings and illustrations I was coming across as I read the vintage magazines and books I adored.

This lovely impulse to share the helpful, moving, beautiful things we come across seems to me to be at the heart of why we are on Instagram. But as I weigh the social media/blogging choices in my hands, I see that one of the negatives of social media is the ease of it…both in the posting and the reading. Therefore, there is So Much goodness out there and it becomes something else we have to contain and set boundaries with.

Back in 1997 when I wanted to create The Bower, there were no computers or printers in my world. I talked to a newspaper man I knew and learned about cutting and pasting up pages. I would go into town after my little boyos were in bed, basket of antique books and magazines in tow, and spend hours copying the illustrations and words I wanted to share at Kinkos. I’d bring those photocopies home and cut and arrange them into pages, teaching myself how to layout the pages to be in order, type up the bits of my own writing and thoughts, carve eraser stamps to adorn some pages, stamp the page numbers, hand-letter titles and so on. I must have been really motivated by it all, and I know that a great deal of that motivation was knowing that there were other women out there, like me, who would cherish all of that work. I didn’t receive a lot of feedback, and that was ok, because we didn’t expect much back then. The subscriptions continued, and I received handwritten notes along with the checks.

It was really wonderful while it lasted, tho’ during all of this I was recovering from an accident. The slow recovery of my nervous system and the trauma-induced chronic mono that I struggled with eventually brought it to an end, after five issues. My longing to share and connect around all that I cared about had to simmer back down until my improved health and the arrival of home computers and printers eventually brought Small Meadow Press into being. Then Wisteria & Sunshine.

When I reflect upon the journey I have gone through (that we all have really, if you have partaken of the webby world over the years,) there were seasons where it felt almost entirely positive, hopeful, dare I say-simple? When I created my first website in 2003 for Small Meadow Press, I did so via a small company that supported moms with businesses. We learned how to do it in a friendly forum. There was no social media, just occasional notes on the front page of my site. I didn’t begin blogging until 2006. And I didn’t need to work hard to be found in a big pond because the pond was pretty small back then, or so it felt. Early blogging felt the same.

Today, I definitely feel called to discern for myself how to make my online life and business feel more like sitting next to a small pond and sending out my thoughtful ripples, whilst also enjoying the gentle sensation of other’s ripples when I decide to go for a dip. No more rushing rivers or tumultuous oceans (polluted with plastic : (    It’s too much. Life is too short. We hear this all of the time, but I can tell you, when you turn 60, it becomes very real.

Here is part of an excerpt from a book I’ve been sharing at Wisteria & Sunshine that describes all that I am working with at the moment…

“Living simply today takes work. It takes work to overcome the noise that has accumulated in our heads, growing louder and more pervasive since we were young. It takes work to overcome the illusion that we will arrive at some end point where we will better-more successful, adored, satisfied, relaxed, rich. It takes hard work to say, “This is how I am,” in a calm voice, without anxiously addressing how you should be. It takes work to shift your focus from the smudges on the window to the view outside. It requires conscious effort not to waste your life swimming furiously against the tide, toward some imaginary future that will never make you happy anyway.”

-Heather Havrilesky What If This Were Enough?

P.S. The refresh here will go rather slower than I would like because there is a whole year’s worth of Daybooklets to design this month, Wisteria & Sunshine to tend, and home & garden and Wimbledon to savor! : )