Being Thankful

Reader Contribution by Laura Berlage and North Star Homestead Farms
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The crew at Farmstead wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving!  Steve, Ann, Kara, and Laura. 

It’s easy, as human beings, to focus on what you don’t have, what you want, what you miss.  These hungry thoughts can become consuming, festering, distracting.  They can also make your life feel small and lacking.

In a consumer culture age, the mantra of wanting more, more, more, bigger, and better is everywhere.  I don’t have time for watching TV, but I catch snippets of it while hosting the farmer market at North Lakes Community Clinic on first and third Thursdays of the month.  The advertisements are relentless in their message of what you have or how you are is not good enough, and you need THIS product or THAT solution.  They drive it home with the message that you DESERVE it!

“Not Enough” can become an underlying mantra, as noted by Mark Coleman in his book Make Peace with Your Mind: How Mindfulness and Compassion Can Free You From Your Inner Critic.  Coleman’s book has been an important auxiliary source in our “Artist’s Way” workshop series. 

The mantra of “not enough” can express externally, with wanting a bigger house, a better boat, more things of all sorts, or it can turn inwardly with shaming the body as not slim enough, not strong enough, not fit enough, not cute enough.  This can become a toxic spiral that can never be fully achieved, a thirst that can never be quenched. But Coleman offers an antidote to this unhappy social situation:

A key strategy for counteracting the malaise of not-enoughness is to cultivate gratitude.  For when we are feeling grateful, we can’t also be feeling deficient.  Gratitude by its very nature has a sense of fullness and wholeness within it.  (Coleman, 75)

We worked this idea of gratitude as the antidote for scarcity mindset and “not-enoughness” into the last Artist’s Way workshop gathering.  In a hat, John Adler put slips of paper with everyday things we might not think about or appreciate like socks, walking, sight, or breakfast.  From this we would pull a slip and do a 2-minute timed writing exercise together, then quickly pull another one from the hat and write again.  Timed writing exercises help propel the motion of thought faster than the speed of the nagging inner critic, reaching a more authentic voice.

Here are the free-writes I did that day, based on the prompts pulled from the hat.  Try writing your own based on these prompts or others that may come to you.

Shelter:  The reason we even live in this northern climate.  I am surrounded by shelters, many influenced by my own hand.  Shelters of homes, cozy and dry, shelters of barns and coops and sheds.  Even if the shelter is only a canopy or a tarp, there is always options.  Shelter of a car, even when it’s the shortest of distances.  Shelter beneath the roof of the Blueberry [utility golf cart for chores] in hot sun or pelting rain.  Shelters to duck into.

Sunsets:  The farm has such a spectacular view of the sunsets, edged by the rugged pines at the end of the field.  Pink, purple, golden, shimmering or wispy, glowing bold or whispering.  Not many in the Northwoods have the open sky of the farmyard to see the sunsets like we do, or watch the weather patterns come in.  The sunsets remind me how fleeting beauty can be and not to miss it when it comes.

Ability:  To have two working hands, all fingers attached.  To be strong enough to meet the task, to be ambulatory, to be a quick thinker, to be able to visualize things in 3-D, to understand math and science and literature and history, to walk and talk and see and hear.  To be relatively healthy and fit, mobile and agile.  To know you CAN DO what you imagine.

Reading:  To be able to form concepts into sound, then sound into words, then words into code, then code onto the page, and as a viewer be able to know the meaning of the code of words from sound to concepts is an incredibly impressive undertaking.  Each generation, each person, has to relearn this for themselves—the code and concepts of the day, how to use them, how to make them.  It bridges the communication gap created by time and space.

Sky The heavens over us, givers of sun and rain, holding out the impenetrable cold of the universe outside this little, floating ball of home.  Just today, I had to remind myself that the sky and the sun are always there, that just because the clouds blot them out temporarily, they do not extinguish the immutability of the sky itself and the visiting sun.  Sky reminds us of the real vastness of the space we inhabit.

As we wrote together, drew a new prompt from the hat, and wrote again with only a breath’s pause in between, I could feel the energy shifting in the room.  Gratitude was finding a home in each person, in ways special and significant to the individuals present.

And how fitting that this should be just before the season of Thanksgiving.  During this time, we make a point to be present with the many gifts we have been given this year and to give thanks together.  I hope that the true spirit of gratitude finds you this Thanksgiving season as well. 

May we all be able to shake off the culture of scarcity mindset and not-enoughness.  Take some time to count the blessings that meet us every day—even the little ones.  They all matter so much, yesterday, today, and tomorrow.  Happy Thanksgiving to you all, and many thanks for being a reader of these stories!  See you down on the farm sometime.

Photo by Kara Berlage.

Laura Berlage is a co-owner of North Star Homestead Farms, LLC and Farmstead Creamery & Café. 715-462-3453

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