Where’d You Grow Wednesday? Earth Day at the End of the Road

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As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kinds of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.                      Henry David Thoreau

Choosing to Grow has dominated my life. As I knelt on the cold linoleum of a rented bathroom sixteen years ago, my prayer of desperation yielded the instruction to Choose to Grow. I’ve pursued that ever since. What CTG means is I never settle for blind acceptance of someone’s idea. I investigate, deconstruct and analyze continually to see what growth is possible and what noticing I should entertain.

To be honest, growing started in the dark recesses of my mind long before I realized it was aiming my shoulders to find blossom at the end of this road.

From a deep interest in Thoreau’s instructions for Civil Disobedience at Waldon Pond, to journal entry reflections written prior to 9-11, through the first book I researched, and because of all the moves we endured oscillating between still quiet and robust busyness in our married life, I’ve sensed this house would be our landing spot and our legacy project would be The Park.

Now that we are here, I’m more challenged than ever to allow space for the thoughts that will tread deep paths in my mind.

This Week’s Growth

It is Earth Day 2020. Fifty years since its inception and smackdab in the middle of  a contentious and deadly pandemic. What began as a Wisconsin senator’s launchpad for environmental activism has proven to be a chasm in today’s political climate. It’s one more thing people have decided to fight about. Many have become far too frustrated to sit still for a second, look at the world literally in their back yards and attend to the plants, or the weeds, or the birds and animals that work to exist there- even when a deadly virus mandates it. Finding satisfaction in the simple is not the way of our American life and especially not our stay-at-home resistance.

An increasing number of people prefer to fight. Joining causes and raising voices that pit science against beliefs and responsibilities against freedoms.  I stand firmly between the contrasts, contemplating all of it.

Fuel for my thinking this week came in both a book and a movie. The book Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant has challenged me to stay courageous in the ways I chafe at societal norms. I also found plenty of food for thought watching the movie, The Biggest Little Farm, about natural, organic and co-existent farming that is an actual place with actual awe-inspiring growth.

My husband and I are spending this down time better laying plans for The Park. We want to make use of the landscape for the enjoyment and enrichment of all people able to visit. We want to encourage a gentle balance between the natural tendencies of the land to grow and people’s recreation on it. We have adopted a business model of Just Enough. Just enough visitors to keep the resources abundant. Just enough money to keep the business viable and the employees well paid. Just enough profit to make regular charitable contributions to those around us who need it. Just enough scheduling that there is balance between work and recreation for our family too.

Today is not a political day for me. To be honest, every single day here at the end of the road is Earth Day. Especially now that I have time to observe the spring version of this property, I am compelled by the life that struggles to bloom, emerging through decaying layers that were yielded before the winter snow buried them. I’m distracted by the return of birds to nests and the cyclical rhythm of next-generation-eagle-pairing. I am not an activist, but I guess I will claim I am an environmentalist because the world around me is too fascinating to disregard.

Here are today’s Earth Day postcards from the end of the road.

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New sprout sidled up next to last year’s dead root.

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A pair of geese chatting about the wind-driven waves and the direction they intend to fly away from me.

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A discarded fishing reel from over fifty years ago…one of the trash items collected for Earth Day.

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Budding trees are subtle, but incredible when observed up close.

May this Earth Day provide at least a moment of contemplation and fertile ground for your choice to grow too.

Meagan Frank

Copyright 2020

Life at the End of the Road

We’ve hit a dead end. All of us. It’ll be disorienting for a while, but I believe we can, and must, learn to live well at the end of the road.

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This was an actual surprise dead-end we found trying to get our drive-thru shamrock shakes back to the family.

It is likely your end-of-the-road is not exactly like our family’s new and literal end-of-the-road home, but I know we are all sitting in a similar place right now.  An unexpected end has happened for all of us in one way or another. I am admittedly unsure how the road will open up again, but I am confident of one thing: Hope IS on the other side.

Our family of five is huddled in our newly-almost-fully-renovated-three-and-a-half-bedroom-one-bathroom lake house at the end of a road. Rough, I know. Our twenty-year-old is home from college for the semester and our high schooler has resigned herself to the real possibility she’ll spend the rest of her senior year at the end of this road. The eighth-grader thought she’d have this place pretty much to herself, but that is not the case for the foreseeable future. Not much of our move here has gone how I sensed it should, but in the strangest sense of all, it feels like exactly where we are supposed to be.

What if that is the truth for everyone? What if your hard stop is intended for difficult reflection, a reset of priorities, a shift in perspective you never considered you’d need to do?

People tend to fear endings so much, but the more I let myself look at them, the more I believe we are meant to live as fully in our endings as in any other part of our lives. Bring faith to all of it: beginning, middle, and dead/ final ends.

Over a decade ago, I had a premonition I would meet my end at this lake house.

The first night we stayed in our then-run-down little cabin, my husband went out to buy supplies. I had tucked our three small kids into bed and as I stood waiting at the window for him to return, I became awash with fear. I felt so uneasy in the unfamiliar, dimly-lit kitchen and I was overwhelmed by the thought of one thing: mortality. It was a feeling more than it was a word. I thought, “he’s not coming back tonight.” I was sure of it. The nervous energy ushered in an almost paralyzing fear. I was compelled by this feeling enough to write myself a letter to make record. He did come back and I quickly pivoted the admission that the feeling of mortality probably applied to me. It was like the certainty I felt after my husband kissed me goodnight and I knew we’d be married. I simply knew ends at this lake house would happen.

I still believe in that truth. Maybe the COVID-19 world shift is the end I sensed or maybe I’ll meet my actual end here, but no matter what, I’m not afraid of it like I used to be. You’d think knowing what I do about this place, I would try harder to avoid it. That’s what I would do if I wanted fear to carry me. Faith-filled choices carry us too, and without resistance sometimes that means we head right back to face the fears we spend most of our lives avoiding.

The crazy thing is, simultaneous to the thoughts of endings at this lake house,  my husband and I have followed a compulsion to live here and pursue plans to build The Park. Each day we wake up, we’ll continue to work toward that. I do sense, in these crazy times, I should be doing something else too.  The Park, like this house, sits at the end of a road. (sorta think that’s not a coincidence) I feel a new calling to photograph and blog about how we attempt to live life fully while we wait at the #endoftheroad.  I’ll post those photos and musings on my Instagram and Facebook pages.

soft white grass

For those of you wrangling with the difficulties you have today and the anticipated discomfort yet to come, I am sincerely sorry you have landed where you never intended to travel. I do believe the end of the road is not to be feared, however, and instead sits waiting in invitation to remind us that hope, faith and love are real things that deserve our attention in beginnings, middles and endings.

When all else fails, look to the children. Shel Silverstein was one of my favorite poets as a kid. This morning as I walked and photographed the space of our property at the end of the road, inspired by a photographer who posts pictures regularly from somewhere on his eighty acres, I thought about Silverstein’s poem Where the Sidewalk Ends. Without knowing why I loved it as a kid, rereading it today reminded me that I loved it because he highlights the hope that exists because of children. They are a hope we can look to as we wait at the end of the road for the other hope we know is coming.

Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

There is a place where the sidewalk ends

And before the street begins,

And there the grass grows soft and white,

And there the sun burns crimson bright,

And there the moon-bird rests from his flight

To cool in the peppermint wind.

Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black

And the dark street winds and bends.

Past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow

We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow,

And watch where the chalk-white arrows go

To the place where the sidewalk ends.

Yes, we’ll walk with a walk that is measured and slow,

And we’ll go where the chalk-white arrows go,

For the children, they mark, and the children, they know

The place where the sidewalk ends.

Meagan Frank

Copyright 2020