I'm feeling a bit underwater these days, especially in terms of writing, as it has been a busy Spring. Busy, but nice, with a host of beloved visitors. It's made it difficult to carve out the time, wherewithal or both to produce anything of much value. Mind you, I'm not complaining of this creative dry spell. The all or nothing, 110% work mentality in America is really no way to enjoy life (or work), nor is it the mission of this newsletter to portray a way of life that I don't also embrace myself.
So, today's post is a bit of a throwback to when I first started the newsletter back in the Fall of 2021. You may have even seen it if you've poked around the website and landed in the About section—with a way better photo, I might add, as it shows me and Franca standing behind the counter of the bread shop and bakery we opened a few years ago in the small town of Tarboro, in Eastern North Carolina. The bakery was a big deal at the time, for us anyway—I guess for others, too—and maybe it still is something to brag about. After all, we were both in our early 50s, switching careers to pursue food of all things in an area known more for its fast food than the kind made from scratch of real, mostly local, ingredients.
Plus, we had never owned a business before. And we were doing it as a couple—meaning no one was working outside of the business to earn a living in case it crashed and burned. Which it did not. On paper anyway. But to family, acquaintances, apparently to potential lenders, and many others, our bakery must’ve looked like one of those endeavors normal people our age would have considered and moved past with a shrug and sigh: Too late, missed my chance.
But we're not normal people. So we uprooted ourselves and our family to this little rural community with huge intentions. I won't go into them now because eventually we did close the bakery and none of those things really matter anymore. They're in the past (if you're interested though you can read more about it here) and this newsletter is not about what happened back then or even what could've been. It's about now and what comes next.
It’s about living longer, better, with less, wherever you are because life, as we’ve all just seen, can deteriorate rather quickly into madness, chaos and misery if we hold too tight to the way things are or could have been. Whether it’s meaningful work, having enough money, the perfect partner, or taking the adventure of a lifetime, we risk losing ourselves in the pursuit instead of engaging with life, finding content in the intention. Filling our hearts with bliss.
Red in Tooth and Claw
Nature loves contentment. It thrives when the world is balanced, when the need matches the demand, when everything operates in equilibrium and is maintained by a self-regulating flow. It doesn’t care about purpose, and even less about the pursuit of it. No. Nature wants easy. It wants homeostasis. Not conflict or argument or reason. Unless it comes, as Tennyson once penned, from Nature’s ruthless self:
'So careful of the type?' but no.
From scarped cliff and quarried stone
She cries, 'A thousand types are gone:
I care for nothing, all shall go.
'Thou makest thine appeal to me:
I bring to life, I bring to death:
The spirit does but mean the breath:
I know no more.' And he, shall he,
Man, her last work, who seem'd so fair,
Such splendid purpose in his eyes,
Who roll'd the psalm to wintry skies,
Who built him fanes of fruitless prayer,
Who trusted God was love indeed
And love Creation's final law-
Tho' Nature, red in tooth and claw
With ravine, shriek'd against his creed-
The challenge, of course, is that since the day humans first emerged from the savannah people have not, in general, really cared for self-regulating processes. People want it all. The cliff. The stone. The skies. The job, the money, the adventure, the splendidly perfect partner.
We want bliss, yes, but...
Homeostasis? We don't really seem that interested. I mean, just take a look at the news. I read recently that someone is trying to manipulate weather by shooting some cocktail of chemicals into the clouds that would encourage precipitation. Encourage precipitation? Please. Who do we think we are?
At the sake of sounding like someone’s preachy, peyote-smoking Aunt from Albuquerque, I’d like to suggest that life—a happy, contented and blissful one anyway—requires self-regulation. It requires managing our expectations and a focus on the effort, intention and conflict in such a way that moves us in a way and direction in which we most long to be headed, which is what people of any age in any place should be considering: Doing the right work in the right space with the right purpose to discover what matters most in life. And then, with care and a bit of audacity and luck, I suppose, discover our ourselves in our own blissful homeostasis. Living the questions, Rilke would say.
It might not encourage rain, but it might help us all to be more content with the dryness.