I was supposed to go to a soil workshop today but work got in the way of my plans. I was looking forward to the opportunity to learn from an expert speaker and tour an innovative organic farm. But it was 1-½ hours away (one way), and such a visit would take too much out of my day.
My mind started wandering down the path of disappointment, but then I stopped. While the workshop would have been interesting and useful, is it something I really need to do right now? Would this knowledge inform that tasks that need to be accomplished today, or even this season? Then I started thinking about how often I prop myself up, even distract myself, with research. I look outside for information -- I turn to books, workshops, experts who can tell me what to do and how to do it -- while I have the best teacher right here: the land itself.
It has so much to teach me and while conventional learning is vitally important, experiential learning -- digging in the dirt, nurturing, growing, being there -- is where the magic happens. But sometimes that kind of learning scares me -- what if I'm missing something, what if I make a mistake, what if I fail?
But really all life is like that. You can prepare all you want for a certain task, a job, or even parenthood, but it's in the doing where you reach the highs and shoulder the lows. That's where the living takes place.
And that takes trust, a certain leap of faith, and ultimately, a letting go of the results because despite our best actions and intentions, what happens after the work is done is completely out of our hands.
While I feel safe in my smallness, doing my reading and research until I have learned enough, know enough, about whatever work I'm doing -- whether it's how to grow vegetables in my particular soil, or how I can do the work I love and support my family financially at the same time -- none of that is enough.
It's about taking a step in a direction, learning from that step, and then taking another one -- perhaps in the same direction, or possibly a different one. Failure doesn't come from action; it comes from inaction, from getting stuck, from staying small.
Wendell Berry wrote, “It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work and when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.”
Well, my mind is certainly baffled, but I can continue to feed the discomfort around not knowing what to do, or I can simply start doing. Participating in life makes one complete. And I don't need a workshop to tell me how to do that.