We had visitors to the farm the other day. A couple who wanted a glimpse of our world. They got to hear the same stories we always tell, about raising chickens and ducks, how we built my studio, what it’s like to keep bees. All the lessons we learned the hard way, the wonders of nature we’ve witnessed – shared to a new set of ears and eyes.
As we wandered through the orchard, Alan told the story of how the pond came to be, first a hole filled with water, then fish and cattails, dragonflies and frogs, herons and ducks.
How did you fill it with water, he was asked? Oh, you don’t fill it, he replied. To make a pond you just dig a hole.
I was there that day, that week in that autumn when the digging occurred. A backhoe and a backwoods gentleman. The kind that don’t talk much to the womenfolk. I remember the days of digging and the pile of dirt, a towering clod of clay that dwarfed my studio.
After the deed was done, I remember walking down into the gaping hole. It felt like a moon landing. From deep in its center, you couldn’t see green – just walls of dank brown. I knew it would eventually thrive, but it was hard to tell in that moment.
And then came the snow and all it took was one good winter. By the time the spring arrived, It was a glistening lake shimmering in the sunlight. Just like that. Just like magic.
Once the hole was there, everything else just happened. The frogs laid their tadpoles in the shallow end. The blackbirds nested in the reeds. The willows and aspens sprung up along its edges, dwarfing us almost as soon as they arrived.
From the outside, thriving looks an awful lot like luck. Success comes so easily. You don’t have to plant the trees, after all. You just have to dig a hole.
But, you knew this, didn’t you? I know I’ve learned this lesson before. When I started this site, I dug a hole. When I made a body of artwork, I dug a hole. When I wrote my book, I dug a hole.
Sometimes a hole looks like buying a domain name and blocking out a weekend. Sometimes it looks like a full shelf of supplies and time in the studio. Sometimes it looks like setting aside a few hours every morning to sit at a keyboard.
The work is mushy sometimes. It’s hard to define. Maybe the muse cooperates on a given day, maybe it doesn’t. From deep in the middle, it can be hard to see progress. It can be hard to plan, and even harder to have patience. You don’t have control over the birds or the trees or who takes your class or reads your posts or buys your artwork.
But you do have control over what you put in. Over the time you block out. Over the moments you choose to step into that studio or that corner of a bedroom or that mindset.
So set aside the likes and clicks, the sales or the scarcity, the excuses. If you want to do something amazing, grab a shovel and start digging.