Years ago a friend taught me a gardening saying:
The first year it sleeps, the second year it creeps, the third year it leaps.
This is certainly true when it comes to plants, but I think of it often when it comes to creative work. In the beginning, even when you put in a lot of effort, you don’t see much in the way of progress. Eventually if you stick with something long enough, you see the tiniest bit. It’s good, but barely motivating. If you keep at it, suddenly it will spring to life, even better than you imagined.
For me, 2021 has been a leap year. So many of the ideas and dreams I’ve had for years have finally burst into view. I’ve carved new paths into writing, publishing, and teaching, and my artwork is still humming along. From the outside, this sort of thing can look like overnight success, or a hasty change in direction. I’ve had friends, even family startled by the pace of it all.
But that’s only because the years of building, of dreaming, and of doubting that preceded it all were hidden from view.
Which leads me to…
This past weekend we bought a cabin! This may have been the most abrupt change of all, at least from the outside. You bought a cabin?? It’s not the sort of thing one does, at least not ones like us. We’re not impulsive in the slightest. But we’d been dreaming of building one for years.
It started as a tiny dream – a place for people to stay when they come visit. We’ve had people camp in the back 40; this was just a nicer, drier version. But then the dream expanded: farm stays, artist and writers’ retreats, lodging. We tossed it around for years, each time growing a little more clear in view.
We finally had time this past year to start such a project, but then the price of lumber skyrocketed – if you could even find it at all. Oh well, we thought; what’s another year? But mentally we were ready. This was the right time; we knew it in our bones.
We took instead to converting the Bee House.
The Bee House was originally built for honeybees, an enclosure to protect the Slovenian-style hives that were once stacked along its front. The winters can be harsh, and we hoped the structure would help them survive. It ultimately proved more challenging than helpful, and the bees were relocated. It sat empty for the better part of a year, but after getting asked about our “cabin” dozens of times, we finally got the message. It’s clear what it wanted to be.
It seemed to solve both problems at once, providing a shelter and not needing much in the way of materials. We began to chip away with what we had, a piece of hemlock here and a bit of insulation there. By the time we got to the interior, the prices had settled enough to complete the work.
And then an opportunity crossed our path. An actual cabin.
As we stood there inside a friend’s newly built potting shed admiring its sturdy frame and thick tongue and groove floor, we got to thinking. You know the kind. The what if? do you think?? maybe we could… sort of pondering. An impromptu drive into Amish country later, and soon we were writing a good check. Was it spontaneous? Maybe. The five-years-and-a-day sort of spontaneous.
Three weeks later the cabin arrived, a beautiful structure with transom windows and a king post truss. It’s warm and weather-proof, with vaulted insides waiting patiently to be finished. It doesn’t have a name yet, but soon it will. And soon those insides will be graced by the presence of friends and family, artists and writers, dreamers and doers, each breathing in the creative breath of all who came before.
It doesn’t feel spontaneous, not to us. But then again, leap years never do – not for the leapers. They feel like the moment when the sleeping plant awakes, when the creeping vine gains momentum.