We went to Toppenish for our annual family reunion last weekend. And our annual visit with Sarah and Dan of Heirloom Cattle Company. Clicking through photos on the way home, poor Yancey was subject to my unending commentary--wondering about family dynamics, conjecturing about the past and future. If you had been listening in, here's a couple themes you might have heard:
1) Time doesn't stop. For the trillioneth time, I wandered through my grandmother's house. It's exactly the same as it's been for 60+ years, yet so different now that my grandfather is gone and she is fading into dymentia. The back door onto the screen porch, the Roseville pottery on the mantle, the piano room with all the old photos lining the walls. We are all getting older, all progressing toward the next life and doing our best in this one. And in spite of many grim realities--in the world and in just this one family--cousins are still having babies, aunts and uncles are going back to school or taking up new hobbies. And all those young, idealistic people on the photo wall? That was real, too.
2) Hard work is more important than passion. Sarah and Dan run a non-profit called the Suriname Indigenous Health Fund. They are helping indigenous groups in Suriname's interior whose health and way of life is threatened by mining waste from multinational companies. And on the side, they parent, teach at colleges, and own and operate an organic cattle ranch. Sarah says, "Every day, I just get up and pray that I'll do the best job I can. It's not about passion anymore. It's just about getting the work done." I suppose some Oprah followers might think that's sad--the "Follow your passion, and the money will follow" subscribers. I'm thinking a mantra with more integrity might be, "Live your values, work hard, and someday you might see the fruits of your labor." The lesson for me here is to stop worrying about doing everything right (or whether I'm the right person for the job) and just get busy, learning along the way. Meg Wheatley's definition of a leader is "anyone willing to help." None of us are off the hook.
3) I purchased heirloom tomatoes for $1.29/lb at a roadside stand between Toppenish and Yakima where customers were pulling field-ripe tomatoes right off the conveyor belt. Not this $4.99 business one is wont to see in Seattle. They're in a bowl next to me as I type. Nothing to do with these except slice them, drizzle a little olive oil and salt, and savor the last bits of summer warmth.