I’ve been (as is normal) going back and forth on whether to keep up this blog or not. I think the verdict is not- I won’t take it down, but I don’t feel like I have a lot to say right now. I’m thinking a lot of things, but more and more they have less to do with gardening and food and more with lifestyle and having a small business and being off the radar. And really I could write a lot about all of those things, except that living life and having a small business and staying off the radar tend to, well, not lend themselves to much in the way of blogging. Perhaps I’ll change my mind. But for now, I will leave you with these parting gifts- the changes I’ve seen in myself, aka why I could never go back to having a “job.”
1. Monday morning breakfast
During the faire season we do this thing on Monday mornings called Bazaar. People bring their stuff and it’s sort of like a mini flea market, but more importantly, there is breakfast. The best potatoes and bacon and eggs and baked goods you could imagine. And everyone gets their plates and hunkers down around a picnic table and proceeds to devour way too much food and way too much caffeine, all out in the perfect autumnal sunlight, which is filtering down through the canopy far over our heads.
Come back in two hours and everyone will still be sitting there. Not always- sometimes we wander off because there are pressing business sort of things to take care of, but mostly, still sitting there. Just talking. Drinking more caffeine. Dogs are wandering about. Children. Once there was a puppet show. But there is an ease to it, and I put this one first because I am never so perfectly aligned with the world as I am after Monday morning breakfast. Everything seems completely in harmony. And it has something to do with the freedom of it. What are you doing at 11 AM on a Monday morning? Because I suspect its not sitting out in the sun watching the dogs and the children run around, drinking tea and having amazing conversations. But that’s where I am.
In a place like a Renaissance Festival (and honestly I have no idea what the other shows are like, but I get the feeling it’s similar) there’s this overall sense of community, of camaraderie, among the people who work there. And it’s hardly like we’re working there, sometimes. Not because we don’t do work- my caffeine fueled all night sewing binges can attest to that- but because most of us aren’t really thinking of it as work, as in, this is the time I am at work, and this is the time I am myself, at home, living. For most of us (and I’ve asked around), it’s more like- well this is just my life. And on weekends people show up and we sell them things and they leave again- and on Monday we sit back and talk about it. These benches, these open pathways, are our living room. These other people are our housemates. I may need to go back to my booth and do inventory, but you can’t call this a job- after all, I live here.
2. The Ease
We were walking up to breakfast on site one morning and a friend said, hey, what happened to your skirt? I had been wearing a rather loud cherry print skirt the night before, but at the moment I was wearing black leggings (with holes in), a tshirt, and a green sweater (with even more holes in). And I shrugged. I hadn’t put it on because the benches were wet and I didn’t want to get the skirt wet, and really in general hadn’t felt like buttoning it. As we walked away, the handsome fella said, you know, she’s right, normally you won’t leave the house without a full outfit, including accessories. You won’t even go to the grocery store without putting on a dress.
And I said, well, it’s only breakfast, but what I meant was, I didn’t feel like I had left the house.
3. The Average Day
To be honest, it’s rare I do “dress” anymore. And that makes me a little sad, because I have a lot of awesome dresses, but it just means I get way too fancy to go to the little local bar up the street. In reality, here is my day: I get up when the handsome fella does, so he can go to work. I feed the animals. I read emails/blogs/the internet for about an hour, while I drink a cup of tea, and maybe have some breakfast, and wait for my psychologically disturbed cat who will only eat if you sit quietly with her to finish her breakfast. I take the dog out and we wander the yard and play ball and maybe I putter in the garden, pull some weeds, harvest something. One morning recently I stood there for about twenty minutes (throwing the ball) mentally playing with the Tetris puzzle that is crop rotation and enjoying a “breakfast cocktail.” I get the mail. I wash a few dishes or throw in some laundry, and make a second cup of tea. I start working around 9 or 10 or sometimes 11. I work for a few hours and go down and have lunch with the dog, and watch half an episode of something on tv. I go back up to work and get in a solid 5 or 6 hours before the handsome fella gets home, and I make us dinner, and work for maybe another hour or two, and we hang out and put up food and work in the garden and watch tv while I do handsewing. In the winter we play endless rounds of Carcassonne and put together puzzles.
It’s rare (outside of faire season) to leave the house more than twice a week. I do the domestic things- run errands and buy groceries and whatever. We have dinner with friends. We take mini camping trips to the mountains. But mostly my life is sewing and chickens and food, planning out dinners, and throwing the ball for the dog. My breaks from work are standing out in the yard, drenched in sunlight, thinking about next to nothing, drinking tea. All day I listen to music or books. I’ve listened to more books this year than I’ve read, because I have 8-10 hours a day of “reading.” If I have to work at night I watch a movie. I sometimes work long hours and often work weird hours (Sunday afternoons) and for nine weeks out of the year I’m hardly at home, but then I have Monday breakfasts and Saturday night late night singing and laughing and talking. In the off season I bake and can vegetables and figure out new and exciting ways to roast large hunks of meat. I love dinner parties. We make wine and piddle with new trellising techniques or building a second chicken house. Is this a job? Sure, if you feel the need to call it that. But for my part, I don’t differentiate between one part and the other, between where “work” starts and life takes its place. They are one and the same. Or can you hang out with your dog in your backyard while you’re at “work”?
4. The Most Awesome Job Ever
The only time I really feel like I’m at a “job” is on weekends at faire when the people show up. I have to wear certain clothes. I have to hide my cell phone. I have to work certain hours, and if I want to go hide in my room and take a break, I can’t. It’s the only time I sometimes feel a little constrained, but there’s a lot to make up for it.
One day this past season, a guy actually said to me, wow, you must have the worst job ever. He was being completely serious. At the time I was lacing his fairly attractive wife into a bodice. I just looked at him, and looked at his wife, and said, are you kidding? I mean, really. The only real “job” I have is to hang in our booth all day and help women get dressed. I get to make them really happy. Everyone that walks out of our store in an outfit suddenly feels great about themselves- confident, and gorgeous, and ready to have a really, really good time. And I helped them with that. Women who often don’t get to feel that way- can feel really good about themselves in garb. We actually have kind of a reputation for being the store that can fit all sizes (or nearly), and the store that will make you feel really comfortable about getting dressed up. And that’s my job! When I’m not helping someone get dressed, I get to talk to people, joke around, have a good time, people watch, and yes, I get to start drinking in the late afternoon as long as it doesn’t affect my ability to work. Oh yeah, and did I mention everyone around me is having a great time, so its kind of hard not to have a good time too? Really? Do you get to do this at your job?
5. The Things I Don’t Have to Do
Be anywhere near a computer. Show up at particular times (except for those few weekends). Go to a staff meeting. Lie. Ask for money (ugh, non profits- over it). Beg for money. Pretend I give a shit about something, or am something that I am not, in hopes that someone will give me money. Deal with horrible nasty people who I hope will give me money. Tolerate assholes (except some occasional drunk people). Paperwork. Sit in an office. Go to staff meetings. Work when I’m sick, or sad, or otherwise not up for working (mostly). Pretend. I never have to pretend.
6. What I Actually DO
At the end of the day, I have produced something. Some days I get a little down about what I produce- I mean, it’s not like Renaissance costumes are really direly important to the future of the world. And certainly if the shit hits the fan they will be completely useless. But I am making something. I can measure tangible progress by the movement of big piles of fabric to hangers. I love finishing a garment. I love seeing all the clean, finished edges. I love the shapes. I love everything about it, and it gives me so much pleasure to see something hanging there, on the rack, something that I made, something that someone will wear. At my old jobs I never felt like I was accomplishing anything. Sure, we’d hold an event, people would come, and maybe there would be that occasional moment when someone would come up to me and say that something they heard had changed their perspective, but by and large, nothing changed. I worked for years and years and years thinking that what I was doing was going to change something. But it never happened. And I think I finally accepted that I was deluding myself, that I was never going to change anything organizing my safe little programs behind a desk.
I like to think I’m not deluding myself, now. I’m definitely not changing anything working in my pajamas in my sewing room. I’m not changing anything by living by example (which I used to tell myself was really a thing, ha), because either no one knows that this is what I do or they think I’m insane. The fact that I’m always broke probably doesn’t much help in promoting the lifestyle, either. But I’m doing this for selfish reasons. I wasn’t doing much to help the universe when I was dead to the world because I resented what I was doing so much. At least now I love what I’m doing. I can figure the part about saving the world later.
At breakfast, someone said to me, “It’s just so amazing to be with people who get to earn their living by doing things they really love.”
7. The Truth
For whatever reason this faire season I got into a hundred different conversations about how faire was where we could all be ourselves. And it’s true, and since being home, this has become even more abundantly clear to me. As I said earlier, being at faire (when we’re not open), I never think twice about what I wear. And at home I get very carefully dressed to go to the drug store. I find going to the drug store rather stressful, actually. Suddenly I’m worried about what people think. What do they think of how I’m dressed? What do they think of what I’m buying? Even going to the bar with friends I will stress over what I’m wearing- and for good reason. The wrong outfit and I spend the entire night fending off critiques and questions and just plain sneers.
But it’s not just the clothing. At faire I will run and jump and climb things. I spent one morning randomly jumping from bench to bench. One night I got a little crazy and decided to do acrobatics from the stairs in our booth. You know. In general I feel a little wild and free and myself. More completely myself than I am at any other time of the year, when I am watching what I say, and acting all demure, and not randomly dancing on the benches just because I feel like it. I love living in a small town, don’t get me wrong. But you say the wrong thing in a small town, and the whole fucking town knows about it within hours. It’s exhausting, trying to gauge who I can say what to in case it gets around and destroys something, ruins a relationship, whatever. At faire? Even if someone disagrees with me, they’ll leave me be. At faire, you are who you are. You can be out at faire. You can be a freak. You can wear glitter and sequins to breakfast or you can wear the rattiest clothes known to man. You can be all of the things you have always had to hide, out of fear, and not be afraid, but be celebrated.
And everyone is probably weirder than you anyway, so whatever you get up to? It’s all good.
And there’s one more bit, about what I think of as the “faire personality.” We don’t see each other for the better part of a year. And even during the nine weeks of faire, most of us only see each other on weekends. And yet, when I meet someone, it’s like fireworks going off. We go from hi, nice to meet you, to having really intense conversations within minutes. Not every time- sometimes there are some really awkward, so, what do you do? kind of conversations going on. But so many times I’ve been listening to or pouring out a life story, things I would never talk about in other circumstances, to someone I just met. I’ve always been the kind of person who just plunges in when I feel a connection. Forget about convention or caution, my instinct is almost always right. And a lot of the faire people are like that, too. We have to be. We only have that one shot- nine weekends, or sometimes less- to make connections. If you tried to make friends the conventional way, you’d never get there. As it is, I feel closer to people I’ve met at faire (and spent far less overall time with) than some people I’ve known for years.
And you can’t be fussy about goodbyes. I’m not so good at this one, yet. I tend to linger. But you have to get good at trusting. At knowing that yes, you will probably see them next year, and you can pick up your conversation right there. Or maybe not. Maybe you won’t see them again. You never know what will happen. But that’s life, regardless, and if faire has taught me anything, it’s that you need to be good at letting go. Our time is short. So the time we do have should be as honest and real as possible. Why waste time pretending to be something else? Why spend your precious few hours on something that doesn’t make you happy, that doesn’t fulfill you, that doesn’t make you dance and sing with joy?
A job is something you can walk away from. A job is something you’re just doing, because you have to, and you do it for a certain number of hours and then you leave. What I’m doing, I’m doing basically all the time, and it blends seamlessly into the rest of what I’m doing. I do accounting in the morning and then go to breakfast and then go back to the booth to set up. I hang out with friends while I’m “working.” At home I sew and then I wander downstairs to put in a load of laundry. This isn’t a job, this is my life. And I don’t think I could ever give it up.
And last but not least, I am still going to be publishing. A long time ago I wrote a novel, and I want it out in the world, even if it’s not worth publishing through the normal channels. So I’m publishing it as a blog, and if you want to continue to read words I wrote, you can follow along here: Leaves are Falling, One by One.