Barnheart: The incurable longing for a farm of one's own- Jenna Woginrich
("Farm" may be too specific a descriptor, exactly. Some suffer the want of livestock and acreage and twice daily chores and tractors, some simply the want of a just-picked vegetable for tonight's dinner.)
Jenna explains, "It’s a dreamer’s disease: a mix of hope, determination, and grit... Barnheart is a condition that needs smells and touch and crisp air to heal."
Hello, my name is Paula and I have Barnheart.
My dreams lie more towards small things, gardens and little houses, rather than things with legs. But yes, I have Barnheart. Tonight I went outside with my homemade digestif to put my bare feet on the grass and look for the moon and I realized- that's it. I'm stricken with this chronic condition.
I wanted to share a book that started me on this path. Really, I think those of us with Barnheart are born with the potential for it and when events and life intervene to separate us from our soul's desire (or whatever you want to call it), Barnheart arises.
I can point to one specific moment, one specific book that unlocked the barn door, if you'll pardon the pun. From the Ground Up by Amy Stewart- the same Amy Stewart of The Drunken Botanist and Wicked Plants- wrote a memoir in 2001 about her first garden in a coastal California cottage. It follows one year of trials, learning, tourists, weeds, and finally, the importance of forget-me-nots.
When I first read this, I was fresh out of college and full of half formed dreams. Like me, Amy wasn't settled yet. She only gardened at this bungalow for a year before she and her husband moved on, and in many ways that was one of the books most important lessons for me- impermanence is OK. Leave it better for the next person, and love it while you're there. I've put in gardens everywhere I've lived since.
You never know what's coming, but a garden makes you hope for the future. I'm not living my dream yet but I can still have my bit of earth (The Secret Garden may have been part of my Barn building, come to think of it.) And although I dream of a sweet cottage garden, Amy helps remind me that gardening is a dynamic process of growth and death and war on a small scale, and it's so worth it.
I've read this book yearly for about 10 years now, and I never get tired of it. Often I pull it out in late Winter and enjoy the utter lack of Winter that Amy experienced in California. In a few hours I can experience her entire growing calender from moving in to moving out, while the weather in PA calls for a total halt of outdoor activities.
I think every garden I've started has been in memory of this book and it's testament to life. I see myself in her learning and her mistakes. One day I'll live in the permanent garden, the one that comes after this story. But for now I keep starting from the ground up, too.
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Fun Fact: I'm an herbalist and a movement coach. Not a doctor, or a pharmacist, and not pretending to be one on TV.
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