I grew up on a ramshackle dairy farm about a half-mile down the road from the middle of nowhere.
My father came into the world on that same farm 83 years ago.
There wasn’t electricity or running water on the farm back then. Home-grown food simmered and sputtered in cast iron pans over a wood-fired stove, and nature’s call was answered in an outhouse a few steps beyond the chicken coop.
On the surface, it seems impossible that a man who came of age in such rustic circumstances could be my blogging mentor, but wisdom often arrives in unlikely packages.
The truth is, the technicalities of blogging can be picked up on any corner of the internet these days. But the heart and soul of blogging–the character-building knowledge that lifts you up and carries you through the woods at night when the wolves are howling–now that’s a heck of a lot harder to come by.
For me, it came from watching my Dad as he loped through life in his relaxed, yet powerful way.
Here’s what he taught me:
- Do your chores. It didn’t matter if it was 20 below zero or 101 degrees in the shade, the cows needed milking before breakfast and after supper. Dad might have been up all night tending to a sick animal or battling a flu bug, but at chore time he donned his overalls and headed for the barn. Recalling Dad’s devotion to his work inspires me to do my blogging chores even when I’m feeling tired or out of sorts.
- Whistle while you work. Although Dad’s temper flared when he got whacked in the face by a wet, stinky cow tail, he generally looked on the bright side of his work, whistling a cheerful tune while plowing lonely fields or repairing broken machinery. I’m not much of a whistler, but I’ve learned keeping a positive attitude like Dad’s is invaluable when doing the solitary work of writing blog posts or wrangling with technical glitches.
- Follow your passion. When Dad retired from farming, he surprised everyone by indulging a hidden passion for flower gardening. Inch-by-inch, the sprawling farm lawn was transformed into colorful flower beds with thousands of vibrant blossoms. Soon, cars crawled up the long dusty driveway like a trail of ants, nursing homes delivered residents by the van load, and countless picnics were held amidst a backdrop of lush blooms and jewel-toned hummingbirds. Rather than sinking into an easy chair after years of physical labor, Dad fed his soul, kept his body flexible, and brought joy to many by following his inner compass. My inner compass finds me planting blog posts instead of petunias, but the concept of channeling personal passion to create a space for others to wander around and enjoy is the same as Dad’s.
- Make the best of things. Seven years ago, Mom nearly lost her life due to a sudden health crisis. As it turned out, she pulled through, but she couldn’t live at home again. Just like that, Dad was left alone to manage unfamiliar tasks and ramble through silent, empty rooms. Once again, he surprised everyone by making life even bigger and more remarkable than before. He kept up with his gardening, took on the extra chores with apparent ease, visited Mom twice a day, and became a treasured volunteer at the nursing home. Now, when my blogging endeavors don’t turn out like I planned, I follow Dad’s lead by leaning into the challenges, rolling with the changes, and striving to get better instead of bitter.
- Respect the seasons. Farming is structured around the changing rhythms and cycles of nature. In summer, Dad’s days started in the barn before dawn and ended stacking bales in a steamy hay mow as evening’s light faded to black. Winter was for bookkeeping, ordering seeds, and making fixes around the farm. Just as Dad worked in harmony with the seasons, so I respect the seasons of blogging. There’s a season for planning a blog, another for planting content, and still another to do the hard work of cultivating a subscriber base and creating quality products. After that, when all of the other seasons have been given due honor in their natural order, comes the time for a ripe and bountiful harvest.
This current summer season finds Dad feeling his years and planning a move to an apartment in town. When the leaves in the surrounding woods turn color this fall, he’ll say goodbye to the secluded acres that have always been home and drive down that dusty dead-end road one last time.
Part of me feels a little sad about all this and wonders how a man who’s accustomed to sharing his yard with black bear and whitetail deer will adapt to such a major life change. The rest of me can’t wait to see what he’s going to teach me this time around.
Happy Father’s Day to the best blogging mentor I could ever hope for.
I love you, Dad.