Bird by Bird

Turnips for the fall garden need to be thinned and I  still  haven't gotten to it. 

Turnips for the fall garden need to be thinned and I still haven't gotten to it. 

Between out of town weddings, planning my own wedding, on-going house renovations and having a five months old, whose new favourite trick is to only sleep for half an hour at a time, the garden is a disaster. It's hard not to feel overwhelmed and discouraged standing amongst the remains of a bountiful summer garden that now looks like an overrun jungle. That is when the self doubt kicks in. I hear that mean little voice whisper "what were you thinking", "who are you kidding" and "just give up already". And I could.

When I feel overwhelmed by a task, or more accurately tasks, I say to myself "bird by bird".

A few years ago I realized the importance of writing and how it helped me process grief and connect to some semblance of sanity. As I became more familiar with the emotional difficultly of writing, I turned to Anne Lamott's book Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life.


The book is a great resource for someone struggling through the writing process but the story Lamott tells of a child who lost their report is what stuck with me. Lamott recalls how distressed the child was having lost a report on different types of birds that was due the next day. Overwhelmed by having to start over and unsure how to tackle the report, Lamott tells the child to do it bird by bird. I felt just as overwhelmed walking through the garden tallying up the list of things to do: the fall crops need to be thinned, summer crops should get taken up, someone has to tame the zucchinis, cucumbers have to be harvested, peas have to be shucked, I have to wrap my head around cover crops before this whole endeavour gets taken over by weeds. So I tried to whisper to myself a little bit louder than self-doubt bird by bird. Today, I was able to thin the beets in the fall garden and set up the floating row cover before Simon needed to feed. Tomorrow, I will keep thinning the fall garden and eventually, bird by bird, I'll get the garden back under control. 

Trying to start a farm is one thing. Trying to start a farm and learn how to be a new mother while being patient with all your blunders is another. I can do both. I want both. I just have to combine the beauty of accomplishing things by half, something I learned about a month into life with a newborn, and bird by bird and eventually, years from now, I'll be slightly less clueless.

JJ Davis