The Joy of Choosing to Ignore the Mass Market

Have you ever spent hours on Pinterest? Wandered through quaint little shops in a seaside village or a charming midwestern town?

I’ve spent some time in local shops and and in large home decor stores. I’ve browsed online and been to craft shows and art shows.

And I’m discouraged.

I am missing originality and I am as much a consumer as everyone else. Where are all the original thinkers? Where are the creatives out there doing what’s never been done? Am I just missing it? How can I go from an exurb of Chicago to a small town in Wisconsin, and find basically the exact same products?

I loved the inspirational script messages at one time, but to be honest, aren’t they getting old? If one more piece of wood or vinyl sticky for my wall tells me to “choose joy” I’m going to scream. (What does that mean anyway? Choose joy. Instead of eating chocolate? Instead of crying? Instead of reading the newspaper? Instead of choosing to make a change? Instead of choosing to work out?)

I even have a little houseplant pot that bears the message “grow.” The plant is suffering. And I think it’s because the pressure is too great and the obvious command on its outer shell is intimidating and off-putting.

I might also be watering it too much.

Nevertheless, it serves as a reminder that these constant, script-y, positive messages are numbing us to the reality around us.

If you are INSPIRED to paint the face of a cow in purples, oranges and teals, bless your heart and the artwork will be beautiful. But if you are purchasing the same one that’s shown in a chain of stores across the country, because…umm…”farmhouse”, well, what’s the point?

And I say this with love in my heart for all things farm. I’m descended from farmers.

But anyone who thinks that farmhouse style begins and ends with anything but manure and straw and hay is kidding themselves. And the farmhouse I knew was cramped. We didn’t have a whole lot of decorative items. Most of them were practical. You needed a broom nearby to chase the bats that flew in at night. You needed a vacuum cleaner to get at the flies that swarmed the window sills in the summertime. You needed plenty of logs in the basement to keep the house heated all winter. You needed hooks and pegs for jackets and boots and fishing poles. When I was out in the barn no one ever had to tell me to “choose joy.”

Joy showed up uninvited. So did laughter and tears and hugs.

This week, let’s all go out and find something original to do. Something one-of-a-kind.

That’s the beauty of sewing. We can make things that no one else has made, and make memories that no one else has experienced.

Let’s be more authentic. And let’s ditch the mass market.

The Beauty of the Cranes

In almost any culture, crane sightings are meaningful.  They are signs of joy, life, wisdom, beauty, elegance, and grace.

My family drove out to see the Great Crane Migration.  In case you are not familiar, every year between mid-February and mid-April, 80% of North America’s Sandhill cranes come to eat and bulk up in a 50 mile span of the Platte River in central Nebraska.  The area is estimated to feed around 500,000 cranes.  This year, the experts thought there were even more than that.

Jane Goodall rated it as one of her top ten nature attractions in the world.

The birds spend every night in shallow water – the Platte River. It offers them protection because any predator could be heard splashing as it approaches.  But during the day, the cranes spread out to all the local farmer’s fields.  They will gain approximately 32% of their body weight in preparation for the rest of their journey.  Eventually, the cranes will spread out over North America, including arctic Canada and Alaska and some will travel as far as Siberia to roost and lay eggs.  The young will grow to full size in the summer and travel the whole distance back with their parents in September.  Like many birds, cranes mate for life.

Sanchill Cranes in flight. Keep in mind, these birds are almost 4 ft. tall.

Sandhill Cranes in flight. Keep in mind, these birds are almost 4 ft. tall.

We spent time in a bird blind, waking at 4:30 am.  This experience itself is almost supernatural. We awoke in the dark and joined others at the Rowe Audubon Sanctuary.  It was 17 degrees outside with a straight 20 mph wind.  The sanctuary has no lights outside, as that might disturb the birds.  The guides walk you down the half mile to the river in pitch blackness, with an occasional red light so no one falls.  Everyone must silently enter the blind making as little noise as possible.

Unfortunately, on our day, someone the night before had used a flash camera and so the birds got spooked and were a bit of a distance from the blind.

But as dawn approached, the birds began to stir.  The sound is incredible.  As they take flight, their sheer numbers are nothing short of amazing.

During the day, you really see them everywhere.  In the sky, in the fields.  The behavior is fascinating, as they never seem to change.  This has been going on for 600 years, maybe more.

If you’d like to see them yourself, visit http://www.ustream.tv/channel/rowe-sanctuary-s-crane-cam

Watch the crane cam around 7-8 pm at night as they gather to rest, or 7-8am in the morning as they take off for the fields.  You get a real feel for the auditory experience as well.

The lesson for me is to recognize our role in nature. We belong, but we don’t own.  We can celebrate it, but never control it.  Peaceful harmony is the goal.  And it only took 500,000 cranes to remind me.

Cranes eating in corn fields.

Sandhill Cranes eating in corn fields.

Cranes take flight in the morning.

Taking flight in the morning. My view from the blind.