giving and receiving

so it has been nearly 3 weeks since i launched our Indiegogo crowd funding campaign. (check it out  if you have’t done so, please please)

Despite all of the tutorials, all of the preliminary work, all of the preparation, I was in so many ways ill prepared. somehow, in all of those hours leading up to the campaign’s launch I didn’t spend enough time pondering the significance of the simple acts of giving and receiving. How could I have known then the deep emotions that would arise in the process of asking for and receiving gifts, over and over again for weeks. Friends, let me take a minute now to tell you, it is heart wrenching. really.


The campaign trail is a rigorous one, one that must be tread on day in and day out if the campaign is to be a success. So, after two days “off” (haha,  farm harvest and CSA delivery day, hardly off, but away from my computer and therefore the campaign) I awoke on this lovely fall morning ready to go. Inspired by my hours spent talking with CSA members, my urban friends,  and fellow vendors at the Nashville Farmers Market, I had a huge computer task list  that included a significant number of emails to send. With a steaming hot cappuccino by my side, I felt great.

It was Sunday, the land was quiet and darn if I couldn’t send even a single email. yep, you guessed it. technical failure. glitch. circumstances beyond my control. computer work screeched to a halt before it even began. With no technical support available from my internet provider until 1:00 the day stretched ahead of me.  At this critical moment in my fund raiser,  I still needed to use my time to further the project.  With a moment of reflection, it was clear what I needed to do: start giving! yes indeed, with my morning hours free and a long list of my contributors to date, I started shipping gifts.


For those of you not familiar with the whole crowd funding thing, (yes, like me just months ago), folks that donate to a campaign receive incentives or “perks” for even the smallest donation. In my campaign, I am thanking friends from near and far for their generosity with postcards and knit items and hot sauce and overnight stays and maple syrup and workshops and all kinds of fun hill and hollow farm stuff. So today I started the giving. I have been on the receiving end for 19 days. My heart has been so full of gratitude, it has burst over and over again.  Alas, this morning spent giving was equally joyous. The feeling of reaching out and thanking those who have offered their financial support of our project was stupendous. After a heck of a lot of receiving,  the time was right for me to delve into giving.  What a glorious morning it was.


In these days past and those that lie ahead, I am learning much about asking for and receiving assistance. I am lying awake at night awash in gratitude and amazement at the power of my community and the reality unfolding before me. Believe me friends, it is not easy to make yourself vulnerable. It is not simple to identify a need and ask others, many many others, to fill it. This is just what I am doing these days: immersed in the flow of energy and thriving on the joy of giving and receiving. Join me.


a lost art?

i myself am constantly interested in what appears to be skills on the brink of extinction. fewer and fewer folks are caring for the land, raising and preserving foods, working with wood or wool, rendering lard or making cheese. these are the very things that fill most of my days. alas, lately, i have been pondering another of my favorite skills and it’s possible demise: the art of conversation.


i have to admit i am fairly biased regarding this the topic. i am solidly in favor of face to face, heart to heart, over the top, conversation. i’m a talker, always have been. i can remember long ago in elementary school, i had a chronic behavioral situation. each and every report card was filled out the same way: the highest marks in all subjects and the ever present comment “talks too much in class”.  my parents tried everything, but the one i remember most is the two pictures.  drawn by yours truly, there was one of the full wide open mouth and the other of half mouth, the closed mouth. each morning i was to wake and look at that half mouth. i was to imagine myself silent in the classroom. i was to carry that image with me to school where surely it would stop my chatter.


before i continue with this thought, i want to assure you i am not glamorizing check marks on your report cards or encouraging incessant chatter. these are not my proudest moments, i am however prepared to take a solid stand in defense of the all important, the less and less frequent, the one and only, the conversation.


seems with the advent of the cell phone (which enabled us to talk more surely but spend less time in conversation, perhaps), the rapid move to the smart phone, and the all encompassing replacement of the voice with the now pervasive text, the good old fashioned talk grew less and less frequent. how often have you witnessed groups of people together, in a cafe or restaurant, in their own living room for goodness sake, all on their own hand held device? i personally have seen this often enough to be a bit scared. frightened that in the presence of the screen someone might just forget to look at their loved one across the table or seated next to them on the couch.


to me this feels like an exercise in bring present. this is a topic we have been exploring in this space and i hope my thoughts add texture to your own attempts at remaining present: living as much as we can, in the now.  the screen pulls us away. i urge you to put down the phones, turn off the tablet and simply be with a dear one today. whether that be your mate or your child, your friend or a lovely co worker. turn off technology and tune on humanity.


for me it is only the most sincere hope that when next we sit across from each other, we will delve right into a lovely conversation. if you are an old friend, we will quickly swap memories and stories of all that has happened in the years gone by. if you are a new acquaintance, we will share ideas and hopes and musings and get to know each other through words and the nuances of our face and body movements.  either way, we will solve the problems of the world over a cup of coffee. don’t forget, a good conversation is a balm for the soul and this can not be replaced with anything technology can offer.


letter to my brother

Dear little brother,

It’s happened. You’ve lived 16 years now. It’s a big time of life. I thought I’d offer some words on the subject, if you’d like to read them.cobys party1

I know it’s kind of strange, having such an older big sister, but there are pros and cons to everything. As for cons, I don’t have cute friends to bring around and flirt with you. I’m not up to date on your generation, necessarily. But the pro is that I have had twenty three years of experience past your present age to reflect on LIFE and tell you about it and I’m still your sister, the only one you’ve got. So here goes…

Things can get pretty weird in the teenage and early adult years. Just saying, if that’s the way it is for you, you’re not alone, at all. There’s stuff that goes on in those years that won’t make sense for a real long time, and might never make sense at all. Making sense of it will be up to you. Though some of the details might never be revealed to you, ultimately it will be your job to make peace with your memories. If you can learn to let some things be a mystery for the time being, you’ll sleep better and live more happily.

But living happily isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be, so let’s not get hung up on that one. Sometimes life just gets rough. No way around it. Sometimes there are things out of your control that conspire to make you miserable, and sometimes you dig your own holes to fall into. Either way, it happens. But the good part is, it doesn’t last. No matter how much you commit to wallowing in misery, you will also have wonderful opportunities for joy. AND, maybe even more importantly, your rough times will somehow come to serve you, or let you be a service to someone else, down the road. So, if you can, keep your eyes open, even when stuff really sucks, and be open to whatever learning is coming at you by way of your suffering. There’s no knowing what will become valuable to you as time goes on.

One more thing about happiness. It’s great to be happy. And – you’ve got to make room for happiness. It will not just take over. This world, especially the part of it connected to technological, electronic, wi-fi gizmos, goes fast and faster. Joy moves at a more natural pace, like the wind and water, and that deep, satisfying in-your-gut happy feeling really moves more like warm molasses. As I’ve observed the rapidly spreading world of social media, I’ve not observed any real gains in that deep-gut happiness from it. Not to say it isn’t great fun, and amusing. But really – the fun is in YOU, not the machine, game, or website. Fun will come and go. The thing worth pursuing and cultivating is that deep, soul engulfing joy. Try not to forget that.

This next one is hard to hear. I’m only starting to hear it myself. I’ll share it with you in the hope that sometime it will ring true to you, maybe before you’re my age.

There are a great many experiences in life that no one can prepare you for. Having a baby is one of them. The loss of a parent is another. Falling in and out of love are up there, too. No one can prepare you for the intensity of emotion and gut wrenching personal evolutionary work involved in these basic acts of living. At the same time, lots and lots of people will try to prepare you. And you should listen. What they say won’t make sense, and you might just want to shake them off. You might think that you won’t feel the way they felt, or act the way they acted (most of us think this). You might be right. But that doesn’t mean that what people (usually older people) have to share with you isn’t incredibly valuable. No one can BE you. That’s your job alone. No one can know your thoughts, feelings, or reactions to reality, but we can all still learn from each others’ experiences, because we’re all human. It’s a great thing to have in common, and it’s really one of the best tools we have for navigating the bumpy parts of existence.

OK, one more big one. My wish for you is that you will always continue to grow. You have no choice to but change, but positive inner growth is a different matter. Like happiness, you may have to give it some attention. Always growing doesn’t mean that you’ll never hold a steady job. It just means that you can come to see your life in different lights as time progresses. It means you can adjust the way you treat yourself and relate to others according to the situation at hand. I like to think of it as a resilience of the soul.

One thing about growing is that it will keep you humble. From where I am now, rapidly approaching forty years along, I can look back at myself in many times, places, and experiences and shake my head at my own antics. There was so much I didn’t know – so many mistakes I made. I know more now. But I’m not done, and there’s little doubt in my mind that I’m still making some dumb mistakes. Later, I can shake my head about them. Hopefully, I’ll know better by then than I do now, and I’ll still be learning. No matter how much we learn, there’s always more lessons on the way.

There’s a line to walk, here, between propelling yourself forward and beating yourself up. Though there are a few choice episodes that really make me wince to recall, mostly I am able to see my younger self with eyes of compassion. It’s important not to drag yourself down in the muck of an ignorant past. Live through it, push yourself to learn from it, and forgive yourself. It’s good to practice that. With practice, you’ll get better at it as time goes on.

Jesus talks a lot about love. Dad uses the word compassion more. Don’t worry about semantics, but please, do think about love and compassion. I’m not talking about hearts and flowers romance. Cultivating a basic warmth, a solid love, for yourself, will protect your heart and mind from many potential pitfalls and heartsickness. I know you have love, because you are loved. My hope for you is that you use the love given to you from the unconditional base of our family, no matter how unconventional we may be, to build yourself a good, strong life, all your own. I hope you will be compassionate towards yourself and others, steadfast when the storms of life rage, and confident in the goodness that will come from many years of a life well lived.

Otherwise, work hard in school, play hard all the rest of the time, be patient with your folks, have fun with your friends,and always drive carefully. And even if I seem like an old fuddy duddy dinosaur of a sister, know that you ARE my brother, and nothing will change that. I’m here for you. It’s been wonderful fun for me to watch you grow up, and I’m sure that the ride will only get more interesting.Chief Coby and Coree Dec 2003

With love,