Our contentment and creativity is centered around—either perceived or unconscious—expectations. Jeff, my husband, is fine with spaghetti squash for dinner on a regular night but if I had promised him steak and stout, his desired level of satisfaction may not be reached. Or if my best friends and I were anticipating all day leisure on the shores of Lake Michigan and then we find out our time is limited to two hours, I can promise you I would be quite sad. But switch it around–Jeff comes to the table to enjoy baked faux-pasta and is greeted by a perfectly charred steak and a new microbrew? Or no promised day in the sand and sun and now I am given two full hours with my besties, kids-free, work-free, chores-free, come-wipe-me-Mom free? Well. You have my full heart of gratitude. The expectations we carry are useful, regular thoughts, a piece of our general humanity. But if our expectations are too high, we may find ourselves lonely and unsatisfied. Too low and we become stagnant creatures: underutilized and unproductive. We can be served or starved by our expectations.
Checking our expectations led us to expanding our family farm experiences. The Summer Silo Series, an outdoor concert series on our family farm about which I wrote earlier this fall, was born from a change in expectations, and it continues to demand constant reevaluation of those remaining. Picture a family farm. I doubt what pops to your mind, at least not anymore, is a beautiful landscape of happy animals, a community hub for multiple generations, or a recreation zone for the active and spirit-filled. Most of us probably first think of a group of tired folk (which I am definitely not denying!) working in dirty clothes to get their food sold at a nearby sale house or grain bin. But what if the family farm were more of a community hub, a recreation zone, a space for spiritual rejuvenation? What if we could turn mucky old pasture and dilapidated silo into a warm auditorium and trendy stage? Or a dusty driveway into a welcoming platform for folks to engage in conversation, through all genres of music, not just about food and farms but spirituality, creativity and community collaboration? What if a North Central Indiana organic family farm in the boonies offers a small town feel with big city skill, and becomes a community hub?
Let me explain. The grassy space that our guests get cozy in was once occupied by cattle (and I’m sure many other critters at different points). When we were just wee tots, my cousins and I would trudge through the low land in our muck boots—Jake even lost his boot to the pit-like mud puddle one Thanksgiving visit! Little did we know that our squish-squelch melodies in 1998 would open for world-traveling musicians, albeit almost twenty years later. It’s about a change in vision, a change in—or perhaps acceptance of—hope, a change in expectations. To paraphrase Goethe a bit, if we accept things as they are it will only make things worse, but if we treat our spaces, our opportunities and our mucky old pastures as what they are capable of becoming, say a music venue as well as a farm, we help them become that.
–Magdalene A.R. Mastin is a wife and mother of two who recently returned to her family’s organic farm in central Indiana to work, write and raise her family. She is an avid photographer, as seen by the photos in this blog.