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A Wild Ozark Decade | CHANGE

If I had to summarize an entire decade in one word, I would say it was the decade of CHANGE. So much change happened in both my personal life and business direction.

But some things never change. If I had to pick one word that defines me, and has since the beginning of my memories, I’d have to say that word is NATURE. And so if I have to predict my future, I would say a safe bet is to assume I will still somehow be influenced and guided by nature.

Not only are we on the cusp of a new year, but a new decade. I thought I’d take some time to look over the past ten years before they slip off into oblivion.

2010

The threads that held my life together during this year wove through my fiction and non-fiction writing, herbalism, and a swiftly changing family environment. I was still working at the environmental lab in Bentonville and living out here at Wild Ozark. One of the threads that were unraveling was the one to do with my marriage. So time was always short, but the winds of change had already begun to blow pretty hard the months before this decade began.

I actually had a garden in spite of having very little time at home.

Some notable things happened late in 2010. Meeting my future companion, love of my life, and soul mate was one of them.

My first grandchild arriving into the world was another. And the rest of my world was in upheaval because of big changes going on in my home life. I went through divorce, and the land now known as Wild Ozark was on the line.

Yet the year ended with a sense of hope. Hope, because it felt like the future was wide open and it felt like a blank canvas.

The photo from my files that best represents year 2010 embodies a feeling of hope. A decade in review.
The photo from my files that best represents this year embodies a feeling of hope.

To put this year in perspective with my current artistic endeavors, in 2010 it had probably been already a decade or more since the last time I had drawn a picture. I wasn’t even making crafty things. The garden and my herbal formulas were probably the most creative endeavors I’d dabbled in, except that I did do the layout for my first e- and print books on ginseng during this year. So, creative, maybe. But artistic, not really. That part of me had been buried years ago and was yet to be unearthed.

2011

In January of this year the second grand-daughter arrived on the scene. That was an incredible experience as my first time with such intimate involvement bringing new life into the world (I acted as doula for my daughter’s birthing experience).

My writing and work with ginseng habitats were both still very active, and I was still working at the environmental laboratory. I’d begun to do presentations on ginseng habitat and my books on the topic were selling pretty good. Rob moved up to Huntsville in March, and by July he was in Iraq and then Afghanistan, so we still didn’t get to spend much time together.

I was still very much connected to the earth and spent much of my spare time either writing fiction, or in the woods, on the ground poking around in the leaf litter.

Me, unearthing a bloodroot to show someone how it looks inside.
Me, unearthing bloodroot, becoming inspired to write No Qualms, one of my short stories. Still very connected to nature and the earth.

2012

In 2012 my business focus was still on writing and ginseng habitat. In January Rob proposed to me on a frozen lake in Pagosa Springs, CO. On bent knee, I might add. This was such an incredible, surreal, experience. He was still working in Afghanistan and so our time together was limited and my time alone was spent writing and hanging out in the woods, still, just communing with nature so I could share it with others. But not even a shred of artistic re-awakening at this point.

I’d been writing 100-word flash fiction for a while by now, and the Friday Fictioneers had been born and was thriving. This project helped with my fiction writing tremendously, but it grew to be more than I wanted to do, so I found an adoptive ‘mother’ for it in the form of a friend named Rochelle.

Two grand-girls now, still working full time with almost a 2-hour commute each way, and still actively involved with nature in my entrepreneurial endeavors. The photo to represent this year embodies the symbolism of disembarking. Change was coming on the horizon, and an old life was being left behind. It was in 2012 that I began to think more about what I would do with my future, and what I would do with Wild Ozark (which wasn’t yet ‘Wild Ozark’).

Conductor for the train to Silverton, CO. A decade of Wild Ozark in review.
Sometimes you have to disembark in order to go forward.

2013

I got to go to Dubai at some point, my first time traveling internationally, and alone no less. When I first wrote all this up, I remembered it being in January. But I’m now I’m not sure. I just know I went to meet up with him while he was on break during his contract at Afghanistan.

This year brought more change. In the meantime I still worked on my writing, but had handed off the Friday Fictioneers at some point before that during the year. I still worked with the ginseng and habitat.

My third grand-baby girl was born in April. Now there were three! Gained a grand-daughter but lost my grandmother either this year or the year before. I can’t really remember which year it was now.

In a decade of change – a new name

When Rob came home for break in September, we got married in a beautiful, fun, costumed ceremony outside with a backdrop of nature at Azalea Falls.

At work in the laboratory I began training my replacement because the day before Thanksgiving would be my last day working there. “Wild Ozark” was officially kicking off on its business adventure, full time. The focus was still on the ginseng nursery. Still no indication of my art re-awakening. But I managed to publish a few more books on ginseng habitat that year, too.

I would travel again. This time to Europe, where Rob and I honeymooned and explored the wonders of Germany, Amsterdam, and France. It was an incredible trip I’ll remember for the rest of my life, let alone the next decade. For the first time since we met, the year after that he got to stay home! The first full year he’d been able to do that since we started dating in 2011!

I gained three plus three more grandchildren through our marriage, so that makes nine altogether now. So I’d say the big changes this year were positive ones. All of it so far this decade, really, has been positive change, even if parts were painful.

I got remarried in the past decade to the man of my dreams.
2013 brought a lot of changes to my life 🙂

2014

When we’d returned from our European trip at the end of 2013, our area was getting the biggest snowfalls it had seen in a long time. That winter was a cold one, and I remember waiting one day for it to warm up enough to go out and cut firewood. Once it reached 10*F, we declared it good and went out. Brrrrr! Changes on the home front marked 2014, because Rob was home and we had a lot of work to do around the place. We cleared trees, he cleared and leveled the area to build his workshop, started building a rock wall to retain the foundation for our house, cut firewood. My youngest son graduated from high school.

Firewood in the truck. Homestead was the focus of 2014 in this review of a Wild Ozark decade.
Homestead was the focus of 2014 in this review of a Wild Ozark decade.

2015

At some point during early 2015 Rob got another offer to work overseas again. This time in Abu Dhabi. So he was off again for the desert by March or April. Wild Ozark was still focused pretty much exclusively on ginseng and habitat, and I was writing short stories and working on my first novel. Sill no revival of the artistic side of me, yet, although writing is also a sort of art.

I traveled again over the big pond to land in the deserts of the UAE for the second time, and explored a different city of that nation. Abu Dhabi didn’t boast the glittering gold of Dubai, but I got to touch the waters of the Persian Gulf this time.

We got a huge rain event that summer and it caused a landslide that took out our driveway and my old garden plot. It also washed away my ginseng nursery beds.

Another grand-baby girl was born this year in September, on the night of the full blood moon. My grandfather died in 2015. His father, he, and my father were hugely influential on me and my love for nature. Some of my earliest memories are of walking in the woods with my great-grandfather, eating the wild strawberries, and watching him make me whistles from palmetto stems with a leaf for the reed. My grandfather was a passionate square-foot gardener and wine-maker, while my father was and still is an excellent nature photographer.

This is the year my artistic side re-awakened after more than two decades of hibernation.

Rob bought me a set of Prismacolor pencils for my birthday, and in the wake of the storm that ruined ginseng seedling sales for the coming fall, that’s when the focus of Wild Ozark, and my entire life, began to shift.

PawPaw's Notebook
PawPaw’s Notebook

2016

In April of 2016, Rob’s contract in Abu Dhabi ended and when he came home we took a trip to visit his family in Texas and Florida. Garrison came along and we had a great couple of weeks. When we returned I managed to tear the ACL and meniscus on my knee. This is the most serious injury I’d ever gotten and I was afraid I’d never be able to carry on the active outdoor life I’d always led. I couldn’t even stand or walk, let alone squat to take pictures of plants on the ground. It was a pretty terrifying prospect, to tell you the truth, as everything I loved to do depended on being able to walk, climb, or crawl. I’m sure eventually I would have found other ways to stay in touch with Nature, but not just yet. I spent the rest of the year engaging in my own form of rehab that I call nature therapy. Over the hills, through the creeks, up the mountains, and beyond, testing and stretching, and forcing that knee to compensate for the lack of a ligament. It worked.

While I was still an invalid in bed, though, I created the first ‘real’ artwork of my adult life. It was a drawing in those Prismacolors I got at the end of 2015 of a ginseng plant. At this point in the timeline of Wild Ozark, ginseng was still the main focus, while nature journaling was making quick gains on my attention. I was still writing, but not with the same passion as before.

By June I was able to walk well enough to make a trip to Colorado, thank goodness. We panned for gold and had a grand time on our claim on Jefferson creek. One day I’d like to go back, lol.

Me trying my hand at panning for gold in the Rockies.
My turn 🙂

2017

Since Rob was home again, homestead chores ruled the task lists. I did some drawing, went to some markets and sold note cards. I think he was home the whole year for 2017. It’s getting hard to remember year to year for all this stuff, lol.

I created a new habitat area for the ginseng nursery and began making crafty things called Forest Folk, and fairy gardens in glass globes, in addition to my nature journaling.

Marking the beginning of a change of focus for Wild Ozark in my decade of review.Our county road is full of curves and hills.
By now my shift to an artistic focus was fully underway, but not yet refined.

2018

We started another business making Burnt Kettle Shagbark Hickory Syrup (or did we start that in 2017? I’m losing track of things now – yes we started it late in 2017). I tried to make a garden in a new location that Rob fenced in for me, but it failed miserably because the ground was rock hard and I didn’t put enough effort into it. By April we had a bunch of syrup stock made, and in May he went back to another contract overseas. This time to Doha, Qatar.

While Rob was in Doha, I continued to focus on finding products to get Wild Ozark out of the red ink on the ledgers. My artwork and crafts were selling better than the ginseng rootlets ever had, and definitely better than my writing products. By the summer of 2018 I had started looking at the broken rocks on the driveway and musing about how I might be able to use them. In June, I took the first step with that and made the first set of handmade watercolor paints.

The pivotal point of my entire life

In July I traveled yet again and went to Doha to visit Rob. I carried my halfway dried paints and art supplies with me. While I was there hanging out in the apartment while he was at work, I made my first painting. And that, dear blog readers, was pivotal.

It changed everything.

Now the focus of my entire life was clear. I need to do this paint-making and painting for the rest of my time left on earth. It is the thing I do that satisfies every creative urge I’ve ever had. This endeavor pulls all of the threads from all of my life into one fabric, and it is the fabric of my life. I knew this by the end of 2018.

Where it all began with my painting obsession.
The very first painting. Looks nothing like the scene, I know, lol.

2019

My daughter Gab married the love of her life in May of this year, and so I gained another grandchild through marriage and a son-in-law, too. And my youngest son graduated from college with a degree in Mechanical Engineering.

While Rob has been working in Doha, I’ve been at home painting and making paints. I’m trying to keep good records and catalog the colors as I make them, but sometimes I forget and just make the paint and move onto making the paintings.

I’m still growing the ginseng seedlings, and still writing. But the bulk of my effort is going to the art.

During the course of this year I lost my best friend to ovarian cancer. I traveled to Texas to visit with her several times throughout 2018 and 2019.

The loss of my friend was a low point during my decade in review.
Gab (my daughter), me, Michele (my best friend)

Going Forward

Going through that anguish with my friend only fueled my desire to find whatever it is that gives me purpose in life and run with it. Until this year, I didn’t really know what that was, though. I haven’t been unhappy or dissatisfied with my life. Quite the contrary, during this past decade I’ve been the happiest I’ve ever been.

Until writing this review of the decade, I had always carried the notion that change is the only true constant in life.

My north star

But then I started noticing something else. This decade of review has shown me that there is another constant in my life, and knowing it is comforting to me.

The principle behind a ‘north star’ is that it never changes. No matter what else goes on in the external world, it remains steadfast. A north star doesn’t judge, doesn’t request, doesn’t expect, doesn’t get angry or even have any emotions at all. It doesn’t love, either, so it can’t take love away. It simply *is*. A person, place, or thing can’t be your north star. All *things* are external and subject to change. A north star has to be something unaffected by the world around it.

I’d never really focused in to *see* mine before. It was always a vague sense that kept me feeling optimistic even at low points, but I didn’t have a clear vision of what exactly it was.

Even if life throws me unexpected changes, I’m pretty sure there will still be the thread of Nature running through whatever else is going on. Even if mankind does all it can to destroy nature, in the end Nature will persist in some form or fashion, even if the ‘nature’ of it changes. Even if it means persisting without humanity on earth any longer. This is my north star – not my love of nature, but the existence of nature itself. And the knowing that it is carrying on regardless of what happens in the world around it, adapting, evolving, persisting. And I am a part of that larger whole.

Good Tidings to You

My hope and wish going forward into the next decade for my personal life is to fully embrace each moment. I have the man of my dreams by my side even if he is literally on the other side of the world, and grandchildren to brainwash into the love of art and nature (just kidding about the brainwashing, but I really do want to share my love of Nature with them). As for the life of Wild Ozark, the goal is to continue to maintain that connection with Nature. My plan is to do that through art and writing.

My wish for you going forward into this new decade is that you come to know the constant in your own life. I know we all have different means of relating to that, but my way is through Nature.

Share your decade review

Thanks for reading my decade in review. I know it was a long post! If you’d like, please share a link to your blog post if you made one, or just comment and tell me some of the highlights of your past decade.

Solstice Sunset 2019, photography by Madison Woods
As the sun sets on this decade, I am looking forward to the next one. May 2020 and beyond be great ones for all of you!
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Russell Gayer
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To be honest, I can’t remember what happened year-to-year during the decade (perhaps I should pay more attention). I do know that we had three granddaughters born in the past ten years and that I got fired from Tyson in 2017 after 31 years. That turned out to be one… Read more »

sustainabilitea
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Ah, Madison, this post made me so happy to read. What a lot happens in ten years! I don’t remember the year, but I remember meeting you and other Friday Fictioneerers in person and what a good time that was. You’ve come so far in the last decade and I… Read more »

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