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OPINION

The Flatlander

Seeing Your Life As A Story

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In the 1960s, David Wolper took a simple concept and created a successful television show that ran in different forms for decades. The documentary series Biography had a simple and thought-provoking tagline:

“Everyone has a story.”

Indeed.

Stories are powerful and they are innately human. They help us understand one another, provide windows into different cultures and time periods, and increase our capacity for empathy.

We learn about our family history through the passing down of stories. We see our peers through the lens of story.

Is it any coincidence that Jesus conveyed the Gospel message through story? What comes to mind when you think about the story of the prodigal son, or the story of fish and loaves, or the account of Paul’s experience on the Damascus Road? Christian theology would tell us that story brings substance to our lives.

Success in business is about a story. Most businesses invest in marketing strategies with expensive websites and billboards and radio ads featuring what they do. That’s all wrong.
Success in sales comes from telling a story that paints a picture of a problem to which your potential customers can relate. Sales isn’t about what you sell. It’s about the customer’s story, their problems, and painting a picture about how they become the hero in their story.

As we’re still moving through the early weeks of a new year, one of my encouragements to you in 2022 is to view your life as a story.
Our stories are not just some Wikipedia list of facts and dates and times and places.

It’s more about how we process those facts and events internally – how we pick them apart and weave them back together to make meaning. This narrative becomes a form of identity, in which the things someone chooses to include in the story, and the way we tell it, can both reflect and shape who they are. A life story doesn’t just say what happened, it says why it was important, what it means for who the person is, for who they’ll become, and for what happens next.

We all need to be in touch with our life story.

•••

A big part of my life story at Tranquility Base is gardening and preserving food. It may be 20 degrees outside each evening, but gardening season will be here before you know it, and I’m on the ready.

We’ve placed an big seed order from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company in Mansfield, Missouri this year. Our 40-package order includes unique varieties of tomatoes including black strawberry and black beauty, Pinnochio, and cherry berry; spectacular peppers such as ahi cachucha, Ashe County pimientos, and nokturn sweets. We have several varieties of pickling cucumbers on order, some beautiful purple Asian okra, and cool-weather crops like Swiss chard, Japanese red mustard, and a new variety of arugula I’m excited about.
North Arkansas Farm Supply always carries a great variety of garden seed and starter plants. For rarer varieties like those mentioned above check out Baker Heirloom Seeds online at rareseeds.com

Last week, I purchased a 24-pack of biodegradable seed germination starting trays that will give me 288 cells for starter planting. If you’re starting your tomatoes and peppers and other warm-season vegetables from seed, Valentine’s Day is about the time of year you want to get those seedlings started. For a gardener, there’s nothing more rewarding than planting in early May with plants you started back in the winter. I resisted the strong urge last week to build a greenhouse on our property.

The struggle was real.

I’m skeptical, but in an effort to do just about anything to spare my back in the glorious mid-50s, I bought a fancy garden seed planter that you load in bulk, push down the row, it digs the furrow and drops the seeds. For years, I’ve stooped and crouched and tried to find the most comfortable way to plant a row of green beans or lettuce or okra. There’s just no easy way to do it, but there’s no substitute for planting with your hands, where there is little margin for error. This new-fangled planter may end up in the junk pile with a dozen other experiments, it wouldn’t surprise me a bit. Check back in a few months.

At the inspiration of County Extension Agent Anna Harlan, I bought a new pressure cooker complete with a pressure dial and all the safety mechanisms they say will prevent you from blowing up the kitchen. And to streamline summer canning, I followed Anna’s lead and bought an electric water bath for the foods that don’t require pressure. There was something about using my old fish cooker as a heat source for water bathing on our wooden deck that always made me uncomfortable. Not only do I look more for convenience in my older age. I’m also about safety.

Looking forward to telling more stories from the garden and the kitchen this year.

See you in next week’s newspaper.

(Steve Watkins is a writer and columnist for the Stone County Leader. Write him at steve@stonecountyleader.com)

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