I was so tickled to open the mailbox and find something besides bills! My essay, “An Ozarks Perspective” received Honorable Mention in the 2011 Literary Awards from Whispering Prairie Press, publishers of Kansas City Voices. Here’s a tidbit…
Diversity is the new catch-word for our american society, but as any old farmer knows, diversity is a way of life in the country. Especially is this true of Ozark Mountain country. Perched at the top of the Boston Mountain chain in the Midwest, the Ozarks’ rounded tops, natural springs, and rocky outcroppings make for some of the loveliest scenery in the land. Some have likened the Great Plains to a giant patchwork quilt, stretched flat. But if you take that quilt and allow it to fold and bend, you get the Ozark Mountains – with its spectacular panoramic views, but hidden in the folds are countless nooks and crannies of intimate beauty. And so the land offers its diversity, and demands we do the same. Traditional crop farming won’t suffice here, so the settlers learned to widen their net, to cultivate every talent and skill and opportunity available to them (or as my mother would say, to have a finger in everyone’s pie).
Like the native flora and fauna, life here is still governed by the seasons. Our actions and our economy must change with the whims of the weather. In the financial difficulties of current times, experts encourage us to have multiple sources of revenue – and perhaps that is why the Ozark Mountain people seem so unchanging. Throughout the fluctuations of modern society and culture, we simply continue to quietly work at what works for us: run a few head of cattle over here, plant a garden there, sell a bit at the farmer’s market, barter handmade wares, and pick up the odd paying job to fill in the cracks. The wisdom to not “carry all your eggs in one basket” is a neccesity here. Generations of working diversely have rubbed off on our very DNA. We can’t be interested in just one thing. Always, the questions return – How can I make it better? Can I do it myself? How far back in the process can I go to truly make it from scratch? Where can I adapt my new knowledge to make it work for me?
A woman who loves to knit soon finds herself spinning her own yarn, then raising the sheep to produce the fiber. A man delighted by the taste of freshly-picked berries must then plant his own fruit-bearing bushes, then invites others to share his over-abundance. A weekend gardener is fascinated by the interplay of insects and flowers, and is soon become a beekeeper and purveyor of honey. A vibrant working woman develops a mysterious illness and must make her own soap and household products to survive, then creates a home business built on the variety and charm of her designs.Not one of these endeavors is sufficient to feed and clothe the family, but that was never really the point, was it? To Learn. To Love. To Share. That is what makes us tick. And when one area is exhausted, we begin another, and another, until our array of knowledge and skills rivals any financier’s portfolio. Perhaps not in monetary value, but we’re certainly diversified!