By some great convergence that is beyond my reckoning, yet also the result of my greatest export of will and wahoo, I find myself farming maple syrup in the Blue Ridge mountains of North Carolina. Never have I ever thrown everything I've got so completely into a project, which is saying a lot. I'm am not bashful when it comes to throwing myself into my work.
I ran cross country in high school and I discovered something then that I continue to realize more fully as a maker. I call it the "runners mind". It could be called a lot of things, or maybe have no name at all but still be known to you. Distance running can be rather entrancing; the cadence of footfalls and breath cycling together. Some runners may race one another, but I found that I was only racing myself, balancing the reach of my muscles with the expanse of my breath, and above all, endlessly hurling my will at the two, digging, digging, digging deeper. Endurance. The runner's mind is that place where everything else in the world is gone except for the work that is being done.
This can be a blissful place when all is right and the work is good. This can be an intense place when you are trying to cross a finish line. This can be a wildly frustrating place when the goal continually pushes at the edge of your reach and ability. This can be a scary place when you push too hard and something is broken. This can be a deeply satisfying place when a hard won goal is met, the body stronger, the mind wiser, the heart full.
Never have I ever run a race so hard as I did in the 2014 sugar season, pushing against my own borders in every direction. Reaching for something that is so much bigger than me. It started with moving to the mountains alone; wild and remote. Then buying my first chainsaw, building my body on the steep north facing slopes, hanging on to this roaring little beast that would just as willingly saw a log in half as my leg. I tensioned wires through the woods to suspend pipes for sap collection. I split fence posts from great locust logs and dug holes 2.5 feet deep to plant them in. I cut, split and stacked many cords of firewood. As winter bore down, sap season fast approaching, and all the work unfinished, I pushed myself to work outside in temperatures that sometimes dipped down in the single digits. And when the woods were ready and sap ran I, with my father, boiled over 4,000 gallons of sap down into just 69 gallons of pure maple syrup.
As I cultivate endurance as a maker I find that I am working to hold runner's mind both within my day-to-day hustles, and within the greater goals that will not be met in a day or even a year. Endeavoring to live within that sweet spot where work might bring enjoyment and satisfaction in each moment and day, as it feeds in to the bigger picture of dreams that fill a life. I don't always get right or keep things balanced as they should be. Endurance and runner's mind seem to be found in the tension between giving "it" all you've got, yet holding enough of "it" back so that you don't run yourself out. I am proud of the what I accomplished in the 2014 season, but I plan to ease the pace in years to come so that the rhythm is sustainable. I pushed so hard that I almost pushed myself out all together.