by Amber Jensen, www.amberjjensen.com
As a frequent contributor to this fine publication, I was looking forward to writing a piece that would complement the efforts of the Big Horn show and the Huckleberry Press. I jotted notes and brought up memories of gratitude toward my roots and growing up near ample wildlife with the forest in my back yard.
When I woke up the morning I had planned to write my heart out, the earth had somehow shifted. Suddenly my ideas felt hollow and the importance of what I had to say about deer and trees fell away. The tinny emptiness of the words I had hoped to craft hit my ears like a cheap can being kicked down the street.
The Big Horn Show has been canceled. Sporting events have been canceled. School has been canceled. Some businesses are closing their doors, many will not open again. Even toilet paper seems to have been canceled.
As I stared down at my empty screen imagining what I could possibly have to say in such a huge chasm of uncertainty, my hands shook. What could I contribute that would matter?
I have two living grandmothers, both had a big impact on my growing up. The wisdom I have been given by my grandmothers has been ringing in my ears my whole life but never more than in the last few weeks.
Life isn’t canceled.
My eldest grandmother lived through the Great Depression. She and her brother used to pick berries and help their mother can jam to sell in the town close to their farm. They helped their mother do this all through the growing season. Their mother would hold back a few jars for their father’s sandwiches and toast and then sell the rest.
My grandmother and her brother went to school wearing shoes with holes, and when they unwrapped their sandwiches for lunch, they were not filled with sweet jam. My grandmother ate lard sandwiches. Lard. She and her brother helped make jam all through the abundant growth season only to eat lard.
Life isn’t canceled.
It wasn’t canceled during that Great Depression when families fed their children lard and sold the best they had to make ends meet. Life wasn’t canceled when the country’s economy rose out of that dust and ache.
I haven’t lived through lard sandwiches but I have my amazingly strong grandmother to show me that life doesn’t just stop when things get tough. Life keeps moving and what we get from moving with it is something you can’t get on Amazon or from stampeding Costco for the last roll of paper towels.
The tough times present us with opportunities for a lot of things. I think the most important is the opportunity to step into a space of grit.
There are people panicking. There are people saying the media is causing madness. There are even people who flat out deny anything is happening. In all of those opinions and mania the thing we can count on is that life will not be canceled.
My grandmother used to sit by her pressure canner for hours, the kitchen hot and smelling of musty aluminum and calcified tin. She’d listen to the ch-ch-sss of the canner and her face always looked so peaceful. She had a pantry stocked with fruits and jams at all times.
That generation of individuals, the ones who know a deeper level of grit than my generation has the current capacity to, those are the individuals most at risk at this moment. The generation who ate lard sandwiches and hoped for a better time, they are the ones most vulnerable now.
So many people are upset about the canceling of events and school and even businesses closing. I’ve considered my stand on this in the time when I haven’t been tending my children, canning my own pantry staples or learning of updates on the current situation.
I’ve considered it and concluded that I’m not upset.
If ‘flattening the curve’ is what it takes to make sure all the grandmothers out there have a chance to fight this – if it takes staying home and eating simply, if that’s what it takes to preserve our national treasure of the truest grit – I’ll do it gladly and openly and happily.
Life isn’t canceled and we get the opportunity to show up for our elders, for their wisdom, for the people who raised us and the people who raised them. It’s not comfortable and most things that bring forth grit aren’t. That’s the point.
You don’t become a human of grit through indulgence in fresh jelly sandwiches and lounging about. You become a human of grit through sacrifice, through planting Victory Gardens and using less, through eating lard sandwiches (I don’t recommend this, please don’t) and connecting with our communities.
We gain true and sincere grit when we can look life in the face and simply say, what’s next, I’m here for it.
Life isn’t canceled.
Amber is a mother, wife, writer and dirt road philosopher. She hales from small-town Idaho and makes her home on a spread of dirt in Eastern Washington with her husband and four wild children. She is dedicated to a life of contribution and finding the pieces of our journeys that connect us all in our greatness.
The imperfect and incomplete nature of life is often overwhelming and stifling. By choosing it and owning it, Amber has taken some of the dirtiest situations and spun them into lessons to live by. Her greatest inspirations are her children and their dirt antics. Learn more about Amber by visiting