I always love reading ABOUT pages, but when I started writing mine, jumping straight into talking about myself seemed a bit too abrupt. After spending too long trying to think of something pithy to begin with, I found myself wishing I had thought of, “Call me Ismael”, before Herman Melville had, because then this page would start off perfectly. But alas, he has beaten me to it, having the unfair advantage of being born first. So, since no one can possibly outdo him in this regard, I guess I will just have to dive right in…
To many people, my life has looked like a random stream of interests, occupations, and activities, and for many years I wrestled with the perceptions of others about this, as well as my own. At some point shouldn’t a person figure out what they want to be when they grow up, and then stick with it?
From my earliest memories I had an unquenchable curiosity about life. Though my mother always second-guessed her own abilities, she was wiser than she knew, and had a knack for trusting me, and letting me follow my own passions at a young age. I started collecting fossils, taking photos, going with her to archeological digs, and reading before I started school. (Who trusts a 4 year old with a camera, before we all had cellphones to take photos with?)
Her love for history, as well as her imaginative way of seeing the world, inspired me to share some of the same loves and perspective. Although she did not believe she was an artist like her brother, she was in her own right, and always left an open door to those things for me. My pencil and paper were never far from me, and I was often found singing to myself.
Because I always seemed to know my precise location on the earth, I was allowed to wander alone for hours in the woods and streams near my grandparent’s house. That time spent alone provided a sacred sanctuary for my soul navigating through life. I was as at home in the depth of the wildest forests as I was anywhere.
My grandfather never treated me like I was a child, or ever communicated to me that there was anything that I couldn’t do just because I was a girl, so I would often be found with my nose buried in his organic gardening books, or up on a roof working with him. I can still smell the warm odor of humus and tomatoes in his greenhouse in the winter, and still see the snowflakes whirling outside, while we dug in the dirt side by side.
As for my grandmother, she never tired of telling me the incredible stories of her life over a cup of warm tea. Over and over again. A conservative person herself, she loved the hippies next door, and did a mean imitation of Tevya singing, “If I Were a Rich Man.” (I guess this probably explains a lot of other quirky things about me.)
The earliest thing I remember wanting to do when I grew up was, not surprisingly, to be an archeologist or paleontologist. While other girls were playing with dolls, I was out searching for things. As a young teen I wanted to be am psychologist. Mostly because I was fascinated with the human mind and why people did what they did. Always though, I was searching for the deeper things in life. And so, I began my life as an autodidact.
This propensity to love searching for and learning about things led me to studying a variety of things from spiritual to scientific; and working as a artist, writer, and web designer. It wasn’t a far leap for me to end up educating my own children at home, which I did for over twenty years. (I will confess to wishing for a school bus to come by now and then.)
My life long love for animals and nature, which as a child resulted in me sometimes racing wildly on a pony through the woods and fields, and sometimes standing motionless enough to get wild birds to land on my hands, never left me. As an adult that has translated into me becoming a breeder and judge of various herding dogs, which has given me the privilege of traveling the world.
Art, music and writing have continued to be the constants woven throughout my life; rising and falling like waves. They have each taken their turns in preeminence at different periods of time in my life. Whether creating in various visual arts, painting, conceptual photography, metalwork, or creating music as a singer/songwriter with my husband, Robert, something creative will always be evident.
A true right-brained introvert, I enjoy being alone to create and dream; still the alchemist in me not only enjoys creating things, but has always had a desire to help bring transformation to people’s lives. This has taken many forms as well, including teaching or leading small groups, doing one-on-one lay counseling, organizing large group events, and facilitating online classes.
My love for bringing justice and mercy to the world has also led to my involvement over the years with various non-profit organizations. My willingness to walk into the fire for what is right, has led to me being nicknamed Joni of Arc by more than one person over the years.
Mostly it is the little pleasures of life that are so important to me: enjoying a perfect espresso, walking barefoot, playing with plants, reading prolifically, finding water, getting a tattoo, drinking a good glass of wine, doing yoga, having my favorite guitar in my hands, being in the woods, traveling to Europe (especially to the home of my heart, the Hautes-Pyrénées of France), and spending time with those I love.
All in all, I have loved digging into things, transforming things, and creating things my whole life.
So circling back to the beginning… How does all this make sense to anyone? How does it all make sense to me? For a long time I wondered what the answer was. Why was I never content to focus on one thing? Why did I have so many interests? Why the insatiable wanderlust? Couldn’t I just figure out what I wanted to do in life? Even most of the people that have known me over the years, have only known me in whatever facet of life that they happened to connect with me in; being completely unaware of all the rest. Sometimes for me, it just seemed too complicated to explain this wild, wonderful mess that is my life. And sometimes maybe it was just a little bit too scary and vulnerable to divulge all of me in one place.
But now, I have decided to make peace with the swirl of the sometimes seemingly contradictory interests in my life. To finally embrace myself as the the sage, the alchemist, the creator, and the warrior that I am, and have been, since I landed on this earth. To understand that, while I may not be the ultimate specialist in any particular area, the wide spectrum of things that I have done have added a richness and texture to my life that I would not have had otherwise. To realize that perhaps for some of us the sacred calling is to open our arms wide to all the things we love, no matter what it looks like to anyone else; finally putting all of those pieces together.
…And if it still doesn’t make any sense to you, that’s OK; I am still glad to you are here.
“It is only through mystery and madness that the soul is revealed” – Thomas Moore
Peace & love,
– Originally from upstate New York, Joni McKeown has lived in various parts of the country, but now calls Nashville her home, along with her husband Robert, at The Spring House. Joni has a discipleship-counseling diploma from ADT, is licensed in the state of Tennessee as an Acupuncture Detoxification Specialist, holds a WSET 2 Award in Wine & Spirits, and is currently studying herbalism and permaculture.