Friday, June 02, 2006

The Space Between Birth and Death

Josh started our class this morning by asking us to come up with a definition of soil—not a scientific definition, but a description of our own understanding of soil. I can’t describe what happened to me in the moments that followed…but it was surely some kind of revelation. If I had been asked two weeks ago, I would have had a very different response, but this morning my mind sunk deeply into the mystery of what soil really is. I started out with “organic and mineral materials at different stages of decomposition…” but then the question sunk deeper in me and I was overwhelmed by the soil’s simultaneous identity as the location of both living and dying, generation and decomposition, and I suddenly felt like I was touching an electric current. The soil came alive for me. It was no longer inert, passive “dirt” but an active, mystical, continually transforming substance. I felt in that moment what people mean by saying that the earth is alive. My definition felt inadequate, but here’s what I wrote: “a transitional, transformative substance between one form of life and another; the space between birth and death, death and birth; the starting and ending place.” My mind went to Alpha and Omega. “If soil is so alive, so mysterious, so sacred, aren’t we the biggest fools for not even knowing it!” I thought. Without farming, I would NEVER have given it a second thought. What we think we know is not actually knowledge. It is just what we think we know. Without active reflection on every single entity or phenomenon we encounter, how can we presume to know anything? It was a very special moment for me. It brought me closer to an understanding of what “connected to the land” means. We really think we know what we mean when we use phrases like this…but we really don’t until we’ve had an experience that can only be explained in that way. We use such an expression only because it is familiar—we’ve heard it before—not because we’ve experienced anything like it.

After our soil discussion we took a trip to Dixon, MT to visit Patty’s farm. Patty is a gorgeous 40-yr old woman with two small boys who has had her farm for 10 years. There was an absolute, calm loveliness about her—a farm woman; proud of her work and the age showing in the trees she planted in the beginning that are now starting to bear fruit, the fatigue and limitation of “raising babies” that prevent her from farming as she used to. There were strong, healthy shallots, garlic and flowers growing behind her house. Her husband is a carpenter. They are building an addition onto their house, but their loan has run out and they have to make some money to finish it eventually. She makes $200/wk selling one 50-lb. box of shallots to the Good Food Store. That’s it. She was a Peace Corps volunteer in The Gambia. The lesson learned at Patty’s was in her resignation to let the farm go for a few years while raising young children. There was a sigh in her voice, a concern for making ends meet, and yet and absolutely stress-free and satisfied quality to her. She is living a life she has chosen and built. I admire her.

Sitting under one of her trees looking at photos of her farm over the years, I realized that this farming experience is a very significant event for me. It was almost an after thought to work at the PEAS farm when another plan fell through, and yet it was not a random decision, but a serendipitous one. I realized today how long I have dreamed, imagined myself in my visions, to eventually live on a farm. Why have I never considered working on one? Learning about farming? What an idiot I am sometimes. Wake up, Sara! This IS the life you have imagined, wondered about, envisioned creating…why is it just now, and practically by accident, that you are finally doing it? Well, it’s not too late. And it feels really right; like I said, significant and important. I don’t feel that I am meant to be a farmer. But I am one step closer to experiencing the life I’ve imagined for so long. What else have I kept as just a fantasy without realizing that I could be living it? I wonder who I will be by the end of the summer? I am grateful for the hand of God gently transplanting me from my hesitant dreams into such vibrant, crawling, sacred and fertile soil.

No comments: