I want a leader who…

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I want a leader that will inspire without anger.

I want to live in a world where disagreements are sparks for explorative conversations, where every side is willing to listen fully before formulating a retort, where there is space between words.

People are complicated.  Politics makes people more complicated.

I want the space for complication to be okay.  I want the space for the changing of minds, for the willingness to converse and to discuss and to examine the ways in which we have changed and the ways we haven’t.

I want a leader who knows her or his heart and who knows how to hear another’s heart.  I want a leader who understands that hearts are wider than religion or race or gender, and also understands that experience is shaped by religion and race and gender.

I’m thinking in terms of government, but I don’t know that this type of leader can be found in government.

I hope it can, though it feels unsafe to question deeply in public forums.  The anger is so much that the risk of posing a question begins to feel too great, and I see how questioning is met with condemnation by those who have made up their minds.  We have grown so far apart that the meeting of “other” threatens our very existence.  We have grown so far apart that “other” becomes anyone with a  different soundbite.

I want to go beyond the soundbite.  I want to sit and look at each other and hear each other and feel the way our words fumble like ice cubes in our mouths even as fire ignites in our bellies and screams up the narrow tunnels of our throats.

I want you to know that you are allowed this.  This fire and ice.  This knowing and questioning.  This anger and love.

I want you to know that everyone is allowed this.

Anger has its place.  Anger can trigger us to wake up.  Its spark can create an opening to another way.  If anger is the only way to shake your eyes open, then let them open, but know that what we do when we wake up matters.  Wake up and root back in love.

I want a leader who will root themselves in love.  The expansive, forgiving, rolling kind of love.  The kind of love like air, like a breeze, like a gust of wind: willing to let us breathe, and willing to tug at our shirts when something needs to shift, and willing to blow our hats off when our haze becomes too thick, before calming into stillness again to let us be with ourselves and each other, stopped after the hurricane to meet the hearts of our neighbors.

I want a leader who knows that we all have this power of air and wind.  That we all breathe every moment.  That we all have this power to wake each other up.

Mostly, I want us all to know we have this power, and I want us to know we can use it with tenderness and care and deep, deep love.

 

A New Story

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photo by Katie Spring

I’ve been thinking about stories lately, about the larger story of our society that plays out over and over again, and about the undercurrents of alternative stories that whisper through the static.

At a Hanukkah celebration a few weeks ago, our host stood to give his yearly toast, and he said, “I’m having a hard time celebrating the myth of Hanukkah this year.”  He went on to tell the story of Hannah and her seven sons, all slayed in front of her as they refused to denounce their faith to the invading army.  Eventually the Jews won, and the story told was one of martyrdom and the birth of Hanukkah, and so we celebrate the victim overcoming the enemy.

And this is where the tiredness came into Harlan’s voice.  He spoke of the terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernadino.  He spoke of the whole of written history with all its beheadings and wars and conquering of one group over another.

“It’s always the same story of victim and martyr.  It’s not getting us anywhere.  We need a new story, and I don’t know what it is.”

I was quiet as a discussion ensued.  His emotion swirled around inside of me as I herd his plea and understood the depth of yearning for change, for peace, for a future that will hold our children safely after we have gone.  In the weeks since, that one statement has gone through me over and over as I try to answer it: we need a new story.

As his words resound in my head, others come in to answer.  I think of my friends who run Earthwise Farm and Forest, and how Carl said, “Our lives are not a rehearsal.  We advocate for the life we want by living it.”

I look at their lives and see another story: one of resilience, of interdependence with their land and community, of activism balanced with the steady building of a home and family and farm.  I look at their lives and see how true their words are, how they are living the story they want to bring forth into the world.

I think of Harlan and the weariness in his voice as he said I don’t know what it is.

While I may not have the complete answer, either, I do know that while the world is bigger than any individual, change is not.  Sometimes we all feel small, and that is okay.  Sometimes we all feel defeated and frustrated, but still it is important to witness.  It is important to feel.  The only true defeat is in thinking we are too small to matter.  You are not too small to matter.

Every beginning, every story, starts out as a seed.  Some of us are the seed sowers.  Some of us are pollinators.  Some of us are the wind and birds that scatter the seeds wildly across the land.  Some of us are seed savers that carefully and tenderly carry the story into the next generation.

You do not have to play every part.  Only your part.  You do not have to be recognized with a Nobel Prize or a plaque or anything at all.  Just discover your heart.  Discover what makes you feel light and do more of that.  Share it.  Most of the time you will have no idea how many lives you are touching by simply living in a way that brings you more alive.

This is what brings me alive: touching soil, planting a field of vegetables, growing flowers, feeding others, writing.  In my personal story, I’m a seed sower, but in the larger story of the world I think of myself more as a pollinator, helping a new story bear fruit and flower.

Think of pollinators: insects, bees, butterflies, birds.  They are so small.  And we need them.

Don’t wait until you have more money or a better car or more time.  Create the life you want by living it.

That’s the only way a new story will take root.

 

 

My New Blog: Cooking in Good Heart

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P1060448Thank you all for the kind words and continued encouragement to create.

One of those projects I wrote about in my last post has come into being, and I’m excited to announce my new blog: Cooking in Good Heart.

You’ll find posts on food and farming, plus some “recipe improv”–check out the blog for more on this.

I hope you’ll join me over at this new blog.  If you have any food or farming questions, please send them my way!  You may see the answers (and the journey to the answers) in a new post.

Happy Sunday~

Paring Down

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photo by Katie Spring

November has come with it’s falling leaves, pushing the urgency of winter readying upon me, which means planting and mulching the garlic, putting the garden to bed, closing in the farm store we’re building, gathering wood.  The north winds that blow over the land tug at the internal excess, too, loudly reminding me it’s time to strip down, let go, enter the sparse serenity of winter open and clear.

It happens every year, and still it feels like a bit of a crisis, this purging of all that does not serve me.  Paring down is both the struggle and the gift of entering winter.

If this is getting too ethereal, let me put it this way: running a farm, raising a toddler, and constructing a building while I do my best to carve out an hour in the morning to write has got me overloaded.  It’s time to let something go.

When I began this blog six years ago, it was a way to share my travels to New Zealand and Tasmania.  Over the years it’s evolved through different names and the different focuses of travel, farming, and family.  Lately, I’ve been feeling somewhat ambiguous about the blog, unsure of what kind of space it wants to be, and so I’ve let that question ruminate as I work on other projects.

After a few months of chewing it over, I’ve decided to step away from this space to put my creative energy into those other projects I’m excited about.

I’ll post about them as they come more into being, and I’ll continue to link to published essays and guest blog posts on the Writing section of this site.  And every once in a while, a blog post may appear here again.

Thank you for reading all these years.  The encouragement and support I’ve received from so many of you makes my heart light.

With gratitude,

Katie

Meeting Trees

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September.  We are well enough into it now, though the burst of heat that wrangled itself around our limbs in the month’s first week felt more like summer than most of July.  Much has happened in the last few weeks, as much is always happening on a farm in late summer, but it’s enough to say that vegetables have been harvested, new seedlings planted, and cover crops cast; it’s enough to say the sun has risen and set and we’ve sweat in between.

Of all the things I’ve witnessed this summer, nothing has lifted me as the sight of my toddler stamping through the woods to a particular tree and announcing, “Ash! Ash!”  Maple was the first tree he learned to say, birch was the second, and for a few weeks our walks transformed from quiet strolls to three miles of excited shouts and screeches as Waylon pointed out every birch and maple we passed.  At toddler height, he is learning to identify trees by their bark, and as I didn’t learn the difference between ash and maple bark until my husband began sugaring five years ago, Waylon’s declaration of the long ridged trunk as an ash tree had me smiling in wonder.

Edge pointed out the scales of spruce bark as Waylon repeated sprue, and he touched little knobs along the otherwise smooth gray beech, saying bee.  How long did it take me to learn the names of trees?  How long did I live before I could look through a forest and know at a glance the species that live there?

“Waylon is the smartest two-year-old I’ve ever met,” I said aloud, though if every toddler spent as much time around trees, they’d surely know their names, too.  The beauty of toddlers is that they are so open, so willing to learn, so willing to connect with their surroundings.

To be open. To be willing.  With these lessons, I learn over and over again the excitement of discovery.

Summer on a plate, in a glass

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BLT on lettuce

It happens every year with that first bite into a vine-ripened tomato, a splash of juice as my teeth pierce the skin, the subsequent slurping as the acidic fruity tang slides over my tastebuds, that I think this just needs some bacon.

Green Zebra is my favorite BLT variety, and I’ve often though it must have been bred to pair specifically with the fatty crispness of pork belly, the smokey maple-syrup sweetened decadence of bacon.  Unfortunately, we lost all but one green zebra in a late frost this spring, and amid the ripening red orbs, the green fruit sometimes eludes me on harvest days.

No matter, one can’t stop the pairing of fruit and meat as August turns toward ripeness.  I’ve found the joys of German Johnson, a tomato to rival Brandywine; It’s size trumps green zebra, with some slices as big as bread, and we eat BLTs open-faced on a bed of oak-leaf lettuce, crowning them with basil leaves and a dollop of chèvre.  Summer on a plate.

And then there is the glass–a tall one with muddled spearmint and blueberries, three ice cubes and a long pour of seltzer, or as I like to say, bubbly water.  At another time in my life I got excited about mojitos and gin and tonics, but these days its the clarity of cold water and herbs on a hot day that quenches my thirst.  Sometimes I get fancy with a squeeze of lime, or go the lemon-ginger-honey route, or steep strawberries and lemon balm in a quart jar for hours in the fridge.  Sometimes, I imagine the most refreshing thing in the world would be to steep in a cold mint bath, though the earthy scent of lake water does just as much to cool and revive.

In Bloom

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“Keep reinventing the way you love yourself.”  

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Risk on the Mountain

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View of the Worcester Range from the summit of Camel's Hump

View of the Worcester Range from the summit of Camel’s Hump

I dreamt of bears on Friday night, having read of a black bear on Camel’s Hump who’s not afraid of humans.  A popular Long Trail campsite below the summit has been shut down for the summer, and hikers are encouraged not to take the Dean trail that leads through the site.  In my dream, it was five bears, not one, and they were brown, not black, all after the food in my pack.

Despite this, I was on the trail the next morning at 8:30 with my dog, Pebble.  My legs fell into a comfortable rhythm as Pebble pranced and snouted along the worn path of the Monroe Trail, 3.1 miles from parking lot to summit.  It felt good to sweat, to fall back into a familiarity on this mountainside that my legs first learned when I was four years old and determined to hike “by own self.”  Halfway up I stopped where water dropped off a rock and crossed the trail, and I cupped my hands to catch the water and splash my face, cool my neck and the pulse on my wrists while Pebble lapped at the stream.

Sweat returned quickly as we climbed higher toward the alpine tundra of the summit, but the winds on the exposed peak cooled me and whipped loosened hair from my ponytail across my face.  As Pebble and I walked the rocky top a family came up from another trail.

“Zoe!  Sit down!  You’re making me nervous.”  I looked up to see a smiling girl around 8 slow her pace and crouch down at her mother’s call.  It made me think of my mom and all the times my brother and I pushed her limits of comfort as we explored the edges of summits.  Zoe was no where near an edge, surrounded instead by rounded slabs and alpine plants that traced through cracks in the rock, and though the wind pressed her back and ballooned her jacket on one side, her feet were firmly on the ground, the risk of blowing away far less than the risk of tripping on a root when they got back on the trail.

It made me think of risk and what we learn of it as children, of what we teach our children as adults.  It made me think of the difference between real and perceived risk, and how we learn to be alive.

My mom was raised with the phrase you can’t be too careful, but she traded this phrase for another when she raised me, saying the greatest longing of the soul is to be free.  Though it was her voice that called me away from rocky edges, she brought me to the mountain.

It would be too easy and simplistic to say that my dad taught me risk and my mom taught me safety.  The two are tied together.  Without risk the vitality of the soul isn’t safe, and without safety–the safety of love and trust and a web of people who support you–risk becomes riddled with fear rather than aliveness.

I am after aliveness.  I am after the vitality of soul, the exhilaration of exposure, the peace of solitude.

Hiking reminds me how to find all this, how to move with it and hold myself in its presence when I am not alone on a trail.  When I am alone on a trail, it reminds me that the risk of running into a bear is worth each footstep that allows my mind to wander, my heart to center, and my spirit to become more alive.

The biggest risk to life, to the quality of being alive, is not going to the mountain, but rather never going to it at all.

Traveling Light

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Morning Light

Summer grows roots from my feet into the soil of this land.  The sun bleaches streaks of blonde in my strawberry hair, and freckles emerge like seeds on my skin.

The earth and light do their part to keep me here, though the wind blows in some afternoons and I feel the old pull of travel tug at my chest.

On morning walks with the dogs, Waylon on my back, I follow worn paths through the forest and imagine the roots of my feet rolling up and down the land like waves, loosening my body with each step so I may follow the breath of air.

Some mornings before I finish my tea, the light travels for me, and I step outside to move with the rising mist and sun rays filtering down toward the soil, whispering a single word: soften.

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I remember the tug I often feel while traveling, to stop in one place and dig in, to find the veins of the land and match my rhythm to their pulse.

The morning turns to day imperceptibly, suddenly, and tasks take their place in my mind as the sun rises high into a clear sky.  It’s time to tend to the fields now.

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All day the light travels, bringing evening about, and we hang our tools and prepare dinner and sit outside to eat as the earth tilts away from the sun and the sky dances itself into sunset.

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The air is still and my chest is quiet and my soles root into grass.

The light deepens into night, and though I’ve not left this land all day, I’ve witnessed movement, been part of the full round stretch of day and the long exhale of twilight.

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To be alive and full and whole

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Rudbeckia evening

To be seen.  To be free.  To be alive and full and whole–the yearnings of soul.

Evening comes and the sun lights upon the horizon, it’s rays like open petals before dusk: an invitation, an opening, an ease of light to quell the ache of longing.

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