The Seeds We Sow

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I wish that living in a yurt on a Vermont hillside farm could make me immune to the annoyances of broken computers, and the odd frustration that comes when said computer is at the shop getting fixed and I am here with an old iPad that works well enough for emails, but not much more.  We finally got a loaner computer, and so I’m back to the blog after a few weeks of sporadic posts.

Truthfully, though, I’ve felt quiet.  Perhaps it’s not just the computer issues that have kept my posts minimal and short.  It goes like that sometimes, a wave of production followed by a quiet recession back into the deep, like the tide that swells and retreats.

The farm is covered with snow, the garden under perhaps 4 feet of it, and tonight the cold seeps in from under the clear night sky.  It’s a night to pack the fire box and keep the dials on the wood stove turned open a bit more than usual.

We’ve been in the throws of spring planning: greenhouse repairs, seeding charts, cash-flow charts, marketing, perennial design, and lists of infrastructure improvements.  It feels both exciting and daunting, and we oscillate between dreamy imaginings of all the good changes to come and business crunching, detached from emotion.

The work of a farmer begins long before the greenhouse is fired up and soil is spread out in trays.  The seeds we are sowing now are sketches on paper, numbers and images and words.  Though it seems like the summer is still far away, this work is important.  Before we can manifest something into being, we must first know what it is we want to create.

In all the planning and prep work, in all the manifestations we are setting out into the world, I took out this poem again, just to remind myself that sometimes, it is okay to be demanding as we manifest our dreams:

Throw away all your begging bowls at

God’s door,

for I have heard the Beloved prefers

sweet, threatening shouts, something

on the order of, “Hey, Beloved, my soul

is a raging volcano of love for you!

You better start kissing me–or else!”

~Hafiz

Beauty as well as Bread

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.” 

-John Muir, The Yosemite

mountain in rock
mountain in rock

May you find beauty today, and everyday

May your stomach and your soul be filled

 

The Naked Winter, or Becoming More Alive

 

An opening comes with winter, when the forest canopy is naked and light falls through the branches to the snow below.  Summer in Vermont is packed with green leaves, close hills, screens of trees.  Now, the woods are bare and a feeling of space sprawls out.  Views hidden by leaves in the summer appear this time of year, framed by the twiggy crowns of trees, and light plays across the landscape like watercolor, fluidly moving from shades of white to gray, purple, pink, blue, yellow, and orange, a shifting palate created by the sun and clouds and particular time of day.

There’s something about this nakedness that brings me more alive.  It reminds me of the space I felt in Alaska, the way the open tundra calls to the spirit saying go, roam free; and at the same time, it asks more of me.  The elemental cold brings the act of living back to simplicity: make a fire, stay warm, eat.

You know what, I’ve just realized something, just put into words what I’m doing here, though some part of myself has surely known it all along.  From the first time I lived in a yurt during the Adirondack Semester in college, a mile-long hike and 3/4 mile paddle across a lake from the nearest car, I’ve been on a journey to remove the insulation between myself and this world.  There, in the Adirondacks, I lived in a little yurt village with 13 other students.  We left our cell phones and computers behind and spent our days outside; we traded house parties for campfires and starry nights on a dock.  I had never before felt so alive.

Since then, I’ve cultivated my life in a way that weeds out the distractions of modern society and leaves space for the base of this life: fresh air, earth, movement, food.  It’s harder to do this when away from that village in the Adirondacks.  Sometimes I forget why we live this way, why we’re here in this yurt with an outhouse and no running water.  Sometimes all those distractions cloud my head and send me reeling, wondering if what we’re doing is crazy.

Winter comes in and strips down the static, leaves me bare as well.  It brings me back to the elemental, back to the root of my journey, which is this: to create a life that constantly brings me more alive.  There are so many things that let us close up, stop growing, and insulate us from the world.  It is so easy to stop noticing the inherent magic and beauty that lives all around us.  It is not as easy to be present, aware, and open, but this is precisely the task if we want to be more alive.

Go outside, take a deep breath, keep breathing until the shock of cold slides off and your lungs expand in the clear air and your heart beats a little harder in the sheer exposure of it all.  Yell, if it helps.  Then ground yourself, shed whatever it is that holds you back, stand naked like a tree in winter.  Your path may different than mine, but that doesn’t matter.  What matters is that you follow what brings you alive.  What matters is that we all wake up a little more each day.

Sun and Snow, by Katie Spring

The Open Moments

cloud movementRain. Sleet. Ice. Snow.  Winter battles its way in, vying for frozen air even as small pockets of warmth swing in, teetering the thermometer down and up and down again, where eventually it will rest for the long stretch of the cold months.

The clouds color our days slate and slow the sunrise.  Each day we turn closer to solstice, darker and darker as we go, almost forgetting the calm blue sky brimming with light.  It happens then, just as we forget, that sun-laced wisps rise up from the hills and the winds push north and we stand, staring out at it all as our own breath rises like the clouds and for one moment we are empty, speechless, willing.

I wonder, what would the world be like, if we could always remember the clear expanse beyond the clouds.  What would the world be like if we lived from these open moments?

The Wisdom of Quietness

white birch

“We need the strength of lilies, ferns, mosses and mayflies.  We need the masculinity of ponds and rivers, the femininity of stone, the wisdom of quietness, if not silence.”

~Rick Bass, The Book of Yaak

Be Happy for the Rest of Your Life

“I’ll do it if you agree to be happy for the rest of your life.  Deal?” Edge said.

“Okay,” I said.

“Okay?”

“Happy for the rest of my life.”

“I hope you understand the commitment you just made.”

And with a nod, he handed me the computer cord and plugged in the other end, as I had asked him.

What if we all held each other to such standards?  What if we all helped our partners commit to happiness above all else?  Not just the pursuit of happiness, but actual heart-pumping, lung-filling happiness.

All you have to do is let go of expectations, attachments, and judgements.  Make a commitment to the present moment, and agree to be happy for the rest of your life.

It’s not always easy, but the reward is surely worth it.

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Calendula is a bright and joyful flower

It draws me in, slows me down, and brings a smile to my whole being.  If it could talk, I believe calendula would offer me a cup of tea and a seat to sit down in and stay for a while. resina calendulastrawberry blonde calendula

calendula harvestEven after the harvest is in, the frost is settled, and the flowers have said goodbye for the season, the thought of calendula brings a calm to me.  So on this rainy day, I pour some tea, breathe it in and smile.

If calendula could talk it would say go ahead, find some peace today.

When flowers talk, it is wise to listen.

 

{calendula is also known as the herb of the skin.  It is wonderful in oils and salves.  Learn how to make infused calendula oil and salve here.}

Live Your Romantic Life

“It’s beautiful up here.  This is my dream: to buy a little piece of land in Worcester, put up a yurt, and raise my family,” she said.  I smiled, allowing the romance of it all to stay in her mind.  And why not?  It is romantic, isn’t it–to live up here on this hillside, sheep and chickens grazing in the pasture, an acre of food growing in the garden, our family held each night in the circle of the yurt.  It’s all so lovely.  I say this to remind myself that we are here because it was our dream, too, though truthfully, the thought that shot through my head at her declaration was the ease of a house with running water, well-insulated walls, and hard-wired electricity.  I pictured her turning on the faucet at night to make a bath for her son, then pictured myself hauling two 5-gallon buckets up the hill to the yurt, pouring water in a pot and waiting for it to heat up on the stove before pouring it again into the sink.  This is why Waylon doesn’t get daily baths–I know the weight of water.

Just as I let her, I let myself dream up a romantic picture of life in town: living in a house with big windows and light streaming through in the morning, having a clean kitchen with matching dish clothes and bowls that don’t chip from being piled on the floor of the yurt when we’ve run out of water and can’t seem to find the time to run down and refill the buckets in the greenhouse, tight walls that hold warmth, doors that keep the wind outside instead of offering cracks for it to whistle in, a small garden just for the family, the ease of keeping the car parked and walking everywhere.

But then I think, what kind of job would I have to do to have that life?  Where would the dogs run?  What about the noise of traffic?  I think about the weight of water, how I stop to rest a few times as I carry the jugs uphill, how those moments of rest are filled with breath and a view of the mountains.  I think of Waylon and the amount of dirt he eats, and the strength of his immune system thanks to it.  I think of the word easy and wonder what it really means, because I tried the life of 9:00-5:00 inside at a desk with a salary and benefits, and you know what?  It didn’t make my life easier.

What’s easy is to romanticize what we don’t have.

It’s worth remembering that we are here because we chose it.  We are here because we strive to create a life of balance, substance, and joy.  It’s worth remembering that the most challenging times are also the pivotal ones that determine our path.  It’s also worth remembering that there is actually nothing stopping me from having matching dish clothes.

I let my town-living daydream drift off in the wind and come back to this life in our yurt, with unfinished projects and sheep that escape their fence and 50 families to grow food for.  I come back to it because it brings me alive.  After all, romance is not always easy or without conflict, but it is nourishing.  And though she drove back to her home in town, to our visitor, and to you all, I say this:

Choose your path, and live your romantic life.

Waylon and Mama scything

Happy Freedom Day!

Happy Freedom Dayox-eye daisies I came home on Friday night to find a bouquet of flowers waiting on the yurt step with a small note attached to it.  It read: Happy Freedom Day, Katie! ~ Mary 

It was my last day of work at my off-farm job–a job that I did enjoy, with people I loved seeing every day.  Once the summer began, though, balancing farming, writing, and being a mama with another full-time job became too much, and something had to give.  Questions of security, happiness, fulfillment, and family arose in the weeks leading to my decision: would it work to lose my consistent paycheck?  How much money was I really making after factoring in gas, commute time, and car repairs?  Could we afford to pay a farm employee to make up for my absence?  What kind of family life do we want to create?  Is this job contributing my happiness or to my stress level?  What is my time worth to me, and what do I want to spend it on?

After all this, I came back to what I’ve always known: I want to be a Mama, to be part of Waylon’s days and not just his mornings and nights.  I want to be a farmer, to move my body throughout the day and let soil and sun stain my skin.  I want to be a writer, to put more energy into writing and to make this a bigger part of my life.  Despite all the benefits of my off-farm job, I found what was pulling me away was much stronger than what was keeping me there.  And still, as I took down the pictures and cleaned up my desk at the office, I felt a small bittersweet pang inside.  Everyone I worked with sent me off with hugs and encouragement as I walk this path of creating a life that brings me truly alive.

And so, when I found the flowers and Mary’s note, the joy and gratitude that welled up inside me felt like a confirmation.  Freedom Day.  We have this choice every day: to be free.  It’s not always simple.  It’s not always clear.  But it is always there.

There is a poem by David Whyte, called Sweet Darkness, in which he writes:

You must learn one thing:
This world was meant to be free in
Give up all other worlds
Except the one to which you belong.
 

I’m choosing this world here on a western hillside.  This world of garden, pasture, forest and sky.  Where I wake every day to snuggles with my baby and breakfast with my husband.  Where I move slow enough to feel roots growing from my feet down into the soil and feeding the flower of my body.  I’m choosing all of this, knowing it will not always be easy or comfortable, but that it will be true and enlivening.

And I wish the same for you–that you may walk the path that brings you alive.  That you may celebrate your own freedom day every day.

The Wind in the Grass

There is a wild section in our pasture where the grasses reach above our heads. Their long stems topped with seeds seem to breathe with the wind; a long breeze exhales and a thick wave of grass washes to the east.

I stood in the middle of it last night, Waylon on my back, and we listened to the air brushing through the leaves and stems of grass.

There is always so much waiting to flood my days and fill my time. And last night—the list was still long as the sun touched the ridgeline.

But we stood there, quiet, breathing like the wind in the grass, learning how to bend with ease.