Looking Back, Moving Forward
“When she transformed into a butterfly,
the caterpillars spoke not of her beauty, but of her weirdness.
They wanted her to change back into what she always had been.
But she had wings.”
~ The Poetry of Oneness
A lot has changed since I last posted to this blog and yet much has stayed the same. The biggest difference, outwardly at least, is I’m now living this farm dream on my own. The other differences are more subtle, relating more to my personal evolution. In the six years I’ve lived here I’ve learned, seen, experienced so much and yet I’m humble enough to know there is a lifetime of new experiences and growth still ahead of me. And yet despite my emerging confidence and knowledge, there are still days when I’m left with more questions than answers.
Lately I’ve been thinking about what I’m doing here. Not in terms of my day-to-day functionality – I have a ‘to-do’ list two pages long. But the bigger picture? More existential stuff. The kind of thinking that happens when your world gets turned upside down and you’re faced with the question, “Now what?”
I moved to the farm because I wanted to extricate myself from the dominant culture that is killing our planet and ourselves through reckless production and senseless consumption. To create space where I could live a life of meaning and connection. To take the path less chosen. Inspire others to do the same. I wanted to make a difference. To be able to look into the eyes of my kids and their kids (if that comes to pass) and say, “I tried.”
But is that enough?
We live in a culture that craves quick fixes and easy solutions. To ask the big questions, make life-changing decisions, to fight against the overwhelming pressure to conform is exhausting. And at times terrifying.
It’s easier not to recognize the gravity of our situation. The fact that much of our western civilization is built on a regime of unsustainable growth and appropriation of “others.” And the very corporations and governments that perpetuate this madness offer top 10 lists and simple solutions to save the planet and preserve our comfortable existence. Absolve ourselves from personal responsibility. Keep up with the status quo. Defend our smartphones, SUVs and cruise ships to exotic locales.
As Derrick Jensen says, we’ve all been greenwashed:
“One way this culture gets people is with the delusion – ‘If I just consume less and less, I won’t be contributing to the death of this planet. If I wear out my recycled shoes and skip showers, then I won’t be part of this destruction.’ But the salmon don’t care about your purity and your lifestyles choices, they care if there are dams and fish farms. … So when they tell you to take a shorter shower, it’s prestidigitation. It’s a magic trick – sleight of hand. They’re trying to make you think, ‘If I take a shorter shower I can make things OK.'”
It would be much easier to give up, sell out, move back. This piece of earth has provided me with a place to grow roots, but at times those roots feel like anchors. The work is relentless. There is always something that needs doing, fixing, tending. There are personal ramifications to this life. I lost a 20-year relationship, in part, over my beliefs, my differences. Divergent paths. There are times (most days) when I feel strong and powerful for choosing to stay, to keep fighting for this life, and there are other days when I feel utterly alone. Disconnected. And yet the idea of leaving is soul destroying.
The person I’ve become is inextricably woven into the fabric of this place. I no longer feel that the farm belongs to me, but I belong to the farm. It is my refuge and my prison. It has seeped into my very being. I am its caretaker and its mistress. There are times I yearn to escape this place and yet when I’m gone I realize how much I need it. I have purpose here.
But again I ask, is that enough? Or perhaps the true question is, am I doing enough?
I grow vegetables and plant trees and raise animals in a way that respects and celebrates their innate beingness. I do so to rage against the industrial machine that poisons our water, our earth, our air and our sense of humanity. But I do this work quietly. And because of that these actions can seem so inconsequential.
Am I, too, suffering from the delusional belief that this will make things OK?
My relationship to this place and my role in it is constantly shifting and evolving. I came here as a borderline militant vegan and now (though still vegetarian) I raise animals for meat. I ask so many questions, both practical and ethical, and offer so few answers. I read work that I wrote when I first moved here, and I blush at the naivieté. The rose-coloured glasses. But have I allowed wisdom and experience to become stand-ins for hunger and conviction, corralled possibility into something more safe and manageable?
And as for my writing: The world is such a messy, complex place and I abhor being yet another voice that offers simple solutions. And so I let my thoughts steep, like my daily pots of strong tea, waiting for some definitive answer that never comes. Too often I bite my tongue, swallow my words, leave things unsaid. Succumb to fear. Not fear of difference or stepping out from the crowd, but fear of being judged for being wrong. Or much worse, a hypocrite. There is still a large chasm between my intentions and my actions. Who am I to tell people to wake the fuck up, get over yourselves and do something real?
Then again, who am I not to be? I am a person who feels and experiences this life deeply. Passionately. I fall head over heels, lead with my heart first, then with my head. When I fall, I fall hard. Desperately so. But when I take risks and allow myself to let go of the fear and the conditioning and the criticism for being “too much” I can feel my wings stretching. Then I fly.
To read more, visit my blog, Rowangarth Farm.
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