Sunday, April 26, 2009

"Look at the world out there, my God, my God, look at it out there, outside me, out there beyond my face and the only way to really touch it is to put it where it is finally me, where it's in the blood, where it pumps around a thousand times ten thousand a day. I get a hold of it so it'll never run off."
(Fahrenhiet 451, 162).

It is a connection we all pursue. Wherever we live and work, we most probably live and work on the edge. Close to trouble, we sometimes lose balance and control over our own little worlds and we fall. We fall until we find that connection, that piece of the world that puts passion in our eyes and motion in our legs. And then we fall some more. We seek the courage to relax our defenses and sit in our personal garden of passion and love. The dirt moves from the ground around us and soaks in through our nose and eyes until we feel it moving our arms and legs begging for more action, begging for a little more room to grow. That desire to find our center is what drives us to the lengths of our garden. Keep that centered feeling with you. Know that you must save the garden for it to save you. I think we can all agree it is not the way that you fall that matters but the way you land. Remember to land in your garden.

A few days ago, here in Northern California, the temperature reached the high nineties and maybe pushed through the triple digits. It was so hot, in fact, that I could not bare to sit in the sun past noon because it was burning the energy right out off my body. Then I got to thinking about the power of sun and how we, as well as millions of other life forms harness the sun for energy. Whether ruminants eating the mini photovoltaic cells that are grass or the tomato ripening thanks to the process of converting sunlight into energy to grow, that bright and amazingly hot ball in the sky can either literally burn us to death or warm and sustain us. And then I realized its potential had more to do with our intentions for its heat than the heat itself.

A few days ago I made a choice to see the sun as a warming hand (perhaps the benevolent invisible hand) guiding the food system and biosphere I was tending rather than a blazing fire pistol burning away my chance at working the land. I wanted to work with the sun rather than against it to save my little piece of the garden. I reminded myself while walking in from the larger of the two gardens that nature and this enormously complex natural energy system was simply tending the land as I hoped to. So, I stepped back, bowed to the man waiting at the door and walked in out of the heat. I was saving myself and the land some badly needed time to reflect on the past day and strategize a way to save more garden space. I thought all this before stepping into a cool outdoor shower to wash the dirt from my hands and face, but not before it had its chance to make a garden out of my body.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Out of sight but hardly out of mind

Walking the aisles of Gaea's Garden farm you notice things. Movements around your feet and ankles, birds flashing down from the canopy overhead only a few feet away from you, or a jack rabbit dashing swiftly off opposite your direction, you realize you are not alone in the jungle of green surrounding you. Feeling anything but vulnerable to this mysterious place, you feel dynamic and human. As much as I don't want to come off as a green snob blaming industrial society for all our dis-eases, I do believe that a palpable connection to the earth is a life-changing relationship with great potential benefits. After all, modern industry has all but taught humans that through innovation we can achieve more than earth, or perhaps whichever god that created earth, imagined possible. (Do you know the legend of Hercules and Antaeus?)

Spending a short time in the orchard leaves you feeling curious to what exactly is moving or growing by your feet. So, you bend down and have a better look. Curiously you find that what many people might have referred to as grass in a past urban life, is actually tens of different varieties of grass with a life and history of their own. Think of it, a small seed falls from the flowering heights of a weed grass and drifts through the air, coasting on it's hair-like wings, until coming to rest somewhere down the row. If the seed is 'lucky' it will have fallen in a fortuitous position (it's all about location, location, location) where after time it will be covered, root, and sprout from it's base to take on life and it's wild course. But, of course, only time will tell. Ahhh, the wonder! God is in the small things.

It is impossible not to see the interconnections of nature and our human lives. Stories of heroics, bravery, and love with themes to match any of our races greatest storytellers happen outdoors. In the orchards of our farms, and the backyards of our cities alike, nature speaks our language of survival and deceipt. But, are we open to listening? The next time you get an urge to hear a great and genuine story, find yourself a garden to walk through and wonder to yourself what is moving about my feet? I hope your imagination is powerful. And while your at it, ask yourself what man would do in order to have the power to grow energy from his body?

Intro: Chemistry

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A room of his own: life under an olive

Most mornings I spend a long and therapeutic half an hour walking the periphery of the garden to see how the plants have faired through the night. Stretching my back, I'll bend to look at the green tips sprouting from the ground. From small seedlings reaching from the ground only a few inches to towering vines of green going to flower, each plant responds to the morning light in their own way. And like the plants I wake up and slowly shed my dreamy imagination. A natural man living amongst a natural kiwi forest watching out for God. Living here you hear often that out in the kiwis is where God is lurking. I dont know what to believe. Regardless though, certainly living here I have found myself thinking in a more spiritual fashion than ever before. It seems that once I made connection with this place, time and space as concepts have become almost dependent on life spawning from my fingertips. Placing seeds smaller than pintips that will grow to be as big as me. I can't help but find metaphorical power in the process on this farm.

Most of these early April mornings I have been spending at least an hour in the orchard weedeating around the base of the trees. While this might sounds like a simple and haphazard exercise of running a machine through the low grasses of the orchard , sometimes it takes on mythic proportions of stewardship. Walking down the long aisles of trees surrounded by green, I feel centered and powerful. Focused and silent like so many million farmers before me, I take on the task of protecting this majestic land. Protecting and thereby surviving by the breast of the earth; this is the most salient point and power of natural beauty. In our uniquely ego-centric worlds, many humans are convinced of their supermacy to all others, but once I am confronted by the perseverance of the land's bounty I realize a personal existentialism.

Silence is one of the most potent affordances here in rural California. Whereas in an urban environment we all have countless stimulaes, here I have fewer intrusions into my minds space. After working for 6-7 hours in a day I will retreat to the northern end of the farm and sit with a couple books and just think and reflect on ideas, themes, and myths, and the ways I live them every day.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Fast Food Graduate Turns Slow Food Worker

As inevitable as eating food is until a short time ago I never put much thought to the role food played in my life. Whether under the supervision of my parents, my community, or my university, the cultural, political, and environmental facets of the food I put into my body seemed a distant and irrelevant part of the food chain far from the end I occupied. Simply put, I was indifferent to the world of food. But recently I have been talking, thinking, and working around food every chance I get. First at a local coop in Philadelphia (at the encouragement of my mother), then at an organic food coop on my university campus, and now on an organic farm in Northern California. To say the least, my journey has been full of what most peoples life is comprised of: love, hate, and confusion. The only difference is I live those emotions out on a farm. Every morning I wake up looking out my east-facing window to see the sun climbing; its rays pulling my eyelids up and I feel love. Waking up with the sun leaves me feeling ready to work with the earth to create what we all inevitably need: food. In other words, using the power of the sun and the earth to energize my mind and body, I can cultivate energy for others.

Apart from working and learning to operate and tend a farm, I look forward to investigating and exploring the natural systems of life all around me. Whether it be my food and the ground it grew from or my own body I hope to see more clearly the infrastructure of the biosphere I inhabit and the infrastructure of the biosphere that is my mind and body. Recently it dawned on me, if 'you are what you eat' and I have no hint as to how my food is produced, how much do I really know about myself?

Having graduated college 3 months ago I found myself with most of the same questions about food and a golden opportunity to get to know the rest of my food system better; first hand. Amazingly, with my newfound experiences I have found myself with all new sets of questions regarding the way I had been eating/living and how some of my favorite foods were created; sometimes by scientists rather than a gardener or a butcher. Needless to say, my journey on the farm may have begun 2 months ago but it stretches far into my past and my future.