I thought she was suggesting sending me to a farm where I could run free with other burnt out young professionals, like the fabled family dog. But she was in fact referring to a farm in Northern California where her daughter was living and working. She suggested I take some time off and visit. Her daughter was more than welcome to the idea, and after an airplane flight and stop at the thrift store to pick up work clothes, I found myself in a place where the heat hugged instead of smothered and I was surrounded by evergreen soldiers for miles.
For almost a week, myself and seven others lived in the rhythm with the earth. We woke with the sun, rested with the animals, and worked with the crops to harvest and plant. I was most often barefoot in the kitchen, preparing meals with ingredients that came within a few acres of the house. Butternut squash and granny smith apple soup, tomatillo sauce and potato enchiladas with handmade tortillas, lacto-fermented jalapeños using the whey from the goat cheese I had made earlier. Mealtime was a chorus of thank you’s back and forth. Sometimes, if it was early enough, after dinner we’d go back out to the acres and tend to the crops.
As I came down off the mountain, I tried to gather all of my memories and lessons in my head. I’ve crumpled back into my city life in the Northwest and my shoulders tighten when I think of my habits—mindless consumption, convenience, isolation. We live in a world of boundless imagination, creativity, purpose, and potential. Why was I not partaking? Why was I not contributing? What was my intention?
Mindfulness and communion take time and energy, things I was convinced I did not have enough of. In reality, I was making choices that limited my time and energy, and therefore my happiness and satisfaction. For example, two things I enjoy immensely are singing and cooking. By choosing to snap shut in my iPod isolation on the rushed bus ride home, pick up a frozen pizza at the grocery store (from the natural food section, but still), and cook and eat it while refreshing Facebook, I’ve limited my chances to savor and enjoy anything. Instead, I make the choice to walk home and spend some time in unfiltered air, stop at the co-op to see and talk with the familiar faces of the cashiers and pick up ingredients, take everything to my tiny kitchen, put on some music and sing while I prepare myself a meal made from whole foods. The meal is a joy to make, a treat to eat, and the energy I get from the locally sourced, organic produce is beyond anything that comes wrapped in cardboard and plastic. I feel satisfied and motivated to do it all again the next day.
The choices I make are not novel, they’re natural. And people all over the world are making the same choices. This blog is a series of meditations and interviews on intentional living and creative consumption. There is a spirit that is driving us to be active and conscious, to connect with each other and ask questions. Recent fiscal years have taught us that the status quo isn’t working, and only a select few win if you play the game right. What are the alternatives, and why do they have to be considered “alternative”?
Do you have ideas? Stories? Questions? Email me and let's talk. I have no answers, only habits I am trying to get into to make my eco footprint a little smaller, my life a little richer. Let's work together if you're doing the same.