Marching Forward

Wondering what is happening at Open Way? So am I. This March we’ve planted our high tunnel, started thousands of seeds, pulled blackberry cane, hauled apple tree trimmings, hosted Equinox and full moon gatherings, collected sap, gathered eggs, and dyed and hid eggs later to be found by small children. We’ve worked and played, feasted and toiled, all for the good of our families, our community, and hopefully, of the land itself.

DSCN0121And even with all of this work, I am wondering what is happening at Open Way. We are planting in a hot high tunnel, with no snow on the ground, and it’s 40+ degrees outside almost daily. We are collecting sap on days that barely see frost. A part of me feels like we are working in a world turned upside down by climate shifts and too-soon springs. We are meant to have days below freezing coming up, but I’m skeptical.

And even with this awareness, I am wondering what is happening at Open Way. As we continue to start each piece of our vision for community and farm, and live into the service of offering hospitality to activists seeking respite and healing on the land, I feel like we are starting as children, naïve and hopeful. I am looking to the land to teach me, and I feel like I don’t even know how to listen!

As a white person, one of the things I feel acutely is that the traditions of connecting with the land, listening and responding, making sense of the wisdom there, have been lost many generations ago. Instead, white folks made up the Cartesian split, where thinking legitimizes being, where body is cast down, where what is valued is what is abstract. I come from a long line of folks running from their bodies, from the vicissitudes of living and dying, and guess what, none of them could do it– they all lived in their bodies, and they all died in their bodies.

So what am I to do, in wanting to learn from the land, with next to no language for it, next to no fluency in this cross- being communication?

A lot of what I am exploring looks like made up shit, to be honest. We participate in what some folks call Reclaiming paganism, and what we call eclectic and earth- and justice-based. In an attempt to not participate in the time honored traditions from  white supremacy of appropriation or Columbusing, we end up engaging in what someone from my academic days would call nascent ritual– ritual we make up as we go along, symbols and meanings that emerge from the weird amalgam of a collective unconscious and a shared discovery in the moment.

Our first full moon ritual in Vermont, this past week, consisted of using sage to cleanse, invoking the spirits with catcalls and animal sounds to welcome the directions on the compass, and charging (read as focusing energy and intention) seeds we planted in peat pots with hopes for the coming season. Then we raised energy by letting tones come through us, spontaneously, in our living room, with my children watching. It’s weird and awkward, though not only weird and awkward. It can also be transporting, grounding, and inspiring–  and it’s the best chance I feel I have to move into wakefulness with my body, and connect with the land.

I am also learning from other teachers. Enroue Owa Halfkenney teaches about ancestor worship for all folks, regardless of race or cultural identity. I participated in a public workshop in November where he called for white folks to imagine their ancestors, to picture an ancestor in our minds, even if we have no idea who they are, being connected to their bodied and landed wisdom. I imagined a woman in a hovel in the Ukraine, wearing a babushka and sweeping out the backyard, singing and speaking with her plants. And Dr. Darya Funches has given me some tools to help me open this channel with the land. The central act is of a daily offering to the land, with no expectation or conversation. Just offering. The land deserves this from me, who has benefited already so much in these less than 3 years I have been here.

So what is happening with Open Way? The humans are busy. The seeds are being planted, and many are germinating. But the land of Open Way? The real center of this work and weaving we are building, daily? I’m not so sure. When I find out, I’ll be sure to share what I learn.

February’s Vicissitudes

This month, though only a few days gone, is a hard one. The hoped for piles of snow are missing. The promise of spring is far off. The promise of time and energy and sun is only beginning to be realized. Just today Norman remarked, Wasn’t it just last week that it was getting dark at 4 pm? The days are getting longer.

February second, for many, marks Imbolc, or Brigid’s Day. In the earth-based traditions I have affinity with, this day is really about the plan for the future. Our faith in the changing seasons marks the decision to plant seeds. Our sense of spring’s inevitability makes these mid- to late winter sputters survivable. Or does it?

We’ve perused the food porn– what I call the lovely seed catalogs and websites of my favorites, Johnny’s, High Mowing, Fedco. We’ve made our seed order.  We are starting to plan our beds, build our seed starting space, are thinking of planting peas in the high tunnel. And yet. And yet.

DSCF1955I find that in February I often doubt myself the most. The fear of being a fraud, of being unskilled or misbegotten, or ridiculous, is strongest in February. And I am afraid to see it, to know it to be true. February finds me alternately drowning in online media or diving into the woods, searching for something besides my feeling body.

And I don’t know why I do this. Tonight, I gathered with five other women in our community space. We are taking a class together, looking at the history of the rise of capitalism, and its inextricable links to the devastation of the destruction of women’s knowledge and power through the witch burnings in Europe and USA. Tonight we tried to imagine ourselves back to a time where we were those strong women, caught in the vicissitudes of land enclosures and the development of the money system. We looked at the deep feeling bodies of our ancestors. And we survived it.

Not only did we survive it, but again, and again I forget this every time– it helped me, for a time, to feel connected and at ease. I know this so deeply, and deeply forget it every time– when we look at hard things, when we let ourselves feel the truth of our histories, the truth of ourselves– it helps to make things possible.

This is the vicissitude of February. That we remember and forget our power, our truths. That we dive and drown. That we plan and despair, and keep on going.

And then, March arrives.

Visiting the Vision

Starting to blog in earnest on this site means I am putting my personal blog on the back-burner. I am not willing to let it go entirely, but I will try my best to add content here pertinent to the work of Open Way, and the learnings from life on the land and in the spaces I find myself.

I looked through my old posts, and thought to at least share the posts that are tagged farming. Here’s the link:

I will copy the post about the vision for this place below. Here we go. One step closer to this called and precarious life. What life is calling to you, this year?

————- 2/10/2014 Open Way Farm: the Plan—————–

From the wilds of a north-central Vermont winter, we are dreaming of peas. Dreaming of chickens, high tunnels, functional barns and farm stands. Dreaming of bright air and seasons long growth. We are dreaming, and we are planning.

I just completed round one of a business plan, projecting out three years for the farm, and projecting further in visioning the long terms potential for this land and community. Lucky for me, I have nine folks out there in the world who are looking at it and critiquing it in the next few weeks. I did ask them, but they could have said no, so I am lucky, and grateful.

What’s in this plan? The biggest aspect of the plan is tobegin the financial engine of our be full of log jams, confusions, failures, and unexpected turns in the road.

And each turn will be towards a long term sustainability, or at least that’s the plan.

But I know that plans are meant to be thwarted and thrown in the trash heap along with all the will and certainty of homestead and small market farm, and to ground that engine in this good earth and space. These first years will vision, in the face of the following that is required of me. I have decided very specifically that I am following God(ess) and the impulses and leadings within me, if meeting my joy and the world’s need, are part of that plan.
This is a hard won belief and decision. To listen to my self, my self in relief, in reflection, in impulse and push, is not an easy thing, and not something I have always, or mostly trusted. But I’m here, working it out. I refuse to mock my desire, the movement within myself. I refuse to be suspicious of myself any longer.

This does not mean I do not plan, however! In some early board work, I remember being introduced to the article The Tyranny of Structurelessness. This article drove home what I had been experiencing in many small community based groups of which I was a part. The resistance to structure within groups leads to impotence and solipsism. It also leads to a lack of accountability and a sense of disconnection to a greater context or work. It also means you don’t get anything done.

So I attempt to put a structure on what can feel like a structureless call to the wilds of the broken world, my heart reaching out to express a desire for connection with the earth, with broken and hard working movement builders, with sustainability and self-sufficiency as teacher and muse. I put numbers on start up costs, though they feel like a lot of conjecture. I made a list of goals and plans. I wrote a 25 year visioning statement.

I was surprised at just how specific I could get. Residencies for burnt out activists. Community gatherings and events around the cycles of farm and season. Connections with urban organizations needing space to send leaders and workers for respite. Niche markets or CSA membership, or value added products, or, or…..

There’s a lot of possibility when we vision. It’s powerful, and potentially paralyzing. And it needs to be tested, I need to test my vision, against the good minds of folks I respect and care for. I also need to take my vision to the feet of the woodlands, to the feet of God(ess), to the space where I am both powerful and vulnerable, and where I must listen.

I am sometimes good at this, and sometimes too caught up in my own self-importance to stop and do this important work. The good news, I find in this inconsistency, is that no matter what I do lessons and shifting happens. I cannot control what will happen, despite any expertise or best efforts. In fact, trying to do that leads to a lot of pain. And so I act, I plan, I build, and I know it is just as much an inchoate cry as the unformed vision welling up in me. And yet, it suffices, and things progress.

So again I find myself holding possibility and uncertainty, but this time looking at cash-flow numbers and risk analysis. Is it any different from holding these two headed hydra without the numbers? No, in fact, it is not. I am glad for the numbers, as an anchor to what will be happening in the next weeks and months. I am also glad for the years of work to get here, and the listening I make space for, or that is forced upon me, by the closeness I seek with the world, with the land, and with God(ess).

Bring it on, world. I am ready.