Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Losing the plot. Finding a new one.

“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

I've been thinking a lot lately about what I'm doing here. Not in terms of my day-to-day functionality -- I have a 'to do' list two pages long that keeps me on track there. But the bigger picture, zoom out/wider lens framing. 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?" The kind of thinking that happens when you're trying to write a book and you're faced (every damn day) with the question, "What's my story?"

I moved to the farm six years ago 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."

He also writes about our cultural refusal to confront reality: "We're facing the death of the planet and nobody's panicking?... There's a line in a book by Eduardo Galeano that, "The legislature voted that reality doesn't exist." Congress is debating climate change this year. They're going to vote that reality doesn't exist. The narcissism in this culture kills me. It kills everyone."

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?

I've created a place of refuge from the world but one that is small and separate from the community that I long to connect with. This place is becoming an expression -- an extension -- of me but it could be so much more than that. But that takes letting people in, opening myself up, becoming vulnerable.

Admitting that I don't know what I'm doing. But I'm doing it anyway.

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" (or conversely "not enough") I can feel my wings stretching. Then I fly.


a little crafty nest said...

Dearest Fiona...I love this. And I hear you loud and clear, from our little teeny weeny parcel of 5 acres out in BC. But you speak from your heart, which echoes my own sentiments, so I thank you for your voice. Keep allowing it to be heard...keep being strong to your Self. And above all else, stretch those wings and leap!
xo Jules

Mama Pea said...

'Tis true you don't have all the answers (Oh, Piffle! None of us do.) but you are following your heart while offering much to others with your intellect. I know the path you are currently following is a difficult one. I admire you SO much.

So good to see a post from you! Sending love and hugs.

Susan said...

The one thing you should never stop doing is writing. You have too much talent to not keep at it.

David said...

Fiona, wow, so much emotion. Passion, hurt, uncertainty are all parts of the life journey. Some decisions in life make us feel awesome and others .... not so much. The only path to follow in life is our own. Mine was filled with tragedy along the way with a divorce and a death of a spouse. Why does it happen? Don't have any answers for that one. I started life on a country farm, departed from it for a 41 year career in technology, and returned to the land in my retirement years. Looking back I wish I had followed my passion of country living and not followed my world culture desire to earn money. Hang tight to those friends and relationships that are encouraging to your passions and keep those that drag you down at a distance.

Your description of how you moved to the land and over time became part of it touched me with agreement. My land is small (2/3 acre) and two other parcels all in the city make me an urban farmer. Do I influence large groups of people that will change the world? I seriously doubt I really influence anyone outside of the neighborhood. Out of those in the urban neighborhoods, half think that I'm just a crazy old coot and the other half just laugh and shake their heads at the so last century way I do things. So now I move forward and follow what's in my heart.

Writing a book is tough with so much trauma happening in life. I would encourage you to journal daily about the emotion, decisions, uncertainty, or anything else that comes up on this path of life. The book will come probably later but now is the time to record all of life's memories to revisit when the time is right for book writing. You probably already know all this.

My prayers are still coming your way. Have the best day that you can.

Buttons Thoughts said...

Oh Fiona this is so well written and I would so buy your book. Your thoughts echo my own when I was young but as life took its toll my believes although still there had to bend and sway to survive though I still hold them close..
My farm is not part of me I am truly part of my farm just as much as those trees and rocks that have been here part of the people that have survived and are now long gone from this same plot of land. Those people who had to struggle more than I in their lives but I have felt the pains and the joys and accomplishments they did but there was no escaping the struggles you just kept going because honestly that is all you can do. It gets easier so they say and as I age I find that but owning the land and the land owning you will always be filled with joy and heartache as long as you choose to work it. I would not trade any of my experiences but I am glad the fears and traumas seem to lessen over the years. Take care Fiona and keep writing. I wish I had of started much younger. Hug B

Tim D said...

I love the honesty and emotion embedded in your writing. I admire at how seamless the words meld together. I admire what you do. And that you have doubts, are uncertain. I am glad that you are my friend Fi.

Look forward to seeing you sometime soon!


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