Friday, October 30, 2009

Rethinking family: Living Communally

A big part of the Abundant Table Farm Project is simply this: being (living, working, sharing, eating, cooking, cleaning, driving, meeting, enjoying, singing, communicating, crying, stressing, fearing, waking, pausing) together.

And, as you all know, intentionally doing all that together takes time, energy, and

....much love, forgiveness, and grace.

It's a beautiful thing. Here's some fotografias.
The Oxnard Farmers' Market

Early rise for the busiest day so far: CSA, Farmers' Market, Volunteer Orientation, Farm Stand, etc!

Ojai Folk Music Hootenanny

Picking up Erynn and the goods before delivery

Meeting with Farmer Paul with Food Share in the background

Sarah Nolan giving us some needed harvesting training

Dinner at "Our Beach"

The kiddos come to visit: Pizza, Hide n Seek, dance party

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Meet your field!

I spent some time today spraying alone in the field. Right before I left for the field I went to grab my ipod, which was charging in my computer. I failed to notice, when I plugged my ipod into my computer, that my computer was, in fact, not on. So, my ipod had not charged. I enjoy listening to music and NPR in the field, so I was slightly miffed. But, the sun was setting, my mood was pleasant, and I was looking forward to alone time in the field.

Walking and spraying in silence in the field gave me some time to realize that our 10 acres have sections with distinctive personalities! So let me introduce you to your field...

Section D rows 44-23. These are the front rows closest to our farmhouse. They are the warm, wonderfully fitting sweater rows. We know them, we love them, and even though sometimes we didn't give them the attention we should have, they are so good to us in return. This was the first section planted, before the interns had moved in. We loved seeing everything sprout and waited excitedly for things to come up we recognized. I have a particular affection for this section, because it welcomed me into farming. This section revealed what bean sprouts look like. The bean plants in turn showed me how they flower and turn into seed pods. I got to see how bean plants produce-prolifically. Even when the bean plant is uprooted those bean pods amazingly continue to form and grow. I know everything in this section: beans, squash varieties, spinach, arugula, ruby lettuce, romaine, beets, and cilantro. Some of the lettuces have lived a life cycle and will tilled under. This section also gave me a crash course on insects-the good, the bad, and the disgusting. Section D rows 44-23 and I have been through a lot together. I hacked the spinach here before I knew how to cut it properly. It showed me that stinging nettle has a very literal name that should be heeded. All we've been through together and this section is still producing some beautiful produce.

Section D rows 22-1 Ah yes, the thinking section. Compared to his neighbor section, the aforementioned section, this section only started producing recently. Before it started producing I'd be in this section and look over at neighbor D, growing and producing like crazy, and think, "all right already, let's get growing." It wasn't planted much after the other rows in D and I started imagining reasons for its delayed growth. I'd picture the carrots and broccoli trying so hard to pop up out of the ground with their arms crossed and brows furrowed in concentration. Then I pictured them little academics calculating the perfect time to pop up. At least the carrots have completed their calculations-they've all popped through the ground at the same time! It is also important to note there is a mini-jungle in the thinking section. Four rows of corn. Corn, to me, is a section (jungle) within a section. It makes me nervous and I don't go in there. After the corn, there are some rows of fennel, calendula (edible flowers), and cucumbers. While I am much more comfortable in these rows now, for a long period of time this area repelled me a bit. Fennel and calendula? Yeah, do you know what those are? And cucumbers, well they just look weird growing-although they've grown on me, but you'll have to wait to section C row 22 to find out why...

Section C rows 44-23. The workhorse section. In this section there are 16 rows dedicated to tomatoes (8 rows of actual plantings, but they bush out and need a row spaced in between). This is as close to "mono-crop farming" as we come. These tomatoes, as all mono-crops appear to be to me, are like incredible workhorses. Just rows of tomatoes, coming up, moving up and out, going, spreading, continuing. All working in unison, getting it done. The tomatoes are followed by green onions. Here, I get the sensation of a high note in an orchestra. The tomatoes are trombones-deep, continuous; and the green onions are these whimsical green stalks shooting out of the ground-flutes hitting sharp high notes!

Sections C rows 22-1 The surprising section. The second part of the front half (the B and A section) are empty beds (ha, the land of opportunity!), so this section is then end of the front section. I rarely went down here until recently-all the work was in the other parts. But, now that I am spending more time here, I am surprised at how this stuff just crept up on us and grew! Just weeks ago I swear this section was half empty and now it has taken off, grown, and is producing! What a surprise! Also, in this section I discovered cucumbers creeping into the basil and climbing up the basil stalks! Now, before cucumbers were creepy with their spreading vines sprawling across dirt. But not in the basil! No, the cucumbers were just looking for friends. Seriously, it looked like the cucumbers were just leaning on the basil, spreading some love, draping an arm in friendship. Seeing this changed my cucumber world. Surprising.

Next week. We meet the back part of the field. dun, dun, dunnn....

Thursday, October 22, 2009

domestic violence awareness month at the farm

Our Program Coordinator, Sarah Nolan, just informed me that the majority of farmers out there are women even though we often think of the guy-farmer. Certainly, this is the case on our farm. We are five women living on a farm, and we are learning how to farm day by day. First the planting, then the weeding, then the pest control, then the harvesting, and then the cooking.

Our bodies are growing stronger are our hearts....because the most basic part of our work is learning to respect the earth from which we came -- our Mother Earth. It's a very basic concept: we live in a world that encourages hierarchical dualism where the rational mind, the male, quantity, heaven ... over the heart, the female, quality/relational, and the earth/nature. It makes sense to me that after 5000 or more years of this way of thinking, us human beings have forgotten to respect the earth and the food that comes from it. And, you can see where I'm going, we've lost respect for women along the way.

Over this last month, which just happened to be Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I've been called to recognize and pay attention to DV in the lives of our community members here at the farm. My own home culture NEVER talks about DV, but I've cultivated a Break the Silence sub-culture around me with my work at the Sexual Assault Crisis Agency and Interval House ( the Women's Resource Center at CSU, Long Beach (

Nevertheless, I'm surprised with how frankly and openly DV is spoken of here in the culture of Ventura County. No hush, no nada -- it just is and happens often and people are tired of it, so they talk about it a lot. The stories I've heard -- of growing up with an angry and abusive father and/or husband -- have just floored me, and in the midst of the discussions, I've cried.

BUT! something about respecting the earth that I am working with has given me HOPE! (as is our Non-Violent Communication Workshops!) My relationship with the land is becoming a prayer that change is and that in my relationships, we can manifest our dream of a world without hierarchy, without privilege, without oppression. A community where love is valued more than power and relationships and empathy is given more attention than control and production.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

the grass is always greener...

I’ve heard people say, “the good is the enemy of the best” as an encouragement not to compromise standards for the sake of what is easy or convenient. While this may be helpful in making big life choices, I’m finding the opposite to be true in the more mundane decisions. Sometimes the idea of perfection can be the enemy of the good. Our inability to get things just right in our lifestyle choices can prevent us from the “good” of the slow turning towards something more whole.

So lest you think we are living in a perfect carbon-neutral-free-range-fair-trade-dolphin-safe bubble...the dubious beginnings of our backyard garden:

Lawns are bad. They suck up a lot of water and take up space that could be used more productively for oh, say, growing plants or something. The Farmhouse backyard has one such lawn behind it, and we decided to turn it into a great space for doing backyard gardening workshops and experimenting with different seed varieties for Farmhouse consumption.

There is only one problem. The lawn. It is kikuya grass, which is particularly difficult to get rid of. Suggestions for removing it included taking out several inches of the backyard with a Bobcat, or covering the lawn with a layer of cardboard followed by a layer of compost and continuing to fight against the pernicious grass for years.

In the end, we chose Roundup. Yes, Roundup, made by Monsanto (the Big Bad Wolf of all things agricultural, or at least one of them). We did our homework and learned that Roundup only affects things with chlorophyll in them and becomes inert when it hits any non-chlorophyll substance. So it won’t be seeping into the groundwater or poisoning Oliver or the chickens. But still – there’s nothing organic about Roundup.

And we’re finding there’s nothing simple about trying to live in a way that is conscious of the wellbeing of the earth and other people. There are trade-offs on our grocery list – paying twice as much for organic milk isn’t worth it, but maybe a few extra dollars for a bag of local onions rather than a sack shipped from Peru, is. We got nine chicks to lay eggs and eat food scraps and bugs in the back yard, but having a 90% guarantee that they are hens meant that their brothers were likely ground up alive. The salads we eat for lunch have almost no carbon footprint, but two of us are flying to Chicago tomorrow to spend a long weekend with friends.

I share these things both for the sake of transparency and as an encouragement. Even living on a farm with like-minded people and the support of a close community committed to living simply and sustainably we don’t get it all perfect. Not even close. We’re making tough calls, but there is a sense of excitement and hope as well, because we are committed to the slow turning towards something more whole.

The Circle of Life

Recently, one of our CSA subscribers (thank you, Dr. Huff!) generously gave us a big scoop of his red wriggler worms, and I started a vermicompost, or a worm compost. After our Sunday night Abundant Table service, I tried to convince some of the kids that my worms are just as exciting as Sarah's chickens (the kids always visit the chicks before leaving). When they looked into the bin full of decomposing vegetables crawling with worms, they weren't convinced. Then I suggested we take each chick a little wriggling surprise...
What followed was a fun half hour of "ewww!"s and "okay, let me try one...", and wonderful child questions like, "How do worms chew and swallow?" Thus we learned about the circle of life... an safely unsanitary educational experience that I tried to replicate in the pictures and videos below:

1. We fill our vermicompost bin with fruit and vegetable scraps, egg shells, and shavings from the cleaning the chicks' box

2. Worms eat chicken shavings and scraps

3. Selecting a choice morsel

4. Chickens, meet your food!*

From our "slogan:"
"Meet your planet.
Meet your farmers.
Meet your food."

Friday, October 16, 2009

When in Rome

Ignorance is bliss. We've been having great fun throwing around idioms, aphorisms, and other sometimes salty phrases in discussions and conversations where the phrases make absolutely no sense at all. While our guests and visitors are bewildered why "when in Rome" could be so funny yet entirely nonsensical, we sisterfriends laugh with glee as only those privy to an inside joke can.

But there is nothing amusing about blissful ignorance. It is brain frying, frustrating, maddening, and exhausting to be shaken out of a blissful state of ignorance. I am learning, experiencing, and meeting folks who help build my knowledge and understanding of literally everything related the areas of spirituality, religion, ethical resource consumption, organic farming, family farming, industrial farming, chicken farming, cow farming, living more sustainably, creating community, fostering justice, and last but not least trying to build a website. The more I learn about these subjects, the more I realize I have been scratching the surface of these areas. I am feeling overwhelmed trying to become as informed as possible when doing very simple, mundane things like buying eggs.

It's not a sense of "oh, so much to learn, so little time." It is way, way deeper than that. It is realizing there is no clear right choice, wrong choice. The difficulty is the gray. The grayness of knowing there are endless sides and consequences to an idea, choice, and argument. The more I look for truth or the answer the more I realize there is no one truth or answer. Daunting.

I am thinking about the imagery I've heard lately of the spider web versus the ladder. Climbing up the ladder means we get to the top-truth!-but where to now? In the spider web, there is the center and I am making my way to the center-discovering, learning, experiencing my way to a center. Right now, in my mind the center is where this "knowledge quest" stops feeling so disconcerting. I also like the spider web because once we find our center, it doesn't mean we stay. We experience things things that will undoubtedly shake us from our center, but the quest will always bring us back, I suppose.

Ah, blogging. I am feeling better already. Ok, I'm just trying to find my way back to my center. I was feeling frustrated after a conversation this morning about the myriad of complex choices that go into grocery shopping. I'm also feeling frustrated because I sprayed out in the field for the first time today. I didn't have the strap fastened properly and the spraypack kept sliding off my back. I was so irritated I didn't know how to fix it. I was even more irritated when Sarah showed me how to easily fasten it.

But, hey man, I'm just journeying to my center. I'm just going to take this journey one day at a time.

Our first video. Come see.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The beginning of new things

As you probably know, it's our first week of official CSA work! YES!
We are 35 or so subscribers strong, and the energy on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday (our CSA days!) is glorious! With so much pride, we harvest the cilantro, basil, lettuces, and all that goodness, and lovingly put it in the boxes!

Yet another new beginning to start next week is our week at the Camarillo and Oxnard Farmers' Markets. Eager to barter and meet the community, we've been making sure everything is ready.

We've even been practicing a bit at our own corner market stand.

Nevertheless, it's the simple pleasures that encourage me to continually be present where I am -- like harvesting these golden beans in my grandfather's old mechanic coveralls with my grandmother's sunhat I used to wear on the NM ranch.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

something different

Lately I've been reading Bill McKibben's book Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future. His central argument is that the affluent West's single-minded pursuit of economic growth and increased efficiency is making us unhappy and the planet sick. In support of the former claim, McKibben cites a wide body of research showing that the dramatic increase in wealth in the US has also resulted in greater isolation and unhappiness. People are part of fewer groups, know their neighbors less frequently, and move more often. New homes are designed with a premium on privacy, making even contact between family members less frequent.

What we're doing here is different, and baffling to some folks. I tried to count how many people we've hosted at the Farm in the last week and lost track somewhere around 60 - people who have come for meetings and meals, to teach us and to learn, to break bread and pull carrots out of the ground. They've stayed for a few minutes or a few days, and some have been so excited about what's going on here that they've brought friends back to see it. They've left gifts and artwork and junk food that we wouldn't buy ourselves (but secretly love to eat anyway), and yes, sometimes dirty dishes. And they've all taken part in something rare and so needed these days - the formation of community.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

On Land and Home

Some mornings when I'm working in the fields, I listen to books on tape. This morning, I was listening to "The Lemon Tree," by Sandy Tolan. The book delves into the history of the Israel-Palestine conflict through the inter-twining stories of a Bulgarian Jewish family and a Palestinian family. One of the most wrenching themes of the history is the fact that while one family, representing the scattered Jewish people, arrives in what they see as their homeland after 2,000 years and much persecution, another family, representing the Palestinian people, is forcibly displaced from this very same home.

At one point, Tolan describes how Israeli armies are ordered to burn fields that cannot be harvested so that the Palestinian farmers will not return. As I staked tomatoes, I tried to imagine what it would be like to see our crops destroyed by mass arson - the eight CSA boxes that we just filled with produce, this blossoming tumble of tomato leaves and stems that took me most of the morning to twine up, our ripe cucumbers and corn, my favorite purple beans... all that time, labor, and something more, too. Wartime acts of destruction reveal, in a way, the worth of land as more than the "sum of its parts." Among other things, agricultural land represents a people's means to sustain themselves, their commitment to a place, and a peaceful existence.

Agriculture's connection to peace and permanence go way back. In Christian scriptures, the first agriculturalist mentioned, Cain, murders his brother and is cursed to wander the earth with the added punishment of land that will not yield a harvest when he works the ground (Genesis 4:1-14). This pronouncement (and Cain's legendary parents' sad track record) seems to point to the Creator's disappointed intentions for humans. The ability to enjoy the earth's abundance and to reside permanently in the location of production and provision seems to be an elusive blessing throughout scripture's story of God's people. Throughout their enslavement in foreign lands, desert wanderings, and the occupation of the land they thought was theirs, the promise remains that they will "build houses and dwell in them; they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit... [and] long enjoy the works of their hands" (Isaiah 65:21). Yet God's promise of home seems never to reach fulfillment, and the people continue in the ways of Cain.

A longing for Home is one of the main reasons that I joined this project (sensing that ancient connection between land and home). I've known something of Cain's restless wanderings myself after about 11 moves in 22 years. At nearly every house where my family lived, we planted a garden or at least a few fruits and veggies. I imagine a trail of produce following us around the world: pineapples in Indonesia, corn in Tennessee, peaches in central California... and here I am today, staking tomatoes in southern California, knowing that next year they'll probably be part of the produce trail. Sometimes all I want is the security of a true home, where I can deeply know and love the place and enjoy its fruits for an indefinite time.

My dear friends, Michael and Pamela, visited this last weekend from San Diego and, probably without knowing it, spoke some words of wisdom into my wonderings (and wanderings). They told me about the little garden they're planting together in their yard. Though no one would expect renters to care for the place aside from the most basic upkeep, my friends are dirtying their hands in ground that is not technically their "own." They only plan to live in the house they're renting for a year, yet they are poking seeds into the soil and patting into place the hope that their garden will be a gift to their neighborhood when they're no longer around to tend to it.

Hearing Pamela and Michael talk about their small act of planting a garden despite an unknown future made me think of our work here. So many of the returns, especially for our work connecting to the surrounding community, are unseen and involve a scary amount of trust in the next group of interns. I only know for sure that I'll be here until mid-summer next year, and may be gone when others harvest what we sow. Yet I believe this relatively short time of connecting to place and developing a home will last longer than my time here, and will be a part of something larger than itself.

In this way, our farm project, like my friends' garden planting, helps me understand what people mean when they talk about the kingdom, or commonwealth, of God. I think that these hopeful plantings are, literally, contributions to a kingdom that doesn't belong to me or anyone else and whose harvest I may never fully enjoy. These thoughts make me wonder if I will ever experience permanence in my lifetime, or a sense of home... but maybe, as I glimpse more and more how our work proclaims a converging reality, I'll somehow live out something of the "Promised Land" on the different plots of rented earth wherever I may live.


Monday, October 12, 2009


last night at the abundant table worship service, each of us present was asked to give our name and our favorite word (or number, for the mathematically minded). i had a very difficult time thinking of a word that i loved, that i used or sought to incorporate into conversation more than any other. i could not come-up with one, and based on that particular classification, my mind still draws a blank. however, i do think that there are words that speak to important themes in our lives, that illuminate inner struggles, longings, or hopes. one such word in my life at the moment is "sustenance," and i have lately been thinking about it in every sense of the word.
one of the definitions of sustenance is "the maintaining of someone or something in life or existence," which is what we're all about on the farm, on any farm. in our case, we are attempting to grow healthy, organic food that will hopefully aid in sustaining the physical wellness of our csa subscribers; those who buy our produce from the farm stand or at farmers market; paul, julie, emily, molly, and meghan; and the five of us. we're also attempting to aid in the physical sustenance of our plants, many of which are constantly suffering near-death experiences due to disease, virus, mildew, or insect attack. and within the house, we are sustaining each other relationally, and endeavoring to do so spiritually as well. clearly, there is quite a lot to wholistic sustenance in our lives.
physically, i have been well-sustained since the moment i arrived at the farmhouse. there is a surplus of healthy food, exercise, and clean air to keep my body in tip-top shape. i doubt that my body has ever been healthier or more "full of life." in my relationships, i am becoming more sustained daily as i become better acquainted with my sisterfriends, as i (slowly) make new friends in the community, and as i intentionally connect with my family and friends outside of ventura county. i am even making in-roads with myself (one of the relationships that i need to work on the most, but in the past have spent time on least). in these areas, i have felt truly sustained. that being said, lately i have not felt sustained spiritually. even in this community where we are trying to stay focused on god's presence in this work, i am finding it difficult to see god here. as the list of responsibilities increase, as task lists that began as a few lines now take-up pages and pages, as my calendar fills-up with farm and work related activities until christmas, i find myself forgetting to make a time and place to center on god, to pray, to witness god revealing godself in all of these activities that make-up the day to day. 
this weekend, i had two conversations that motivated me to re-prioritize my time, to look at my calendar, my schedule, and to center it not on tasks, but on sustenance, of which spirituality is so much a part. this project will come to an end if any one of us is not fully sustained. it was recommended that i walk through the farm not with a critical eye, not looking to see what needs to be done in order to repair this or that, how many more weeds need to be pulled, what new bugs have moved into the neighborhood, but rather with an eye of gratitude and wonder at what god has done.
walking. praying. hoping. listening. thanking. these are the things that so easily get lost when we allow work, even if it is such good work, to rule our lives. good work, i think, can be especially difficult because it never feels like a bad idea to be working on things that we care about. yet burnout can come, as it so often does, in such work because we cease to make time to be wholistically sustained. my hope, this week (and in the weeks and months to come), is to remember this deep need for spiritual sustenance and connection, and to not let the other aspects of sustenance come before time with and attention to god. god is the reason, and when we lose sight of the reason, the work becomes ultimately meaningless. i have never doubted god's presence in this project. it would be a shame to become so busy and distracted that i miss the experience of it.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


I'm learning a lot about sharing skills, gifts, and time these days. Part of this revolution is trusting, communicating, and...bartering. By bartering, I'm not meaning the 3rd stage of grief. No, in the context of the farm, bartering is all very positive.

For example, Casey exchanged our vegetables for this lovely pomegranate that I so enjoyed eating yesterday and today:

Sharing skills with our Ventura County family has also been great. Food Share came again this week to glean some radishes and arugula.

And, Arts for Action is helping us a make a PSA (public service announcement)!

These trusting, sharing relationships are so beautiful, and I'm so thankful to be here and now.

running contradiction

This evening Julie asked us to spend some time thinking about when in the last two months of being Abundant Table Farm Project interns we have felt most alive. For me, the answer is the times like this morning when I have been most conscious of being in balance, of having hit on the right combination of work, play, and rest. And finding that space here on the Farm has so much to do with the physicality of life here - weeding, harvesting, washing veggies, and then doing yoga to stretch out the resulting sore muscles. We've started to joke about telling our subscribers, "Don't join the gym, Join the Farm!" because we've all felt the benefits of our work in the 10 acres.

After spending four years in college generally ignoring my need for physical activity and sleep in favor of my need to finish papers and study for exams, I love spending part of every day working with my hands, and the chance to look back on a well-weeded row and feel an immediate sense of accomplishment. Still, I'm reminded every day I take a break from working on the 10 acres that the overly mind-oriented existence is not the only imbalance. I've continued taking runs in the neighborhood on my "days off", more because I enjoy it than for the exercise, and any direction I turn out of our driveway takes me past fields already full of farmworkers at 7 am. I'm self-conscious jogging by, knowing that even though I am working on a farm for this period of time, I come from a socioeonomic class that must schedule and even pay for physical activity to burn off extra calories. What a stark contrast to the hundreds of people I pass who are often valued for little more than their manual labor, the more machine-like the better.

The Farm is somewhere physically and metaphorically between the two worlds of only-head and only-hands, trying to create a space for both and conversations and eventually relationships between them. It is a space where people like me, who have never taken part in the work involved in growing food, can get used to having dirt under their fingernails, and a space also to honor those who feed this country and give them better access to its fruits. It is in this meeting place that I feel alive.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

And we're off!

Farmer Paul, Tasha, Erynn and Sarah load CSA boxes

Today, we launched our CSA* program! Our first week will be a free test run to our drop-off sites in Fillmore, Camarillo, Ventura, CSU Channel Islands, and here at the farm. Our boxes included: Bok choy, ruby red lettuce, radishes, cucumbers, green beans, spinach, zucchini, other summer squash, cilantro and basil. Yum! Did someone say it's SALAD time? After jubilantly filling the first 5 boxes for today's drop-off, we all sort dilly-dallied near the bins, not wanting to break from the excitement and from the inaugural box-filling activities. There was a lull in our energetic conversation, and someone suggested that we pray. So Julie, our priest and kind delivery-woman today, offered a spontaneous prayer for the inauguration of our CSA. It was one of those beautiful occasions in which a special but still "ordinary" activity is transformed and really feels blessed by God.

I'll end with a simple prayer I wrote after the occasion.

A prayer for the beginning of our CSA:

God, we are about to deliver these boxes
full of beans, lettuce, and squash.
We pray that You would fill them with less tangible goods, like:
Delight in a cucumber still warm from the sun,
fresh memories of meals enjoyed long ago, and
excitement to try a new vegetable, like an 8-ball squash
or some bok choy, and a load of creativity to cook it all up.

We pray that cooking this produce will bring together friends,
family and neighbors, and that the basic act of sharing food
will nourish growing relationships
as well as active bodies.

We ask that You will make it hard to waste
this food You provided, which we worked hard to harvest.
That people would treat their food with care,
because they in some way know the hands
that touched and picked their veggies, our hands.

Thank You that we get to be part of this miraculous production!
Please use this CSA and all our future boxes
in Your just distribution of daily needs,
increase the boxes and sustain us,
not for our profit, but that all who hunger may be fed.


*Definition: Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) consists in a community of individuals who pledge support to a farm operation with the growers and consumers providing mutual support and sharing the risks and benefits of food production. Members pledge in advance to cover the anticipated costs of the farm operation and farmer's salary. In return, they receive shares in the farm's bounty throughout the growing season.
Official Source: National Agricultural Library, NAL Thesaurus Staff

Friday, October 2, 2009

Church: The remix

Spirituality and religion have been two fairly separate things for me for some time.

Spiritual experiences generally fell under the realm of connection with the natural world, sometimes resulting in supernatural feelings of meaning and belonging. Paddling out in the ocean, feeling the salt seep into my pores, gentle waves rhythmically lapping my sturdy foam board, gulls calling. feeling small in an immense blue sea. With every stroke, I released a worry, fear, or insecurity feeling more at one with my world. Being at the top of Heavenly Mountain, gazing at a turquoise lake, feeling the weight of powdery snow in every crevice of my clothes, laughing at the sign marking the invisible divide between California and Nevada. Man, once again, attempting to create absurd borders in an infinite geographic landscape. Long road trips with best friends or strangers. Sharing so much of myself with another person I felt I was scraping at the surface of the core of myself.

Religious experiences were about obligation and gratitude. My best sense of being Catholic after 12 years of Catholic education was to serve others and attend mass to show thanks for all of God's works and sacrifices. Don't ask me what that means, I have no idea. My religious understanding in the the few years following high school was condensed into "the least you can do is go to church on Sunday." The few years after the few years after college, it was more like, "my mom and the nuns tried so hard to make me a good catholic, the least I can do it go to mass on Christmas and Easter." Good old fashioned Catholic guilt, mixed with a healthy dose of perceived hypocrisy and dishonesty in the church was not a recipe for a nourished, loving Catholic.

So what is the recipe for a nourished, loving Catholic? I'm not sure. But, I've decided to start thinking about what going to church should feel like, cause obligation and guilt aren't working for me.

How I've connected spirituality and religion

(Specifically what I think going to church should feel like, since I've been going regularly to The Abundant Table Sunday services)
  • Think more about religion as living with love, consciousness, and nonviolence, hey, like Jesus.
  • Stop compartmentalizing things-religion, spirituality, family, friends, work, play. Live with love and consciousness and watch how it melts boundaries and connects you to others.
  • While you are living in love and melting your boundaries, make a conscious effort to connect with other people who are living in the same way.
  • Once you have connected with these people see if you find yourself regularly supported and nourished with the words and actions of this group.
  • Realize the church is a community that supports and nourishes each other.
  • Realize your church IS the community where you nourish and are nourished, support and are supported.
  • Keep going.
I have found that with religious nourishment, my spiritual experiences are heightened. I am lucky because I am in a place that helps me break down some boundaries that have bound and compartmentalized me for some time. I am in a environment where work with the land reveals daily miracles, struggles, and mysteries. My work and home community are essentially one in the same, where I can share myself and the joys/struggles of my work. My spiritual community is my living community and the other members of the Abundant Table who's words are the salt in my life and work, enhancing their flavors and essence. Nurturing my spirtuality, my religion, myself.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Mindful and Relational Spirituality at the Farm

These are my words for the community: earth-respecting and holistic. By this,I mean something akin to what Barbara Kingsolver speaks to in her novel, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. She writes:

At its heart, a genuine food culture is an affinity between people and the land that feeds them. Step one, probably, is to live on the land that feeds them or at least on the same continent, ideally the same region. Step two is to be able to countenance the ideas of “food” and “dirt” in the same sentence, and three is to start poking into one’s supply chain to learn where things are coming from.

We like to compare ourselves to Kingsolver’s family, we five interns and the farmer’s family with the support of a small board of local Venturians have set out to eat, sleep, pray and love in the fertile soil of Ventura County, California. But, I say, there is something more!

Respecting and living with my complete self in the land also means understanding the “animate, interconnected, dynamic universe,” as Starhawk states in Earth Path. Yes! I believe we have a relationship with the earth as we do with each other as we do within ourselves.

It is good to live in the present and with one another.

In other news, Denise and I finished a Farm House sign!