'tis the gift to be free,
'tis the gift to come down where you ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
It will be in the valley of love and delight.
Last night, we hosted our final Abundant Table Farm Project party for this internship year. The party started with a service, during which we sang one of my favorite songs (lyrics above), a Shaker dance song called, "Simple Gifts."
Refrain: When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we shan't be ashamed.
To turn, turn will be our delight,
'Til by turning, turning we come round right.
This song could not be more appropriate as we end our time together. It has been a year of simple gifts: sharing in unexpectedly deep friendships with four other sisterfriends, witnessing the miracle of life happening as seeds germinate and chickens grow, harvesting food for our table and so many other tables as well, welcoming friends and strangers alike into our home, seeing our farm become a hub for community engagement and justice work, forming relationships with CSA members, farmers' marketers, farm workers, nuns, professors, students, the list goes on and on.
This year has not always been the "valley of love and delight" of course. There was a period when our abundant table looked pretty barren, when we did not know if the farm would survive, and when we did not know if we could push harder than we were pushing physically or emotionally. Gone now are any notions I once had of the idyllic farm life. Instead, I now bear a deeper understanding of why my grandparents left that life and a felt knowledge of the challenges that this economic system holds for small farmers.
Yet this year has also instilled in me the belief that "to bow and to bend we shan't be ashamed." My manual labor in the field and my work with the local organization, "House Farm Workers," taught me that though farm work is socially marginalized, often underpaid, and under-acknowledged, this labor forms the core of our society. Our survival rests upon the labor of farmers and farm workers, their daily maintenance of the soil, and the sustenance of food that comes from their hands. For this reason, and for the work itself, I have come to realize the essential dignity of farm work and the respect it deserves. I have stopped wondering if I am too "good" (educated, full of potential, etc.) for this, and have started to ask if I am worthy of this work. I now know it is holy work.
I am forever changed by this work and by this place. In some capacity or other, my hands will remain connected to earth. Already, I have begun to transition away from work at the Farm and have started working as a community garden coordinator at a local 1 acre community garden called Community Roots Garden. The Garden is a shared space where people come to volunteer and learn how to grow their own school/ community/ home gardens. It is also a ministry of the North Oxnard United Methodist Church, and the harvest goes to local food pantries and a women's shelter. I'm excited to continue sharing the gift of growing food and building community with and for all who are hungry (for all are hungry, in some way or other!).
I'll also be working part-time as an assistant for dear friends of the Farm, Ched Meyers and Elaine Enns at Bartimaeus Coorperative Ministries, who inspire me in their work of peace, justice, and radical Christian faith. Their Oak View home has been a place of rest and retreat for us at different points, and I look forward to learning from them there.
As I was deciding where to live this coming season, I couldn't shake the feeling that this feels like home now - as the song says, "tis the gift to come down where you ought to be." So, I've decided to continue to live at the Farmhouse as a part of the Abundant Table community! (Though not as a farm intern.) This means I'll get to welcome in the 2010 interns and journey with them through the ins and outs of farm life. And, if you don't find me on this blog, I may be updating my old blog, http://formingroots.blogspot.com, now and again.
Living the Gift,