Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Lingering Stench of Apathy

I realized on my second day of class that my lesson plans amounted to a list of things I thought my students should learn. Without talking to them to understand who they are, what they want, and where they are going, I undermine the values that brought us all to the program in the first place. So I started a conversation to better understand why they had chosen to take my class and what they were hoping to get from it.

I wasn't really excited by the bored responses I got. "I'm here because I need an English Credit to graduate." Apathy hung in the air like a lingering fart. Actually, there aren't any graduation requirements that say you need an English Class in exchange for your diploma, so, that's not a legit reason to be here. Let's try again.

Nothing gets me more excited than talking about what it means to know yourself. I melt when I remember that I have a choice in everything. And I gush when I think about acting from a sense of internal drive, joy, and pleasure. These things are fundamental to personal fulfillment.  We discussed.

From there we took a look at success and the factors that lead to it. We read about experiments put together by behavioral scientist who proved that internal motivation, doing things for the satisfaction that they give us, is as strong as and far more sustainable than our biological drives or the promise/threat of a reward/punishment.

So I'm having a blast creating new lesson plans that strive to meet their needs but I'm still a bit perplexed why they aren't fully engaged. Why do they look at me like I'm crazy? How can they not find this subject totally enthralling? Do they dislike learning? Our first day of class I gave them a bunch of low ropes exercises and they totally got into it.  So this is my task--to find a way to keep giving them a problem that they are excited about solving. Otherwise I will certainly die of asphyxiation from the the lingering stench of apathy.
With the help of a corn slicing contraption that looks like a torture device my freezer is full of corn.
My freezer is not filled with nectarines however. Of the 40 pounds I've brought home, this bowl is all that remains. The rest are...gone.
Grilled polenta with nectarine salsa.

Hommage to Cally and Co's share cropping days. Pulling the last of their stuff out this week, ready for bigger better things, but always in style.

From my trip to California to meet ma petite petite.

My brother with Ramona Blue.

Friday, August 24, 2012

A Bit about My Favorite Butcher, Miss Em

One of the most colorful people in my life just had a birthday and in honor of this occasion I thought I'd share a little about my friend Miss. Em. 

When I first came to Paonia Emily was living in a garage that she retrofitted into her home. Chickens pecked and pooped at our feet as we ate dinner. She butchered a deer at the foot of her bed without hesitation. I could barely touch the deer or hide my disbelief as blood trickled onto her floor. 

Open Emily's fridge to find several freshly butchered chickens strung up and cooling. A smattering of animal hides cure outside. On her farm Emily cares for her goats, chickens, sheep, and cats with ferocity. She's a bastion for diligence. The pains she takes to provide her heard and her flocks with a nutrient dense, GMO free diet has earned her respect from farmers and visitors alike. She makes all of her own feed. She milks. She fixes fences and brings her goats to pasture. And the girl can butcher. Though her eggs are double the price of other distributors, she typically cannot meet consumers demands. Everyone knows that her eggs are the best.

The work Emily does is not easy. It is not quick or convenient. There is no time for vacations or all-night dinner parties. Em seems to be on-call, ready at any moment to tend to the dead. Most overlook this type of food production in favor of a clean kill.  Emily uses  the entirety of animals in her butchering work, a practice that many appreciate in theory yet few are willing to take the painstaking time this requires. The work she puts into her animals and into her butchering expresses a remarkable reverence for life and I admire her for her dedication to such humane work. 

Emily butchering. I will add that Emily grew up just outside of Philly. We went to college together. Her knowledge and skill are born from passion and self-study.
Beautiful Em. I think Adam M. gets photo cred for this one

Photo: Trenton Barnes

Photo: Trenton Barnes

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

An Anniversary and a Job

August marks the beginning of my fifth year of living in Paonia. I came here in part seeking freedom from the grind, the should-s and the have to-s. I abandoned paying rent in favor of living in a tipi; a grocery budget for my garden, surrounding farms, and preserving our harvest; a job that demanded most of my time and energy for a creative collage of money-making activities. I found myself financially flexible and able to structure my time with things that I  wanted to do and learn. My list of have-to-s shrunk or disappeared all together. 

For the past two years I've been working with a homeschooling program in a part-time capacity. Well, school starts next week (Seriously!?!?). I've been putting together my curriculum for two English Lit classes, which is fun because it involves reading. In addition I took on a new position this year as a Resource Consultant, meaning I'll be mentoring ten home schooling students. I'm also taking a handful of them down to Costa Rica for two months this winter. This all adds up to something unexpected: I'm working full time. 

Yes, I am taking on a job that demands my time, limits my freedoms, requires commitment, and I'm pretty excited about it. Totally terrified as well, but catching up on the phone with my auntie she said that going into something a little scared is a good thing because it means challenge and growth are waiting. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

This Tender Precious Heart

I've been sweet on someone lately, which means instead of being my semi-relaxed, charming self I've been in a state of constant agitation, brimming with uncertainty, questioning everything about the nature of relationship and my ability to be in one. And of course this internal storm stifels the wildness of my heart and I become something of a rigid, unmovable mountain.  Who doesn't love that feeling?

I can proficiently catalogue all the reasons things will not work at the onset of a relationship. I carry this list around, carefully checking it, editing it, lugging it like a heavy suit case.  I strategically place it in front of me because things are so obviously not right there's no point in opening, unpacking, and exposing my tender precious heart.

Hanging out with Dev the other morning I explain this pattern to him, giggling because I'm letting him a little further in to the depths of my craziness. Dev smiles knowingly and shuffles around the kitchen not saying anything for awhile. My smile slides off my face and I'm left with my loneliness.

"What if for one month you put all that stuff away?" Dev ponders. I snort, "Impossible!"

"Any time you have a thought about how wrong everything is remind yourself that you're not listening to those thoughts. It could be a meditation. Then in 30 days you can re-evaluate and take some time to listen again. You could watch for those thoughts that make you feel further away and then choose closeness by not feeding them."

So here I am. A week into this fun little intimacy adventure. At first I wasn't fully on board, worrying I was abandoning my intuition, but then things started to feel good. I softened. Now I'm freaking out in a different way because I'm feeling all gooey and vulnerable and seriously sweet. The softness of my heart is one of the most frightening feelings I know, but it beats the profound sadness I feel when I tell myself things or come up with lists that lead me to believe I am incapable of Love.

Ready for a pot-luck picnic. During August Paonia hosts a weekly free concert series in the park. So much fun!

These wrinkles. No good. Took it down. Setting it up again.

This is Karla. She's been ranching for over forty years. She's a total bad-ass. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Small Town Limitations and Inspirations from the Bay

Bay area with your abundant strawberries and your numerous bike lanes, I will miss you. Your other worldly flowers and trees make up for my chattering teeth in spite the fact that it's fucking summer. I'm grateful for the extra opportunity to wear my down jacket in July.  The volumes of organic goodness at your farmers' markets and natural food stores hypnotize along with the sea of beautiful faces that scrutinize your cornucopia of cheeses.

Bay area I will send you a post card when I get home to tell you of star-filled skies and silent nights. I will remind you what it's like to live without traffic and couture and shoes on your feet. And I ask that you keep in touch in return to remind me of the subtleties of flavors, the benefits of humidity, and the liberating ability to pick from endless possibilities.

Living in a small town sometimes gets me feeling like I am a horse wearing blinders. With each passing year I delve in deeper and deeper, finding myself more anxious to leave behind the lengthy list of projects I eagerly create and the antics that I will inevitably miss out on when taking leave. 
Unconsciously I structure my life in accordance to the lives of those around me, conforming to the somewhat limited norms that pervade rural living, despite my capacity for open-mindedness and experimentation.

But most importantly, Bay Area, you fold some of the raddest, baddest, most wonderful people into your mixing bowl like butter and sugar and eggs . And they in turn breath sweetness and joy into my love for you. 

Returning to the Bay awakened dormant parts of myself that find little, if any, resonance in my sweet little town. A wide variety of communities exist in the city that captivate the imagination sparking me to question not only what is but the possibilities of what could be. 

A tragically hip hike in the Red Woods with my soul sister, Boon-Child.

Kombucha sorbet...only in California.

Harold and Liza's urban homestead.