Friday, March 15, 2013

The Holy Trinity of Self-Reliance: Farming, Homebirth, and Home Schooling

Neither to serve nor to rule: That was the American dream. -- Edward Abbey

When I was 18, I lived on a farm in southern France with a bunch of tanned, young people who laughed easily and asked me to milk their goats. Their passion and excitement was contagious. They directed and managed their own lives, and at the end of the day, it was up to them to evaluate their successes. When I tucked in for the night, the crescent shape of my smile spelled freedom.

Aneka, whose Cheshire-cat grin quickly earned her a place in my heart, was seven months pregnant when I arrived. We hiked, camped, and traveled together, and a few months later she delivered a healthy baby boy on the farm. Unlike the hospital births I would later attend in my studies, Aneka set the pace for her birth. There wasn't a flurry of activity, nor a series of interventions and protocols to be followed. She remained in her cocoon for days after, until she was ready to emerge.

At the first hospital birth I attended, the mother delivered naturally. She locked her soft eyes to the floor with a steely stare of determination during each contraction, half-angel, half-warrior. I was shocked that seconds after her daughter emerged, a set of latex gloves whisked her away and placed her under bright heating lamps, similar to the ones I'd seen at fast-food chains. "Why not use the mother's body-heat to warm the baby?" I suggested. The looks I received from the nurses suggested I couldn't possibly understand. They held the knowledge. They had the power. And everyone else was expected to comply.

These days, I'm focused on home schoolers and un-schoolers. One of the kids I work with, a ten-year old named Seraya, recently "dropped out of school." Since then, the discomfort of getting something wrong has dropped from her shoulders. She enthusiastically gushes about the cooking class she created, effusing self-confidence. When she tells me about what she's learning, it's like talking to a friend.  I celebrate each victory as she discovers her authentic wants and desires.

I see myself drawn, again and again, to people and experiences that value freedom. Self-reliance is the ability to listen to yourself and act independently rather than letting others dictate what you do and how you do it.  Historically, before specialization and expertise reigned supreme, soil naturally produced nutrients, bodies birthed babies, and brains learned. In my book, these three disciplines are about as close as you can get to the holy trinity. Each invites individuals to live increasingly self-reliant lives, seeking support from their communities rather than from technology and industry.

*I am not opposed to technology, industry, or expertise, but these things have a way of creeping in to every facet of our lives. I find without them, at times, the strength of one's character shines and grows and nature is revered and respected.

My obsession with death and dying. Something about winter turning to spring...

Prepping my skis for another day in the backcountry.

Luxurious Back-Country Hut Trip at Mt. Bell

Friday, March 8, 2013

Spring Winds and Prayers

Yesterday we lounged under the spirited sun, bare-chested and brazen, watching the flapping, darting, dance of the chickens. Their drama, which has increased exponentially with our our second rooster's coming of age, has us endlessly entertained.  Though the rooster's days are numbered and his ultimate demise is at the top of our list, we sing our favorite Greg Brown song, raising our voices when we get to the line, "spring winds blew my list of things to do away."

I spotted flashes of brilliant blue as the first Mountain Blue Bird swooped around with his mate in search of a nesting place.

The sun draws the frost from the earth, and the smell of soil awakening fills me with anticipation.

Writing has been hard for me recently. In a small community, when hard news hits, we all feel the blow. We watch little babies transform from monkeys clinging to their mothers limbs into horses galloping through our open fields, their heads barely higher than the tall grasses.

My friends and co-workers recently found that an agressive tumor grows around their sweet daughter Jubilee's brain stem. This cancer has a 100% mortality rate. The family has asked that people pray for Jubilee, that she may find peace and freedom from suffering, and our community continues to hold the whole family in our hearts surrounded with strength and light.