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I read two wonderful books this weekend that enriched my life immeasurably, and sent me down memory lane to boot! First, I finished Susan Wittig Albert’s wonderful autobiographical look at her marriage and home – Together, Alone. Subtitled a Memoir of Marriage and Place, it resonated with me because, although at a different time and different place, my path mimicked hers. For me, it was the 1970’s and 80’s. Finally in a stable marriage, and wanting, yes longing, to be living a life of self-fulfillment as related to homesteading, Ed and I started on the mini-farm process. Chickens, ducks, rabbits, a funky garden or three, and membership in a barter group (Called “G-Group – meaning “GIVE as much as you GET”) became part of the rhythm of our days. We strove to live a life that met the hippie ideals of purity and simplicity. I was even on TV once, talking about our barter group, and the role barter could play in everyday lives and in creating community. But in the mid 80’s our focus changed, however temporarily, to the kids, and suburban life. It never really felt right though, and again and again Ed and I would try to create the life we dreamed of – growing our own food, enhancing the land, not beating it into submission and ownership. Having to earn a living always seemed to get in the way, since we never owned (or rented) enough land to produce excess, and someone had to earn money to pay for utilities and the things we couldn’t provide. Never quite good enough, or enthusiastic enough, (or dedicated enough or whatever!) to live off the grid, or to create independence.
The other book I read was a review copy of Margaret Roach’s And I Shall Have Some Peace There: Trading in the Fast Lane for My Own Dirt Road. Margaret’s path is a bit different too, as she was a single woman, retired young from a high paced job as editorial director for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, and living in upper state New York. Her blog, A Way to Garden, became a smash hit, and this book, due out Feb. 23rd, is bound to follow. Both Margaret and Susan trace their first shaky baby-steps in living off the land, and in experiencing the intimacy of nature.
These steps also are a familiar touchstone for me. Margaret and Susan talk about their spiritual awakenings, and I have come to believe that whether we live on acreage or not, a connection with gardening and nature is part of the best spiritual path that is available to me. Susan discusses “Right Livelihood” as the Buddhist concept… “Right livelihood involves working in an occupation that calls forth the best in you, encourages you to grow, and enables you to respect yourself while you respect the needs of people, and of the natural world.” (Susan Wittig Albert, Together, Alone, pg 77) I have never had a “right livelihood” when it comes to a career. I have had jobs – not careers. My path as a writer (not an author of books, but the author – writer – of insights, blogs, poetry etc!) has not been one linked to financial gain, but to personal enrichment and pleasure. And you know what? I am starting to believe in Genetic Memory. I was imprinted upon, at a young age, by my father, whose favorite remark was “I’m just a country boy trying to get along in the big city…” Born and raised in South Dakota, trying to help his widowed mother and younger sister survive by raising chickens and helping on the farm – he encouraged my enthusiasm for rabbits by letting me raise two barns-full of the creatures for meat. Chickens came later, but the first ones I wanted were Buff Orpingtons, which were what my father had raised as a child. Since my mother’s family has a long history of preachers, and my dad’s of farming, it is no wonder I like to talk about going back-to-the-land!
Reading books that encourage my already innate enjoyment of reminiscing is the best way I can think of to start a new week. Does your reading foster trips down memory lane?