This post is along the same lines as my first, from back in February of 2014, titled “Spring 2013: In the Beginning…” Focused on introspection, what’s going on inside, as opposed to the “how” of this or that. Like all of us, consciously or not, I have been on something of a personal development journey, and the past 6 years or so, with Geri’s huge impact on my life, the speed of development has increased dramatically, and we have been on the journey together. <Now some might say, “what personal development?” Ha! Well, if that is you, I will just remind you that there is this blind spot we all have, called “what I don’t know that I don’t know.” And in this case you should thank God for that!> As we have eliminated a lot of the noise from our lives, attracted the positive and eliminated the negative, systematically, and with intention, we have been able to feel and hear ourselves with increased sensitivity, it seems to me. The most recent example of this for me, was Facebook. It just had to stop, so for those of you wondering about my silence, there you have it. The homestead Facebook page is still being maintained, but I have not been on my personal page in several weeks. It has made a huge difference; I have a lot more stillness in my life. That is not saying anything bad about Facebook, and there are certainly great aspects of the experience, which I miss, but for me it became just another addiction, and I invested more time and energy in it than I should have. The point is, after eliminating a lot of modern day distractions, TV being the first several years ago, the resulting quiet is gorgeous. In the space left behind is the work, and a state of more heightened awareness of ourselves is a key benefit of “doing the work,” as Geri likes to say, on ourselves and our relationships.
Of course, there is no end to this progression, hopefully, there is always another of life’s challenges to surmount, another rough edge on our personality to be removed, another “3rd rail” issue to be addressed in a relationship, and so on. I would not have it any other way. I take some comfort in understanding that this is in large part, how the wise became wise, the empathetic empathetic, the compassionate just that, and so on. At least that is my belief. There is a method to it all. Painful as it might be on occasion.
Two years ago, traveling along this path resulted in our acquisition of the “Southwest Michigan Homestead;” a name I have been trying to replace since before it even came about! And almost since day one, the pull to the property has become stronger and stronger. Now I have come to think of it as a “calling.” I am being called to live from the property. Doing what I am not quite sure. We will figure it out on the way. The call is becoming practically irresistible.
To that end, I have been bouncing some homestead-related business ideas around with Geri, and a few others. As a guy with his corporate stripes firmly in place, I started thinking of a “vision” for the business. Describing its future in some way. What will it look like? What will it produce, or how will it serve customers? I did not get far. I thought not of a single bigger business, but more of a collection of related “boutique” businesses, and really I only had one or two of those in mind. I would not be going into business for its own sake; there is no “calling” to a particular line of work, at least not that I have heard, yet. Then it came to me that, well, the business is really more of a vehicle for a achieving a mission, or a “purpose,” and that the cart should be put behind the horse, by developing the purpose of the business(es) first. I tend to stitch together “new” ideas synthetically, which is to say, from other ideas; “The Purpose” is no exception. Beginning with a variety of source materials that have rung true with me over the years. The Purpose is really about who Geri and I want to be personally, as a members of the community, and in our “life’s work.” This is what we are up to. It is unquestionably “aspirational” in my case.
This is all clearly a work in progress. We have some fairly firm, and I like to think good, ideas about how to make maple syrup our first boutique business. The maple sugaring business is definitely part-time and seasonal at its current scale. To support starting that business quickly with the 2016 harvest, we will need to begin laying the foundations now. It is an exciting time, and a little scary to be sure.
— John, 22 June 2015
p.s. I read quite a bit; perhaps what is below will be a new section of my posts
Books recently read in whole or in part:
Book being read:
Books on the pile:
For me, this was a great and timely post. I too, consider Permaculture and homesteading to be a spiritual path, and the cultivation of stillness the compass that shows me the way.
The problem for me, has been trusting the compass when so many of my conditioned instincts point in other directions.
Finding ways to convert the surpluses of a healthy ecosystem into a means to support myself and family, without digging into the "capital" seems very possible, but there's a challenge in figuring it out, since those surpluses don't necessarily come in the handy marketable forms and quantities that exploitive systems produce.
So, the compass leads us ever in the direction of relaxing with that, accepting that it will take time and experience. It takes us towards the "gift economy" and away from conventional markets and marketing. It moves toward cooperation over competition (another thing that takes more time to develop, when it's quicker to shove the other guys out of the way!) In other words, it tells me to Trust that nature and community will provide, and that sense of trust brings with it a deep, deep stillness.
On balance, there's some equally primal instinct that says I need to cultivate more fierceness. No one born on this earth asked to be here and we each have a right and entitlement to get what we need to thrive. We have to have the compassion with ourselves to allow for this. We have the right to assert our needs, struggle, fight, climb mountains, swim oceans, live beautiful lives, and joyfully challenge each other and compete in achieving excellence.
This instinct is a fire inside, a vibrating energy in my chest that keeps me up at night, dreaming knew schemes, concocting new products. It is the opposite of "stillness," yet it makes me feel… alive, to scramble for my livelihood in an era where so much of our animal fight has been domesticated, and we're taught to push a button and passively wait for the food bowl to be filled.
I'm coming to understand that these are not contradictory or uncompatibe forces, but complimentary ones, that fit together like puzzle pieces, or the Ying/Yang, if only I can figure out how they go together…. positioning these internal elements to create one seemless whole, where an infinite stillness can contain a wonderous cacophony of life without grasping it or stifling it.
It's good to read that others are wandering down similar paths, and that now and then, we may meet up along the way.
Good morning lucky. Thank you for the thoughtful reply. The pull has been there for me, for at least 15 years now. It is safe to say I think that what am pulling against is the preceding 40-plus years of being conditioned by our society, school systems, family, etc. The "fierceness" you mentioned is absolutely not a desired outcome of our cultural conditioning process, in fact just the opposite. Not to mention the impact of environmental toxins on such things as testosterone levels in males (http://www.healio.com/endocrinology/hormone-therapy/news/print/endocrine-today/%7Bac23497d-f1ed-4278-bbd2-92bb1e552e3a%7D/generational-decline-in-testosterone-levels-observed). That is just one link, there are many; environmental and dietary sources of estrogenics seem to be a major possible culprit, but I digress. I think you are on the trail, and while I have not said it as well, what you say describes my journey quite effectively. Trusting in our instincts and in others. Stillness, which I have just started actively cultivating through meditation. Diet. Lifestyle. Who we surround ourselves with. All important. As you say, it is good to know others are on similar paths, and even more so, in close proximity. At the same time, it is okay to be where we are at, and in the struggle we are in.
I just re-read this beautiful comment. I found today this piece particularly insightful: “Finding ways to convert the surpluses of a healthy ecosystem into a means to support myself and family, without digging into the “capital” seems very possible, but there’s a challenge in figuring it out, since those surpluses don’t necessarily come in the handy marketable forms and quantities that exploitive systems produce.” I had a “consulting forester” out to the property yesterday, and I was sharing some of our goals. He offered that about 80% of his business is in being a middle-man for timber sales. Of course we have the maple syruping business, and maple men can be hateful towards any form of growth in the “sugarbush” that is not a sugar maple! I rather am interested in getting the most yield from our “Tree Crops,” specifically the oaks and beeches, and getting a bit of yield from the maples and other species as well. The “challenge in figuring it out,” as you wrote. We have ground squirrels and squirrels in abundance, turkeys and white-tailed deer, not to mention all of the winged critters, and at some point may introduce some pigs or small cattle. We shall see. I know this, I am no competition for the animals when it comes to harvesting mast. Thanks again for the comment.