It’s now been a full year since I left my job as a teacher to learn more about sustainable living. Six months were spent working on organic farms – 4 months in northern New Mexico and 2 in Kauai. A common question I am asked these days is, “What did you learn?” I think people expect me to say that I now know how to farm. If anything I realized that I could work on farms the rest of my life and never learn all there is about growing food. I can tell you that working on organic farms is as much about being creative, problem solving, learning how to communicate, and working hard, as it is about composting, planting seeds and weeding; actually working the soil and in the field was not where I spent the majority of my time. I learned that no matter what problems arise, there are always solutions. It’s life; there are always answers. We may not like the answers, but inevitably issues get solved one way or another and this is called learning. Very rarely were answers handed out and apparently that’s how I learn; I enjoy finding out for myself how things work. Sometimes I watch, sometimes I ask, sometimes I try…and try…and try again.
After farming, I spent 3 months in Chicago with my mom and I went to Venezuela to
visit family for a month. So, the second half of my year was really about reconnecting with family. Moving in with my mom at my age was…let me just say, interesting. I learned more about myself this past year than I have in a lifetime. The conversations I’m having these days sound very different from when I began my journey. Mainly, it’s what’s coming out of my mouth that has changed though. Something amazing happens when one is not confronted by the daily stress of work to pay bills. It’s similar to fasting; when something that has been there for so long is taken away (food), the mind fills the void with some curious thoughts. A few things that I have learned… My life has meaning only to myself. This doesn’t mean that others can’t be involved or I can’t share my life experiences with others, it’s simply that I have to honor my passions. People may not understand my actions, my passions, or me but I have to accept that. I cannot make anyone believe what I believe. Everyone comes to learn their lessons in their own time so I have to be OK with where they are. Many times it’s more effective to simply listen than to speak, even when I really want to share my thoughts.
So what’s next? I am off to an apprenticeship program in which I will learn about various styles of building sustainable earthen homes from the ground up. Why? The largest part of our income is spent on housing. Not only that, but the housing we are used to in this country is wasteful, toxic, and does not take into account the environment. It’s really like any other part of our economy, we build the way we build simply because it keeps people in business. It does not take into account the land or the people. By building a sustainable home I can reduce my debt, the levels of toxins that surround me, fossil fuel consumption and toxins produced in the building process as well as in the maintenance of a typical home. With a mortgage 50-70% less than normal I wouldn’t need a full-time job so I would have time to grow food, which again, would save more money. In the end, I would find myself more connected to nature, happier, healthier, and I would conclude…wealthier.
With that said, I don’t imagine being able to build a home after 5 weeks of training but I do expect to have a good understanding of the process and from there I can only guess as to what my future holds. In the end it’s a game of finding that balance. Instead of telling everyone what I think will happen, I will apply one of the lessons I learned this past year. I can only deal with what is happening at this moment; the rest is speculation.