Friday, December 31, 2010

Simple living really is not always all that simple

At least in the big picture aspect.  Doing something more simply, making, baking, taking care of a creature that will be used for food, gardening and preserving.  All noble and, given the state of the world, most likely to be useful and necessary skills at some point.

Consider the garden.  If you are able-bodied, preparing and nurturing a food garden, harvesting and preserving of stuff, well, all of that is much easier than when you are less able-bodied.  When walking is difficult, bending a caution and kneeling or squatting impossible, gardening can be the most miserable and unproductive thing you do all day.  Putting in raised beds, finding and purchasing tools and equipment is blazingly expensive.  Locating such assists second-hand is impossible. Well, maybe not impossible, but I am more likely to have the money faerie drop a whole blankety-blank-load of cash on me than I am to find an ergonomic hoe that I can afford.  However, I did find a portable bench that is weatherproof, but I am not getting it until I solve the issues here regarding permissions to put in a garden space, an entirely separate issue.

Preserving your harvest, or foods that you have located in a locavore kind of way, is wonderful, but only if you are successful at it.  One failed batch can completely wipe out any potential savings offered by the successful batches.  Raising food animals is even more fraught with issues.

So, you go along, making economies where possible, giving up some favorite things, making do and getting by.  Small things matter, like making soap, cooking from scratch and baking.  Even the failures here can often be reclaimed in some way or composted. 

Hand and home crafts are probably the best.  Making things for self and others, especially when I am re-purposing materials, is satisfying at a nearly cellular level. 

Developing these skills, learning them, experimenting with what aligns with my abilities, practicing and producing, has come to be more important to me now than when I dabbled in all of this as a young, energetic and hopeful wife.

The list of things that can be done to rely less on what other people produce for me to buy is endless.  It is complicated by the responsibilities that have taken on and over in my modern life.  Every single day brings choices that I never would have imagined facing.

Holding dear, or ideal, the days when all of these tasks and activities were commonplace is a pointless exercise.  More intellectually interesting than useful.  I was reading a bit from a book sent to me by a dear friend (one of those intimate on-line relationships).  It described how women created fabric, from raising and tending the sheep, to shearing and preparing the wool for spinning and weaving.  The final step was called, maybe still is, waulking.  It was a difficult and long process and the women had ritualized it, creating a ceremonial enrobing for what they needed to do.  There were songs and chants during the waulking, and the end found them standing the roll of woven tweed on end, turning it in relation to the movement of the sun and asking blessings for whomever wore the garments made from it.

There is no place in my modern life where that is possible.  The old days or olden times seem idyllic to me sometimes.  No traffic, no bills to pay, no deadlines defined by someone else, all of it.  But, to live in those times meant being subject to the seasons, the weather, pests and predators, not all of them non-human.  It meant long days of back-breaking work and hoping that what you did, made, provided, would be enough to make it through to the next harvest, the next hunting trip, the next acquiring and creating of what was needed.

The best for which I can hope are small gatherings of my family and friends where we shower love and support on one another.  Well, we do that to the best of our abilities and inclinations, we are, after all, only humans.  Or the rituals of baby showers and wedding showers and funerals. 

Beginnings and, not death, but the passage from the now to a new beginning.  That endless cycle of what it means to be human.  And, all of the in-between that makes a life.  Just doing the best I can, when I can and how I can, and releasing my attachment and responsibility for the things that I cannot.

None of it, not one moment, is all that simple.  Not scheduling and timing the baking and cooking and preserving.  Not the soap making or sewing or mending.  Not all of the trying to protect the few garden foods that I have.  Not even when I am sitting in the yard, knitting, watching the sky, luxuriating in the breezes from the little pond and enjoying the birds, bunnies and other small creatures that wander by, although those crystalline moments are probably the closest.

Maybe it is all about the process, the sacrificing time for the pleasure of doing and providing for myself.  Just trying to get it right, or close, or comfortable, or something.

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