Tuesday, September 1, 2009

"Old Time"


My life, like most everybody's, has become very busy.  I live by the wall calendar and the digital clock, respond, all day long, to alarm beeps and ring tones.  This type of organization has never come easily, but as a mother of three young children, I've been a good modern-day soldier and learned to salute the minute clock.

At the Indian Valley Organic Farm, I leave my phone/clock off, tucked in my bag, and lose track of time.  I know that the fog lifts as the sun rises into the blue sheet sky above.  I know that I am growing warm as I work, and that the ground is dry in most places.  I know that tomatoes weigh down their vines, hundreds of them, nearing crimson and looking as if they will burst with their own flavor.

What a treat this is to become responsive to the environment, to sense the season based on the clues - what smells does the wind carry, who is flying overhead, what ripens on the vine.

Today in class Wendy Johnson spoke to us of "time told through the plants."  This is the way a farmer begins to think, developing a sense of "old time", told through the seasons.  This means that, at least for periods of our daily life, we must "give in" and drop our highly refined ring-tone, twenty-four hour clock-based sense of time.  

Today, before rushing home, I stopped on the hill above the farm to sit in the dry grasses and take in the wide lens perspective, to feel the larger sense of time.  This land, the whole area, has been inhabited for 4000 years.  (The IVOF is one year old and I've been working on it for only two weeks!)  As I sat I could almost see women and their daughters carrying their baskets across the meadow below, looking for a cool place to sit and collect wild seeds.  I thought of the passage Wendy read from The Ohlone Way (a beautiful and important book for anyone living in California).  It described the packs of wolves, the cougar, the grizzly bear, coyote and fox and rabbit, and the flocks of birds so dense they sounded "like a hurricane" when they were startled and rose from the fields.. and I lost myself in the landscape.

Soon enough, I realized I was late!!  I needed to rush home, hop in my car and get down the freeway to pick up my children and their friends.  How then, do we carry both notions of time with us as we live, earn, respond to our way through modern life? 

Today, as Wendy Johnson spoke, I jotted down "You will carry that awareness and sense of Old Time with you wherever you go."  Make space in time, develop a relationship with the biological world, and that sense becomes part of who you are, wherever you are.

The other thing Wendy said today was this:   "Be alive to what is happening in the present moment."  (this, to my mind, is truly wonderful and critical).  Allow ourselves to "step into the richness" of all that this land we now farm has been, cherish and respect the 4000 years of culture and millions of years of biologic complexity that came before us, and also, be here, now, alive and working, in the present moment.  We are not nostalgic, simply longing for the the olden days, but farming and learning in a way that honors the ancient body of knowledge.

Notes:   Wendy mentioned an interview on NPR with Gary Paul Nabhan, who speaks about native seed saving, and the earth as the best seed bank of all (Gary Paul Nebhan - Intvw. on Marketplace).

Also, The Regenerative Design Institute will present a Carbon Farming Series - Building Resiliency:  Managing Land to Conserve Soil, Water and Energy starting Sept. 23, 2009.

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