Thursday, April 28, 2011

At rest

Noon: Rest From Work (After Millet), Vincent Van Gogh
My feeling about rain has changed.  When I worked in an office, waking up to rain in the morning was an added annoyance.  It inevitably meant a wet dash to the subway entrance, a humid ride packed against variously wet bodies, a head-down final push to the office building doors, and then a day spent looking out at the rain against the office window with the remove of an emperor from a far-off hill.

I appreciate the varieties of different rain now; the shades of gray that exist on the spectrum.  I used to just think about it dichotomously: "it's sunny" vs. "it's rainy".  Now there's misting, spitting, sprinkling, pittering, pattering, pouring and down-pouring.  Weather is more of a living thing apt to get up and change and less like the stage of a set.  I guess that is to say, I am more in it now.

Today, rain means rest.  I may pretend disappointment at not being able to get out there and go to work, but truthfully, my body needs the rest.  New aches in various joints and stiff muscles just want to be for a bit.  

Rest means you have a chance to think and this morning I find myself thinking about being at rest.  I was reading an article that called the United States a country of movers, with "about one in seven Americans changing their residence every year".  I know if I look back on my twenties, it was true for me: I thought in one to two year time horizons at the most, lived in seven cities in ten years, and can recall each apartment I lived in but not their addresses.

American's love to move and everything about movement: we love our cars, our highways, moving to new jobs, looking for new homes, looking for new things to buy, voting for new goes on and on and it's always about what's over the next bend in the road being more alluring than what we have in front of us.  I've felt it before in jobs and relationships: if it's not working out, the old itch to just pack it in and take my chances on the unknown road ahead.

Now, it's obvious that many people move because they have no other choice: they are looking for better schools or jobs or more affordable housing or health coverage.  But still, we have somehow built a culture where individual movement is the answer to finding a better life, something akin to, if you don't like my prices, shop elsewhere!

So, the constant churn, the continuous movement of people in and out of places, the general and unforgiving restlessness of life as we we live it today. And how does anything really ever get built or fixed amidst this type of constant movement?  How do we stick around someplace long enough to see it turnaround?

Farming isn't an instantaneous act.  To make it work in a permanent way you have to improve the soil, learn how different vegetables grow, keep out all sorts of plant predators, find sustainable sources of water and soil amendments, get to know your neighbors and community, and brave drought and flood and whatever else things beyond your control throw at you.

I've never lived in any one place for very long.  I've never lived in the same place long enough to really know it.  I've never put roots down anywhere and looked in the face of the place I live and said, this is it and whatever it takes I'll find a way to make it work.  Deciding to remain in one place is an experiment for us.

I think America might need to stop and rest a bit too.  Stop looking towards the always bright and shiny future all the time and confront the reality of our nowness: an unsustainable economy (environmentally and economically) that relies for 70% of activity on constant consumer spending, a system enriching the very few while the great many scramble to make ends meet on less and less, and a culture slipping towards isolation.

But with rest comes new energy and that energy is out there.  It is heard in the new Americana folk music coming out of secondary cities, the flood of young people going back into work that involves creating and making things with your hands, and the spreading recognition that the way we are on is not the way. 

Maybe it's just time to rest a bit.  To look around and assess.  To put down roots and work on whatever is in front of you in whatever shape it is in. 

Tomorrow we'll get back to work.

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