Sunday, November 16, 2008

Dusty Shelves, Hardy Hopes

This week, one of my chores was dusting. The exact listing on the chore chart is “Dust all wood.” Have you been to DAcres? The directions may as well instruct: Dust all surfaces. This, along with mopping, is one of my least favorite tasks, and I think I’ve figured out why. To be clean, dusty bookshelves, sills, tables, stands, and banisters require constant vigilance (like our liberty, please note) and regular upkeep. But with an intimidating quantity of wood surfaces in our Big House, and an unnecessary number of knick-knacks upon them, victory over dust is neigh impossible.

So I was faced with two options: 1) rush through it and call it good, because who’s really checking? or 2) make a complete job of it. Unfortunately it was raining outside, and there was no appealing outdoor alternative; the latter option it was.

Doing a thorough job seemed to justify being nosy, or so it felt, poking into spaces wherein I could have scrawled a graffiti tag in the accumulated dust. I found out that our garlic surplus is stored next to a small airplane model in one closet, next to a box of donated clothes in another. Better yet, I found a pink wool sweater that fits just right and itches just as well, and a pocket-sized version of The Man Who Planted Trees.

This entire introduction is, however, unimportant and a mere set-up. The story begins when I dusted an unobtrusive armoire containing various odds and ends of office supplies. Some hand-written pages caught my lingering eye and I lifted them out, dust rag still in my grasp. A short, handwritten account of Uncle Delbert’s death (the previous owner of the DAcres land) described how he left his barn, and the accumulation of discriminately stored tools, machinery parts, and salvaged materials that lay inside. More pointed was the conclusion, that this land, in being passed to the next generation, was the future. It came with as many tools as the past can proffer; it came with the energy, attention, and gravity of a moment of both loss and change; and yet It – the future – was a mere blank, to be determined by those who wished to be conscious of its formation.

So I finished my dusting duty considering the future, and the present out of which it grows.

I will do a poor job of paraphrasing Blaise Pascal who wrote, roughly, that we modern humans often look to the future without living in the present, to our detriment.

Which I don’t think is the case here. We are quite present in the present: food, animals, community. Each of these are about the here and now. Feeding the pigs, mulching the garden beds, sensing the coy approach of this tease of a winter season. Noticing changes day to day is what we do. And people. Just last night we had a small but vibrant crowd for our monthly Full Moon Potluck. Tonight, is Soup Night (the third Saturday of every month). Such is the DAcres community - those friends and neighbors who come to share conversation, music, and delicious meals at the farm. For those of us who live here, community also means the relationships that let us call these acres Home. Why we’re willing to work in the rain to finish a task, or how we laugh over a headless chicken chase, or why we linger over conversation.

And the future is so present in each of these actions.

Storing food for the winter season, putting the beds to sleep for spring, planning seed orders, discussing possibilities, sharing goals. The next season, the next year, the next decade, the next century (we’ll finally have a surfeit of black walnuts!) is embedded in all we do.

As is the future of ideas, of goals, of efforts, of hopes. In joining with the present work on the farm, I – we – are joining in the future work of shaping life as we wish it to unfold. Sustainability, agrarianism, artistry, simplicity, self-reliance. Dusty, if need be.

What’s on your list?

~ Beth

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