Sunday, August 29, 2010

A Day of Repose

As I write this it is Sunday, in fact a rainy Sunday afternoon here at D Acres Organic Farm & Educational Homestead, and we are quietly tidying the house and recovering ourselves after a weekend of cob building, food events, and meals with hostel guests.

In this case the weather is forcing a rest day, but our arms don’t have to be twisted too hard. There are indoor tasks to attend to, letters to write, and books to read. I won’t hide that the latter two can reliably lead to a rare nap.

Thinking ahead to the work with which we’ll occupy ourselves for the next week or two, my mind flits over the standard list of weeding, harvesting, and preserving. Animal care, construction, and forestry are also near the top; community events, workshops, and hostel management are part and parcel of our chief endeavors as well.

While the former consume our weekdays, the latter three fill our weekends. Pleasant weather ensures a crowd and holidays rapidly inflate attendance. And in no time at all the next holiday weekend will be upon us, the one which signals so many things: the end of summer and the beginning of autumn, a return to school, apple season, fall foliage, the approaching cold, the coming frost…I am thinking, of course, of Labor Day.

There is a none-too-short history behind this national day-off, one told in the annals of struggle & striving and worker agitation. It is a history worth knowing, even if textbooks don’t give it more than a cordial sentence. My interest herein, however, lies more with labor today. My labor, your labor, our labor. Think of it. So very many hundreds of millions of us across fifty states know with barely a second thought that Labor Day is synonymous with vacation, or at least with overtime pay…that the banks are closed and the postman not making his rounds. But what of our labor? How are we engaged each day, and from what exactly are we briefly released?

It’s sort of funny, isn’t it, that one day-off is supposed to satiate us for a year of labor in a system that, well, may not have our best interest at its core? Do you know what I mean? It’s a matter of perspective surely, but it would seem that it is all too easy to end up working for money’s sake, in order to maintain the basics of a comfortable living. Yet we the people are – at times – left with so little control over the factors determining the terms of said comfort.

Okay, so this is getting into some themes that far outstrip the 500-word quota…lucky for you. So I’ll head back to the more comfortable topic of, what else, farming at D Acres.

I’ve found myself saying in different instances, that one of the beauties of working the land is how energy cycles through the process. Plants grow with the energy of the sun and the energy we each put into them. Come harvest time, we reap that energy back, the vigor and nutrients contained within the plant restoring our bodies and fueling our health and well-being. From one to the other, and back again. A sustainable cycle is predicated on self-maintenance.

Which means my personal labor day is to be found more reliably in wintertime, or as a welcome surprise when chores are quickly finished after a busy weekend, or as an occasional adventure through the woods and into the mountains. Ultimately, though, it is my labor that sustains and nourishes me to an extent far greater than that of a labor holiday. What are the terms of your labor day?

as published in North Country News

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