Sunday, June 24, 2012

Check one, check two

All the seedlings should be in the garden already.  They're not.  The flowering plant, however, was brought back from beyond the grave. 
What I really want to be writing about, most of the time, is food. How since food is the only thing I need in life, other than art, it behooves me to learn how to grow it. Or maybe it's just Grandpa Jenks in my DNA, speaking down through the century. Those dairy and potato farms understood the value of pulling things up out of the earth.

Maybe it's why I've chosen farming as my avocation, although calling what we do here, on a plot barely bigger than a garden, is by no means farming. Maybe I just want to reclaim that word, and the idea that one can be a farmer simply by stating that intention, to create something of value for my own body by cultivating the soil and the things that grow from that soil. Recently I asked our cooperative extension representative at what point a garden stops being a garden and starts becoming a farm and even she didn't have an answer.

Why have all of us suddenly returned to a goal of being able to provide our own food for ourselves? It seems a good sign. Today was documentary Sunday on Maine public television, maybe my favorite television day of the week, and the best one was about Bhutan, whose benevolent philosopher-king has instituted a policy of “gross domestic happiness.” GDH is founded on environmental responsibility, economic development, good governance, and a strong connection to a unique culture.

Watching the interviews of families of sustenance farmers in the countryside, families collected together in hot springs, laughing together in the steam, or cultivating their rice fields in the mountains—it seemed the idyllic version of reality I so often envision. Government officials emphasizing the importance of leisure time for the families, and chances to pursue individual spiritual practice. Everyone seemed engaged in art as well as farming—people played native guitars, or sang, or danced, or designed elaborate costumes or masks, or practiced archery. Most of the country folk hadn't even heard of the national policy on happiness. But the happiness itself glowed from their faces and was present in their words. They spoke of the debilitating effects of advertising, now that electricity and television are reaching the farthest flung areas. Advertising creates desire, and desire creates suffering. No wonder so many Americans are so miserable.

“Money?” they ask, almost to a person. “What good is money? If I had money I'd just be afraid of losing it. Happiness comes from inside, and no one can take that away.”

They say it better. Perhaps because they know it better than I ever will.

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