On Saturday, I drove up to the cabin with one of our land partners so we could drop off a loveseat that we got for free from someone in the city. It was a quick trip up and back on the same day, but we wanted to get in there before more snow hit the ground. Although it’s pretty bare in Princeton at the moment, the hills around and the elevation our place is at has definitely seen some cold temps and precipitation. There was just enough that I could take my showshoes for a spin up above our place, following the trail that Brian and I flagged in the summer.
Now the we have the cabin really underway, I am starting to know the landscape around our lot. I’ve taken up my plant guides for the interior, and started to photograph what I think might be edible for further verification. We’ve found the moose wallows, and noted the tracks of various animals – including snowshoe hare on this most recent trip. We’re cutting old trails back into place and following ones made by the deer. It’s a process – to really know a place deeply – and one that I feel is just beginning for us after two years of hanging around this place.
At the zen-do on Sunday, we talked about the climate change summit, and a poem by Gary Snyder was read. The last three lines of the poem sounded:
learn the flowers
And it brought me to thinking about this long process of getting to know a place – to “learn the flowers” and how the transience of our current society makes it very hard for us to know places deeply enough to care for and caretake them. Some of that transience is forced – as in the migrations out of the Middle East right now – but in the North American context there is a sense that to be transient is to be free. And freedom is of high value in our context – thus to be tied down, to know a place, to live in a grounded and rooted way is to be unfree and that is deeply unhip.
But if we don’t know the flowers, follow the animal trails, learn the parts of our landscape which sustain life – then how can we in turn sustain more than just lifestyle?
I expect that is in effect the difference that this hinges on – we value lifestyle over life, and confuse the two in the process.
I don’t have a punchy way to finish this post – the thoughts are still in formation as I type and I’ve just flown across the country to attend a week of meetings in Ottawa. And that speaks to my own issues with status and lifestyle that are too much to get into right now.
So – to being grounded, placed, rooted, and a little bit stuck – I am increasingly of the mind that this is the only way we are going to get out of the mess that we are in. Dig in, plant a garden, watch the seasons rise and fall.