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I name each year of my life with a one word resolution. This year, 2016, my word is slow. When I chose it, I had just found out that my book that I wrote was going to take the whole year to make it to the shelves. Several writer friends left me in the dust, releasing one or even two books in the amount of time it has taken this one to go to press. So. Clearly, “slow.”

But also I was watching our tiny off-grid life grow into something more like a real homestead. We filmed a mid-year progress report today and I can’t hardly believe how much we’ve accomplished. It’s so little day to day, but it’s SO MUCH when you look at it all at once. I feel over this such a mix of pride and loss. Of course there is so much excitement. But in the excitement is also this aching sense of nostalgia for my little yurt life, and the tent life before that, and the infancy of our dream…as we face a move into something much more like adulthood.

We’re gathering weight and stability. We’re observing the effects of our labor and our choices. After the phase of throwing it all away and starting over, now we’re owning more and holding more value. And with that dynamic comes the temptation to be stressed out and miserable and self obsessed…just like the career-driven, consumerist life we left.

I’ve read about animals in captivity, who still walk their little cage paths even when the door is open. A habit of bondage is a powerful thing. Sometimes Nick and I have to remind ourselves, — with words and force of will — and also more words, and also funny jokes and other silly things — how free we really are.

We have to remind ourselves, how free we really are.

Or we’ll forget.

We’ll forget how many ties we’ve cut, and how successfully we’ve cut them. We’ll forget that we really do wake up every morning with all the choices in the world. We’ll forget that by privilege and by will and willingness to do hard work we have had this chance to literally set ourselves free. Freedom is as freedom does.

One thing homesteading does is bring you close to your mortality. Safety is a catch word everywhere, but in this walking-on-earth form we’re all brief miracles. People who are into off-grid (or self-reliance, or transformative kinds of simple living) give up illusions of permanence and immortality the way other people give up coffee.

Maybe all this is my excuse for not giving up my coffee. 🙂

Do we have time to help Milo build a playhouse (play shack?) by the pond? Do we have time to can 12 dozen ears of corn? Do we have time to watch the hummingbirds and the gray squirrels and talk to friends and make date times to be silly and sweet and in love with this imperfect life?

In this crazy, losing-its-head world, do we have time not to?

I love this piece by my friend (and, honestly, writing hero) Sarah Bessey. It’s kind of all the things I always say, about living well into this moment as resistance to the sorrow and violence of the world. (Clearly Christian, though, for those who prefer the kind of agnostic feel.) Sarah has good words, all the time, whenever she writes, and she has laid out this problem really well.

I don’t know that there’s any way to reverse this cycle of history that we’re in. I don’t know that there’s any way to end the violence, and especially the fear and fear of “other.” It has a feeling of cycling back to patterns that are human and as old as time. But if there were a way to turn it back, it would be to live as if we really had our freedom. It would be to not accept the bars of a cage that may or may not be there. It would be to believe that if our time is limited then okay. That’s all the more reason to live a holy, joyful, loving life. That’s all the more reason to live well, under the banner of abundance, and not scarcity.

We have serviceberry trees all around us in the yurt. Dozens of them. They’re also called juneberries, though we harvest them in July, so that’s confusing. They’re almost done. I gather them for jam and for the kids, but also I gather a lot for the chickens. If I give the chickens enough juneberries they don’t eat much grain at all…and they’re giving us eggs so well right now. This literally feeds us. But it takes so much time and attention, of my life, to have that wealth.

I think that so often in the homestead life….when I have to go and gather peas, when I have to go and gather water, when I have to go and gather wood. You can’t have it, unless you stop and get it. You can’t be rich, unless you take time to see your wealth.

This is half of what the harvesting time is good for… It’s the time when we put our hands in buckets of corn and peaches and feel how we’re running gold through your fingers. How good is the world! How precious is life! How possible it is to live a life of joy.

Mortality is real. Risk is real. The lack of safety we feel is real. But it isn’t time, yet, to give up.

I know there’s something terrible on the news every single day. I know it. But also I know that the world is turning, with its own terrible, ferocious resolve. The blueberries are ripe, and the juneberries are almost done. And there are still flowers that know nothing of our fear, nothing of our wars, nothing of our terror. These are our family, too. What do they have to teach us now?

I’m wishing you all a bit of joy today. And maybe even a joke. I’m wishing you all a taste of the harvest today.

Slow down for weeds or blueberries; take silly, soft time with someone you love. Speak beautiful. Look up and see. You don’t have to be numb to be soft.

Even in a dark time, in a dark world, I wish your day’s ration of beauty, and also joy.

Love from the yurt,
Esther and family