I finally got the whole day off yesterday. I didn’t leave the property once, except to get my kids from the school bus, which hardly counts because this whole hill is home.
I had my little one with me all day, too. Dressed up in her shiny blue dress-up dress, or her homemade fairy skirt, or nothing at all, depending on the moment. She changes her clothes a lot. We walked around all day and took care of things.
On our hill today is spring. Everywhere are things begging to be taken care of. Green shoots to be watered. Bare dirt with seeds in it needs water, too. Do we have enough mulch for this bare place? Pull the weeds around that tree and give them to the hens. Is it getting too hot for the baby chicks in their cardboard box?
Sadie kept bringing me their water dish to be refilled, time and time again. She loves those baby chicks and can’t help taking care of them. When I rest in the rocking chair she sits up on my lap and leans over the side to watch them. She says, “They cute.” She wants to hold them all the time.
In the early afternoon, while the bread was rising, I took my worm bin out onto the porch and ran my fingers through it. I found the little pieces of foil from candy wrappers that shouldn’t ever have been in there. I don’t know how it happens. I found strips of something plastic that probably looked like paper when I put it in. The sun was warm but not too warm, the gift of spring.
Sadie trotted over in her dress and no shoes and said, “I help you, mama.” I sent her to the sandbox to get me a handful of sand. Then I lifted up an egg shell filled with tiny baby worms. “Babies,” I said. She said it back to me, “Babies.”
Then she said, “They cute.”
I smiled at her. They kind of look like maggots. But I love them, too.
I’ve been wondering lately how to take care of things. As I am suddenly in my mid-thirties (late thirties?) and my body is throwing up roadblocks to stressors I used to take in stride. I’ve only ever taken care of my body because I knew I was supposed to. But I don’t know any more how to take care of something because I am supposed to.
I’ve pretended all my life that I can pull this off, because in theory all responsible people can. But “responsible people” are a rarer species than I used to think. Mostly we’re all just failing at being responsible and trying to hide those ugly pieces of ourselves from light.
What if it was easier than that? What if what you had to do to take care of something was sit on the front porch, in the lazy, warm spring sun, and pay attention until you fall in love?
Somebody said to me this Earth Day that we’re running out of time. For climate change. For peak oil, for peak water. For peak soil. And peak biodiversity. For everything.
We’re running out of time.
I know what that feels like, too. At the end of the day, when Sadie was tired, she got too much sun and spilled the chicken food all over the welcome mat. My yurt walls heard harsh words for the first time that day. I needed to get the kids from the bus, and the oven wasn’t hot enough to get the bread through in time and the garden water tank was dry. I was looking down the end of the day and maybe I hadn’t had a single accomplishment to speak of. My ego flared right up and said, “EMERGENCY.”
No time for pretty things, let alone the flowers and the worms. No time for being in love with the world. No time for walking around and letting things tell me what they need.
We’re running out of time.
In earth-care terms? That was the least productive, most consumptive hour of my day. In earth-care terms, THAT was my failure.
Believe me, I understand the issues. I am motivated to aggressive lifestyle change for all these reasons. Climate change. Peak oil. Peak water. Peak soil. And peak biodiversity. The fragility and beauty of every little thing.
But no amount of red flag waving can awaken my passion for beautiful tiny things. No amount of desperation or shouting or criticism can make me stay out of my car and walk the land with my eyes to relationship instead of domination. No amount of scarcity or fear could make me fall in love with worms.
We can’t solve the scarcity problem IN the scarcity problem. We can’t make healthy soil by looking at alarming graphs. We can’t serve the earth by frightening our own desperate egos.
The only way I know to take care of this precious, precious Earth is to wander barefoot in these weeds. And pay attention until I fall in love. It’s ridiculous, I suppose. Irrational. And beautiful. Like everything that really, really matters.
It is the hope of tiny things.