Notes from Windward: #68


it's more important than I've ever known

Oana shares some thoughts before heading east for Christmas

     The contrast between living here with a group of people and animals and living alone in an apartment in the suburbs of a northern French city is enormous. Living alone has its merits: plenty of time to think, no reason to cook or clean if you don't feel like it, and the liberty of going out any time and coming home very late. However, it's mighty nice to talk to someone once in a while. In France, I made few friends and worked like a maniac, so I had little interaction with people.

     The fruits and vegetables sold in stores are chosen to be without blemishes, and the rest are disrespectfully thrown away. A sustainable system cannot afford to waste. Fortunately, functioning outside this mainstream allows Windward to grab a lot of that waste and use it in a timely manner. A good example is the 100 gallons of windfall apples we gathered on a recent afternoon.

the sheep press in looking for snacks

     Stewardship of the environment within and without the body revolves around responsibility. There is certainly a responsibility in taking care to feed each goat, sheep, rabbit, and bird what it needs to stay alive and healthy. And there is the responsibility of making sure every life has its proper place and is treated with respect.

     Living in a community, however small, has its "downsides:" responsibilities, showing respect towards people that make you bubble and boil inside, and less time alone to think. On the other hand, these are downsides only from a specific point of view. This point of view doesn't want to TRY living with other people. The upsides are enormous: variety, connections, emotional support, less time spent on dreary things, well-used resources. Variety: eating different and wonderful food, learning things you never knew about and would rarely find out otherwise, or doing a project you like because someone else is doing the project you don't like because she, in fact, likes it. Well-used resources: if you don't like this pasta sauce she made, I'll eat it gladly. Oh, and are you using that pile of rusty nails?

     As humans, we are disconnected. Most of us have forgotten to act on behalf of nature, helping it help us stay alive and enjoy our time. Instead we separate ourselves, disconnect ourselves from the natural processes which turn the gears of life. When animals are taken from their natural environment and put in zoos, after a while they go crazy. They are penned up, constantly having to pretend to act naturally. When will people go crazy from their isolation?

     I remember reading Kurt Vonnegut's A Man Without A Country and laughing about this passage. The story began something like this (I'm paraphrasing): What does a man do when he wants to relax? He goes fishing with his buddies, or watches sports with them. What does a woman do when she wants to relax? She calls her girlfriends on the phone and talks for hours. Then: A man and his wife are arguing. You know what they're saying? You're not enough people!

     When I came to Windward I didn't realize I would spend so much time with people. We eat together and work together, and although there is plenty of time when I could be by myself, I would much rather hang out in the warm kitchen and study than hide out in my hut. This willingness to be with people is something I haven't much experienced before -- I used to "need my space" often. I hope this translates into warmer relationships with everyone I hang out or live with.

     But.. doesn't this constant contact become stifling after a while? Maybe yes, maybe no. Depends on who you talk to. In the meantime, respect, politeness, and appreciation of efforts go a very long way in a small environment. People are firstly part of a small network: family, friends, and domestic animals. It is only later we notice that we are living in a town, or a nation, a continent, a world of other living things. A person should not live alone, isolated from their environment and fellow creatures. Why, then, are so many people living as if isolated from the natural world, expecting it to give and never returning the favor?

Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 68