This morning when I woke at 5:30, instead of going back to bed and trying to ignore the cat asking for attention, I picked up a book that had been languishing on the bottom of my library book pile for a few months. (It’s bad when you’re a librarian and can renew as many times as you like!) Shannon Hayes’ book Radical Homemakers is not a new book at this point, but for me, it’s the perfect book for this moment in my life when I am seeing all the ways that I need to change what I’m doing to make it all sustainable. It’s a turning point kind of book, and I plan to keep up the momentum.
As I began reading, I found Hayes’ story resonant. I grew up on a family homestead, feeding calves and chickens, running in the woods and creeks, going to town when my dad slaughtered the cows. Growing up queer, I thought that I needed to run to the city to be myself, and maybe at that point, I did. What I’ve only begun to realize in the past ten years or so, though, is that my heart is still the heart of a farmer. I want to slow down, bake my own bread, grow my gardens, can like crazy, and build a living permaculture landscape that feeds me and all the other life forms in the ecosystem. The truth is, I already do those things. I just do them in small spaces in rented apartments and community gardens.
I don’t have chickens (yet!) or goats, and I haven’t built a root cellar, but I dream of these things the way I used to dream about having the sleekest Donna Karan outfit. I buy my clothes at the thrift store, but have been dreaming about sewing lately.
I am creating a beautiful life–a life that I love, but the fact is, I still have to work for now. I still have to figure out how to save some money when I’m trying to support my health through therapies that are thousands of years old but not covered by my health insurance. I could get really discouraged, but then I just remember that everything begins as a dream, an inkling. As I was sitting down with my homemade chicken soup and biscuit tonight, I opened Radical Homemakers up again and read about the three stages of becoming a radical homemaker that Hayes had observed: Renouncing, Reclaiming and Rebuilding. I have passed the renouncing stage and have been in the reclaiming stage for a while. She cautions that here is the place where disillusionment lurks: What do I do with all of my fermentation skills? What’s it all for? This is where I am some days–feeling that while I’m pretty damned competent at creating things and making my way in the world without using money all the time, I struggle to believe that I might find that homestead and maybe even have someone to share it with some day.
Today, I am feeling the urgency of figuring out how to make do with even less so that I can have more of what I want later. I don’t want to fall into the trap of being enslaved to the corporate system. I want to be able to choose my fate. That quest begins now. On to Rebuilding!