This past season we had the pleasure and privilege of working with two exceptional individuals that we will not soon forget. James and Katie came to us with genuine curiosity, and a deep desire to cultivate a closer connection to the landscape. Hired on as part-time farm apprentices, and full-time farm residents, they spent May through September working alongside us, and eventually independently from us. In perfect time lapse succession we watched the subtle shift in seasons mirror a subtle, though cumulatively transformational shift in understanding.
In Katie and James we saw inexhaustible receptivity and openness to learning. They say the best students are those without fear of puzzlement. Puzzlement, like wonder, is only pejorative when denied or unexplored. But when experienced without self consciousness, it is the spark that initiates inquiry, observation, and reasoning. It can be a frustrating enterprise, or completely effortless when aligned with what Joseph Campbell termed as, "following your bliss." Both sides of that spectrum have been the propulsion engine of our work at Fields Without Fences, moving through each new set of challenges and changes fueled by the need for deeper knowing.
Weeding can be tiresome. Harvesting can quickly become profane. Staying present and curious and humble to all that you do not know is key for us. So we copped to it in our first conversations with those interested in learning from us; we are still learning. It's true, and if all goes well, it will always be True. James and Katie were unfazed, excited even, and looking forward to participating in the process of experimentation and observation that has come to typify our day to day.
As the day to day spread on into weeks and months, they learned from us, and we learned from them. In between explaining how to sow a seed and site a plant, I learned that James has an incredible capacity for growth and revision, always capable of accepting new insight. While covering the mechanics of hand weeding and harvesting, I learned so much about finding the potential for beauty and joy in every moment by watching Katie. There were difficult moments and challenges too. Shifting expectations, new perceptions, and personal growth echoed the change from spring to summer to fall. As teachers and students, we approached each day with renewed interest and a deepening understanding of the terrain.
All along and from now on, we continue to cultivate a relationship. An experience is something you can walk away from, but a relationship requires endless exchange. It's one piece of a tried and true protocol I will fully commit to. The process of exchange is critical to understanding natural systems. No part of the garden, nor this universe, is fixed and autonomous. Parts correlate and respond to other parts. It is simultaneously simple and infinitely complex, like most relationships. We talked about this while planting trees and processing herbs. Tedium full of potential discovery, new and interesting because of it. We observe and respond to each moment as it unfolds in an endless cycle of change. We tend the garden, we cultivate our relationships.
Katie and James, thank you for all your hard work, understanding, and willingness to wonder.
Fields Without Fences