Last night I went and saw Mark Shephard talk about his new book Restoration Agriculture. Mark is a Driftless Area permaculture guru. The book deals with how one can mimic the native environment and biome to create an agricultural system that is high in calories and nutritional content per acre and is an ecosystem in itself rather than a lack of one. I haven’t read the book yet but I definitely plan to once I finish the 4 (yes 4) books I am currently reading. Mark’s farm is well known in the area for his hazelnut operation and the hard apple cider he makes. He’s also well known for his hilarious band Synister Dane, being friendly and jovial, and taking on several interns each year. I loved his talk and afterwards my mind was really spinning with dreams for the future.
I am an educator at heart. It is what I am good at and what I am passionate about. I am also deeply connected to the earth. I dream of forming a relationship with a piece of land and sharing it with others. What that means is still unclear to me. Will I someday own land and operate an environmental, outdoor, and farming education center out of it? Would that land be mine or would I own it cooperatively? Will I find an educational community that I can make my home and educate from there? Will I simply live close to the land like I dream and keep education as my day job working at a school or park or writing curriculum? I have worked with summer camps, outdoor education programs, public schools, a semester program, an alternative high school, and others and I have loved them all. Even the experiences that were less than ideal at the time taught me valuable lessons about my values, strengths, and desires. Where I am in life right now there is much uncertainty. Where will I be a year from now? Where will I be six months from now? Who will I be with and what will I be doing?
When I imagine my future I see images behind my eyes like vivid memories I have yet to live. I am leading hikes in the rain and discussing vernal ponds. I am shelling beans into a bucket as the sunsets. I am chopping wood for future fires and looking up to watch others neatly stack it to season. I am singing songs round a campfire. I am harvesting tomatoes with a baby on my hip. I am skiing through snowy fields in the bright sun. I see fresh baked bread, a pantry full of canned goods, teenagers in waiters ready for adventure, and little kids with fairy wings and nature journals. I see a room of ecology supplies that always smells faintly of mildew in the best possible way. I see children overturning rocks in the stream looking for salamanders and frogs. I see my feet hanging from a handbuilt tree house as I read and sip on a tea of wild mint and nettles. My journal is filled with drawings of encounters with wild animals and new plants. My hands are rough from hard work. My schedule is busy, challenging, and always changing. And best of all, I am happy.
As I walked home from Mark’s talk last night I decided it is time to embrace the uncertainties in my life. I don’t know what the future holds for me. No one does. My professor Marty at Warren Wilson always to said, “Start small, go slow, but go.” You can’t sit around and expect your dreams come to you if you don’t work towards them. With that I am going for a walk and see what this rainy, freezing day has to teach me.