Transformation

Most of my posts have been well thought through in a typical, type-A approach to sharing what I think or what I observe. There’s a neat theme. Or a central image. Or lists. Or bullet points. Or things that seem to make sense out of this crazy farming universe we’re in right now.

One thing I’ve learned here is to let words and ideas flow from my heart without the filters of what is “reasonable” or “rational” or “balanced” sifting through my feelings to chisel and carve out chunks of what is truth for me right now so that  I can feel safe and avoid feeling too vulnerable.

I don’t have any neatly packaged thoughts to share right now. But I can’t believe that we’re nearly two thirds of the way through our program right now, and I’m overcome with the joy and awe and wonder and sleepy-yet-awakeness of all that we’ve done here.

I’m thinking now of a quotation from Anais Nin that I have seen often in the eco-Jewish world,

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom”

Maybe that’s some of what’s happening to me now.  Maybe I’ve sat in so many hug-y, sing-y circles about plants and love that I’m drinking the (organic, free range, gluten-free, non-GMO) kool-aid.

I’m convinced that transformation happens every day here for each of us, and I think I’ve been here long enough now to see some of what’s changed.

We get to see food turned into compost turned into soil turned into growing plants turned into “we, too, are one day headed for the compost pile.”

We see the fall foliage surrounding the lake go from green to orange to red to brown to drifting to raking to compost pile to “this is so beautiful” to “how do I know that the leaves will ever come back?” to “I !@#-ING HATE WINTER AND WHY DID I THINK THIS WAS A GOOD IDEA??!?”

Judaism here is so rich and so vibrant and still full of the contradictions and choices we face outside of this loving intentional community.  Sometimes we won’t get along.  We don’t always ask each other the right questions to show that we care.  Sometimes we don’t have the words to explain the pain we carry with us or to ask for the right wells of wisdom in our tradition that can help us heal.  Our communities still aren’t enough to feed everyone’s souls, to get it right, to make peace in a real way, to help us each see the light of god in each other.  There is so much here that is alive in our spiritual practice, and still – we need to do more.  This simultaneously breaks my heart and makes me realize that I have to try anyway, to bring what I can amidst the brokenness, because what else is there to do?

Becoming more ourselves:  this also happens every day.  Sometimes it means openly sobbing in a field while harvesting carrots. Sometimes it means massage circles. Sometimes it means learning to chant kol nidre with four days notice when I didn’t think I could.  Sometimes it means I feel angry while shoveling goat poop and laughing hysterically five minutes later in a goat sound making contest. Sometimes I feel old. Sometimes I feel young. Sometimes I want things to be easy and resist what is hard and new and foreign. Sometimes I see the learning potential in anything and everything without thinking twice.  Sometimes I decide it’s a good idea to try driving a really big truck.  Sometimes I’m not sure if it’s actually a good idea for me to drive a really big truck.  Sometimes it means talking to a chicken in a bizarre ritual that makes me think more about the number of ways of creating chicken soup than releasing my sins before yom kippur. Sometimes it means jumping in the lake when I know it’s too cold. Sometimes it means saying exactly what I mean even if it might hurt someone. Sometimes it means writing down whatever is flowing out right now even though I know I should be asleep because I have to wake up in four hours to meditate.

So this is my post. I’m not editing it. Even though it’s 3 am and I know there are probably type-os and things that won’t make any sense tomorrow morning when I wake up.

We’re all being transformed all the time. And it’s a crazy, wild ride to witness this magic up close with people I love, in a place that feeds every ounce of my being.

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The Great Rosh Hashanah Chicken Rescue

This year, my Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish new year) involved a little more farm-style action than expected….

Just as the new year was beginning – as people elegantly dressed in white and refreshingly cleansed after weeks of farm work began to gather for hugs and new years greetings, I said hello while apologizing for having to run so quickly to do my evening chore – putting the chickens to sleep.

The chicken coop in the evening is a magical place.  I’ve loved having the chore of taking care of the chickens – poop scooping and all – if only for the moment of serenity that came in the evenings when putting them to sleep.  Every evening, like clockwork, the chickens go back to their coop to sleep (and stay safe from predators) when the sun comes down.  I had the amazing chance to leave evening sessions or stop whatever I was doing to swing by the chicken coop and observe the beauty that was the sunset over a quiet field.  Our main farm is surrounded by beautiful hills, all the more fanciful these days as the colors are changing for fall.  Even more magnificent is the resounding silence; after a day of squacking and clucking and pecking and chasing each other around the coop, all that can be heard by the time I arrive at sunset is the flutter of the last few sets of wings settling into the coop and the nighttime surround sound echo of crickets in the field.  Simply. AMZAZING.

So, on this rosh hashanah eve, I took my usual contemplative stroll over to the chickens, thinking about this beautiful opportunity to spend time outside while welcoming in the new year.  I took my usual moment to appreciate the beauty of the field at nighttime, closed the chicken coop, wished them laila tov (good night), and started to walk away.

But then…I heard a rustle in the bushes.  I saw where it was coming from and noticed a chicken stuck – literally – between a rock and a hard place.  Sometimes the chickens get out of the coop during the day (either by flying or sneaking through gates), and this particular individual was trying to make her way back home…through a wire fence…surrounded on multiple sides by a downward sloping hill with large rocks at the bottom.

First I tried to push the chicken over.  It went to a different spot where it promptly started pecking at a different spot in the fence (I admired its commitment; and also, this pecking plan was going nowhere).  I tried reaching over the fence to pick up the chicken, but the fence was too tall.  I tried coaxing the chicken up to higher ground where it could fly over, but it kept wandering back down the hill to spots where it could get stuck.

It was getting dark.  Even if I had gone to the other side of the fence where the chicken was, I likely could have injured myself trying to find it.  I realized I needed help.

I speedily walked back to Rosh Hashanah services, my heart racing a mile a minute.  I nervously went to one of my directors, anxious at the fact that I was interrupting his own prayer experience on one of the holiest days of the year with a question about chickens.  I hurriedly explained the situation to him and decided it was fine to go after services were over.

The 40 minutes or so that I actually sat in services after that seemed like a terrifying eternity.  The only text running through my head was from some of the Rosh Hashanah liturgy acknowledging our own feebleness and vulnerability in the upcoming year:

“WHO WILL LIVE AND WHO WILL DIE”

“WHO BY FIRE, WHO BY WATER”

In addition to these traditional texts, I added:

“WHO BY FOX”

“WHO BY COYOTE”

“WHO BY INABILITY NAVIGATE ONESELF BACK TO THE CHICKEN COOP”

Various horrific visions of chicken slaughter passed through my mind, and I couldn’t concentrate on the communal prayer around me at all.

When services ended, I must have had a stunned look on my face as I tried to explain the situation to some of my farming compadres…and a friend quickly offered to go back and help.

Headlamp in hand (I hadn’t planned to use electricity for the holiday, but there’s a Jewish tradition that laws can be broken to save a life…I am hoping this applies to chickens as well)….we went on a night hike down the side of the hilly ravine where the chicken was hiding.  We coaxed the chicken uphill to a spot where I could finally grab it.  I threw the chicken over the fence.  It flapped its wings enough to make a soft landing, then waddled towards the coop.  I opened the door again (the already sleepy chickens luckily did not take this as an opportunity to wander out), threw our wandering chicken friend back in with the rest of her posse, and breathed a HUGE sigh of relief.

SO…when you live on a Jewish farm, prayer can come in many forms and in strange ways.  This was probably the least amount of time I’ve spent in organized prayer space on Rosh Hashanah eve in recent memory.  And it was certainly the only Rosh Hashanah when I had such vivid visions of some of those traditional texts floating through my mind.  I think the most important part of my prayer that night WAS the chickens…as well as the process of navigating my own sense of responsibility, boundaries, and the frequent need to seek help in the community in order to do what needs to be done.  Thank g-d no chickens were harmed that night.  And I hope their new year started a little bit sweeter because of it.

Chicken sunset

Chicken sunset

Chicken home

Chicken home

Chicken coop in the compost yard (Aka "Bubbe's Breakdown Bistro")

Chicken coop in the compost yard (Aka “Bubbe’s Breakdown Bistro”)