I love where I live; since moving to our new home four years ago, I've been able to build a relationship with a piece of land for the first time since I was a child. It's everything a dirt-worshipping Pagan could ask for. I have a garden, and I grow much of my own food, and that is as much a spiritual delight as a taste treat. And I have woods again as neighbors: glacial boulders, white pines and black birches, owls and white-tailed deer.
And the bears eat my lettuce.
I'm not kidding about that. Oh, it's winter now, and the bears are huddled up in their dens. But this past spring, I grew lettuce. Award winning, gorgeous lettuce: three different kinds! They were nourished to extraordinary size and succulence by the cool, wet weather we had, and each night, I would gather just a few outer leaves, knowing that careful tending would mean tasty salads for months.
And then, over the course of three days, the bears ate every single one of my lettuce plants…
I have come to think of the work that I do on Saturdays as "farming." Now, I know it isn't farming--not really. We have a medium-sized vegetable garden and two dogs, and that's not a farm, by any stretch of the imagination.
But I keep thinking of a comment Joel Salatin made in Yes Magazine once, about how Americans have become used to thinking of our homes as centers of consumption, but how once, thinking of your home as a center of production (typically, a farm, for most of us for most of our history) was the norm.
And between trying to live with less plastic junk and trying to eat more sustainably and locally, Saturdays at home have become very productive days. And that productivity--the willingness to substitute patience, skill, and thrift for consumption--I've come to think of as a species of farming. (My apologies to actual farmers, whose work I increasingly appreciate. But thinking in this way works for me, somehow.)
One of the dangers of being Quaker--or Pagan--is a privilege at the same time.
Quakers and Pagans share a somewhat counter-cultural view of our society. In slightly different ways, most Quakers and most Pagans believe that human society is flawed in bitterly destructive ways that must be confronted and changed. We look out at a world burdened by the selfish exploitation of whole nations of human beings, and of the ecosystem itself, and we know that things as they are are not OK.
The privilege and the danger that arises from this is that of associating with activists.
It's a privilege, of course, to have a chance to be inspired by those who are willing to risk imprisonment or even death to be faithful to their spiritual convictions. This inspirational force is excellent for warding off complacency and the kind of internal self-congratulation that degrades possessing a moral compass into mere spiritual materialism and self-worship.