On the day after the Southern Solstice, I’m seeing a little light shed on a life that had become dark, obscured by shadows. It’s always bright somewhere—the darkness we live in, in winter, is nothing less than the shadow cast by the earth in her incline. Darkness can make one sad for biological reasons, but it is also a source of anxiety for deep psychological reasons—and as skeptical as I am of evolutionary psychology’s framework and conjectures, it just makes sense that we become anxious in dark times because we cannot see very well in the dark, and throughout most of our evolution as a species darkness has therefore represented vulnerability and even life-threatening danger.
In August, I was sowing the seeds of a fall crop that were not material but which I nonetheless depend on to sustain me—although I did not know it then. Pressure built, demanding change of some sort, while I argued with myself for patience, counseled caution, insisted on some sense of pragmatic security.
I really wanted to stay at my job indefinitely. I appreciate and am grateful for the caring community here, the support of my boss, and the opportunity to learn and grow in Jewish spiritual practice. But I’ve come to admit, while I am capable of doing office work and even of doing a decent job—moreover, I am now fairly experienced at it—it is not my strongest point. I don’t love office work. It’s not a good fit for me. And staying at the same office work position for three years has been a drain on my motivation.
At some point I realized that I had already made a decision to leave; it was just figuring out how, and what to do next, that I had left to do. And on my mind was farming.
When I realized I was going to leave, I cut my costs dramatically. I had been spending too much on little luxuries—books, restaurants, snacks, tea. I cut a lot of extras out of my budget, and even reduced my cell phone plan. I had already moved to a place with cheaper rent, but I found myself wanting to cut living expenses still more. I also adjusted my student loan payments to be more in line with my present income. I began to put by a little money every month, with the goal of having a comfortable savings on which to live very frugally for several months. And I researched farm internships.
Farm internships often offer housing (on the farm) and some food (from the farm) and sometimes a stipend for living expenses (not much) in exchange for hard outdoor work for long hours, planting, weeding, tilling, harvesting, animal care, often some handywork around the farm, and sometimes some CSA administration work or direct to market sales. Some farms offer educational opportunities above and beyond the learning-by-doing aspect of the job. Housing ranges from a place to put your tent to bunkhouse style to cozy cabins. The more I thought about it, the more I craved it. It sounded perfect.
So I have been preparing to transition from my 36hr/week office job that pays me a decent living wage, if not quite enough to prosper in the Bay Area, with people I know and like who know and like me, that allows me to live near my Beloved, to an unknown internship on some probably distant land-base (farms are what I first thought of, but quickly found myself applying for residential internships at parks, recreational areas, and guest ranches as well), with unknown people and work I’ve only done a little of. I’m preparing to move to a basement room my friend offered me rent free in exchange for work for a couple of months, until such time as the rest of my plan comes together. This is forcing me to pare down my belongings still further—I’m within sight of the 100 Things Challenge without making a special effort, having consolidated my library to about thirty books and identified a good amount of clothing to get rid of, as well as everything I own that’s too large to fit in a standard sized car. It’s also making me a little crazy right now, since I have work to do on the room before I can move in, and I will have to move Christmas weekend. I haven’t started packing. Every time I think about packing, I start getting rid of things instead. It’s kind of soothing.
I’m very close to announcing where I’m going, I think. It’s too early yet to confirm, but I think things are coming together for an internship that, while it doesn’t fit many of the criteria I was looking for, just feels like a harmonious fit. Reason hasn’t gotten me anywhere so far this trip, other than building my savings, so I’m going with the gut on this one too.
Slowly, slowly, from darkness, shapes of my future are starting to emerge. Just like the day emerging from the winter dark, at first the change is slow—barely noticeable; the two weeks around Solstice each day is almost the same length as the one before. But preparations are going on madly under the dark soil, in the gloomy sky. And as the days begin to lengthen, the cold begins to strengthen, even as the amount of sunlight each day waxes. Until between Imbolc and Ostara, between early February and the Spring Equinox, the days will get brighter and longer—faster. And around the Spring Equinox, when my next flurry of packing and moving will probably be happening, the change will be most dramatic of all. Each day will look very different from the one before. Warmth will be returning to the earth, and light, and the growth of new things.