Seven Nights in a Strawbale Cabin: Conclusion

From left: Joe, Jen, Alexis, Kelly, Paul, and Meagan hanging out at Everdale’s tree house

MONDAY, September 18: The Last Night

Not many people got a code to live by anymore (Bud, Repo Man)

Monday is still a blur. Fortunately we had the morning off, so I used the time to meet with some interns and staff for interviews, and to rest my weary bones. That day, I discovered muscles I never knew I had; it felt as if I’d run a marathon and then tread on hot coals. They took pity on me that afternoon and let me do chores that didn’t involve much walking, bending or lifting. I vaguely recall sitting in the kitchen peeling and snipping a mountain of garlic bulbs, with Jen sitting next to me telling me stories about her life, but I might well have dreamed that.

That night; our last evening together, I cracked open a bottle of Australian wine I’d bought in Hillsburg and we hung out a little and watched the Alanis Morrisette video – Live in the Navajo Nation. It was amazing to see images of the Southwest and the Native American culture that is so strong there. I’ve always thought the mountainous terrain of the Southwest U.S. to be almost surreal in its staggering beauty; it tells the story of a people bound to the land in such a deeply spiritual way that truly no division exists between the two – the land and its people are inseparable – and this is a belief that lies at the core of all Aboriginal cultures. The land is literally alive, and we must respect it, taking only what we need from it, giving thanks for what we take, and replenishing always. Once again, the Everdale Superstars, as I’d secretly come to call them, hit the proverbial nail on the head for choosing the ideal send-off movie.

My last night in my strawbale cabin was reflective and a little sad. I’d learned so much in such a short time but it would take longer to process it all and longer still to put it to good use in my own life, in a permanent way. The “technical” knowledge was easy enough to leaf through, catalogue and apply; it was the more elusive bits of wisdom, the deeper insights and the hidden meanings behind the surface events that were harder to grab a hold of and grapple with before coming to some kind of real understanding. For every “seed” of service I may have planted in my brief time as a volunteer at Everdale, I received many-fold, flowering plants in return. While I lay beneath the layers of blankets, I thought of the staff and interns, how kind and generous they had been to me, how free-spirited and open-minded they all are, without exception. Images of the past week began to flash by in my mind’s eye: Kelly throwing the doors of the red barn open and light pouring in, golden brown hay glistening in the sunshine; us rushing through the field in the pouring rain, laughing and carrying bins full of harvest; Alexis smiling as she posed for a picture beside the earthen oven, wearing her lovely harvest pants that flowed when she moved; Meagan and her boyfriend singing Old McDonald; the funny little faces of the alpacas; Spike sitting upright like he did every morning while attending the 7:00 am meetings; bed of sunflowers, standing tall and graceful; morning mist on the hills; Jen with a twinkle in her eye, saying “You’ll love it.”

And I did. I loved my strawbale home away from home. I loved everything about Everdale, right down to the outhouses. The last image that came to me was perhaps the most important one of all: Greycoat, sitting majestically on the ground – but it wasn’t on the road to Hillsburg, like in real life; it was, instead, right outside my cottage door, which was flung wide open – and it was the summertime once again.

BACK IN T.O.: Final Notes

“It’s a beautiful night … you can almost see the stars.”  (J. Frank Parnell: from The Repo Man)

Alarming news about the e-coli spinach make international headlines, followed shortly thereafter with coverage of the shooting rampage at a Montreal college. I have just returned to T.O. and the contrast between here and Everdale couldn’t be more stark. Nor could the e-coli headlines be more eerily fitting. They only served to underscore how much sense Gavin Dandy made, the day of the Harvest festival, when he talked about going local – relying on farms within a reasonable distance from where you live, instead of buying from big monoculture farms that ship their food thousands of miles, thus leaving eco-prints all across the land.

The tainted spinach was actually from an organic farm – the highly successful Earthbound Farms. Earthbound Farms started out in the ’80s as a small outfit, but today operates in three countries and occupies more than 24,000 acres, selling produce under a host of different names. Moreover, judging by the news photos, its spinach crop went on for what seemed like miles – of spinach and spinach and, you guessed it, only spinach. In other words, it’s a monoculture farm.

However, in all fairness to Earthbound, as NOW Magazine pointed out, the source of the e-coli was apparently run-off toxins from the soil of neighbouring farms. Nevertheless, what happened at Earthbound was bound to happen sooner or later, simply because it’s gotten too darn big for its britches and is no longer living up to its name – which is to say, being bound to the Earth rather than to its stakeholders.

As for my mysteriously numb leg, a trip to the doctor confirmed what a bit of research had already told me was wrong – it’s only a compressed femoral nerve. Yay! I didn’t have a stroke! Part of the battle is in knowing what you’re fighting; now to find a cure. For me, no matter what’s wrong, the healing almost always begins with basic good food and well-chosen supplements, lots of organic veggies (this time I’ll be looking for locally grown produce), gentle exercise – and a refocusing or redefining of my life goal and the path I am on versus the one I am meant to be on: what is important to me; what do I want to accomplish; who and what do I want to be and to represent, and how do I want to go about it – what steps do I need to take to get there? These are some of the questions we need to ask ourselves when we’re in the pupa stages of a transformation.

Once home, I turned over a new leaf. After a few false starts, I began a regimen of organic food, exercise and journaling my thoughts, dreams, musings. I also embarked on a self-study program, learning about Native Canadian plant-life. I’m taking apple-cider vinegar (ACV) for my tendonitis, which is inflammation of the joints due to a build-up of uric acid; ACV has anti-inflammatory properties and works to rebalance the acid level in your body. Also, soaking in a warm tub with a cup of ACV helps rid your body of excess uric acid.

The tendonitis has steadily been improving and, as for my leg, I’m focusing on improving circulation and eating better – lots of green and other colorful veggies with lean protein, along with herbs and supplements such as Vitamin C, Rosehip, Primrose oil, Flax seed oil, as well as cayenne, ginger, garlic and gingko (I call the last four “Hot C and the Three Gs,” as they are known to be a terrific combination for improving circulation). Apparently, Prickly Ash is good for stimulating blood flow (as are Hawthorne berries, which reduce swelling of the veins). I’m gently working my way up to a good deep cleansing – when I feel my body is strong enough to handle a major detox.

Saying good-bye to the Everdale clan was harder than I thought it would be. The hour before I left and Kelly drove me to the bus depot, I sat outside at the picnic table taking in the scene one last time. As if he knew I was going, Spike came out and perched himself on the table, beside me, quietly keeping me company one last time.

I knew I’d miss this farm, all its positive energy and, among other things, the magic walk up in the morning, the dew still on the grass, the mist settling just below the tips of the trees, some plump and billowy, others reaching up to the sky like misshapen fingers – and everything so still and peaceful, like an vast and silent prayer.

Standing again / with and among all items of life/ the land, rivers, the mountains, plants, animals,/ all life that is around us/ that we are included with/ Standing within the circle of the horizon,/ the day sky and the night sky,/ the sun, moon, the cycle of seasons/ and the earth mother which sustains us/ Standing again/ with all things/ that have been in the past,/ that are in the present,/ and that will be in the future/ we acknowledge ourselves/ to be in a relationship that is responsible/ and proper,/ that is loving and compassionate,/ for the sake of the land and all people,/ we ask humbly of the creative forces of life/ that we be given a portion/ with which to help ourselves so that our struggle/ and work will also be creative/ for the continuance of life,/ Standing again, within, among all things/ we ask in all sincerity, for hope, courage, peace,/ strength, vision, unity and continuance.

(excerpt from a poem by Simon J. Ortiz, “Mid-America Prayer” in Woven Stone)

References

www.everdale.org  (see also on Everdale’s website the links to the websites of other environmentally friendly organizations and companies)

http://www.creditvalleycons.com

http://www.uta.edu/english/tim/poetry/so/ortizbio.htm (Website containing biographical information about Native American writer Simon Ortiz)

Halfe, Louise. 1994. Bear Bones and Feathers. Patrick Lane, Ed. Regina: Coteau Books.

Ortiz, Simon. 1992. Woven Stone. Eds., Larry Evers and Ofelia Zepeda. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.

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