Saturday, June 02, 2007

Sufficiency of a Different Sort

I was hoeing the corn. I couldn’t help but remember the story of my paternal grandmother hoeing an entire field of corn with her four small children under age seven. She and my grandfather had decided that it would get them ahead to raise an extra hog that year, and an extra hog required an extra field of corn and the only field they had access to was a mile’s walk from their home. Since Dadaw worked 12 hours a day in the mines, that meant Mamaw had to do it.

And so, as my aunt, her eldest child, told it, Mamaw did her regular work that morning, then packed up a lunch and a bottle of milk, three hoes and four children and walked a mile. The two elder children were small enough that they hoed together in the same row while Mamaw took the next row. My dad was one of the two younger children who played on a blanket in the shade. They hoed, stopped, had lunch, hoed some more, walked back home and had supper on the table for Dadaw.

I was hoeing corn today and wondering if she was ever afraid like I am. Afraid that everything is going to come crashing down on my head. Again. Afraid that I won’t be able to live up to my own standards. Again. Afraid of the things I can’t possibly anticipate, that I won’t be ready for. Again. I look very much like her: the only thing she ever told me she was afraid of was the “sting of death”.

When my grandfather wanted a better paying job running a newfangled machine in the mines and they wouldn’t give him the job because he was too “little” and he left his family and went to West Virginia and got a job on that machine -- was he afraid? It worked -- he came back with experience and know-how and got that job. But to leave your family and not have a job lined up, it seems scary to me, for him and for her.

I do not believe my husband is ever scared. He scares me because he sees as clearly as I do how things could go wrong, but it scares me and it doesn’t him. I do not know how he does that. He says I am like Arthur Dent telling the psychiatrist that I just don’t think the universe likes me, and he is the psychiatrist telling me that everyone feels like that.

In my heart I experience life in that way wherein we are all the same. Not the same but one. One but without number. That we all have “light” within us and that light always recognizes itself.

In my head I experience that people are weak and cowardly and turn their back on you and hurt you if at all possible. Even when it doesn’t help them they’ll hurt you. Like it is a sport and they get points for inflicting pain.

I hoe corn and know again why I choose this life. Because life does not roll off my back, and hoeing corn only gives me blisters, not heartache. Because I can hoe corn, and trim the horse’s hooves, and milk the cow, and make the bread, even treat a snake-bitten dog -- and not once feel like I am not enough.

12 comments:

patsy said...

A FRIEND TOLD ME ONE TIME NEVER BORROW TROUBLE, AFTER THAT I TRIED NOT TO BORROW TROUBLE. HOW IS THE DOG BY THE WA?. I HAVE BEEN COMING BACK TO SEE IF HE IS OK.
TRY TO TRUST IN THE LORD IF YOU HAVE A FAITH IF NOT I AM SORRY YOU DON'T
I REALLY FELT FOR YOU WHEN I READ THIS POST. DO YOU GET DEPRESSED?

the Contrary Goddess said...

Ummm, no. The dog is fine. Try to read the part about Arthur Dent again. And the part about why this is a good life. I mean, the title says it -- sufficiency of a different sort, and the post is basically about where I find that. I should have tagged it spiritual I suppose.

I also suppose that I think everyone in an industrial lifestyle has that deep seeded dread because it is not sustainable, it is not sufficient. What I have of that is leftover from having lived that life I think. Perhaps my grandparents came before that.

But I have come to the conclusion that there is not one person of my parents' generation, Tom Brokaw's supposed "greatest generation", that is worthy of emulation. I always have to go back further than that.

Best to you Patsy

kathleen said...

My parents taught me self sufficiency, to a degree. Work hard, always do your best, live impeccably. Learn to raise your own food, cook something to eat, make some kind of garment, and give back to where you took from. So I raised my garden, raised my goats, spun my own fiber, knitted and crocheted my own outer garments, and learned about composting and animal husbandry. All that landed me in the middle of a huge city of 8 million people, teaching English, for which I have no training. I'm learning to be resourceful in a different way.

Eleutheros said...

Kathleen:"All that landed me in the middle of a huge city of 8 million people, teaching English, for which I have no training."

All that landed you in the middle of a huge city?? I mean, are you saying that if you hadn't been growing your own food and making your own clothes, you would have escaped the city.

I'm just having a hard time imagining it.

Wendy said...

There is definitely something self-affirming in an agrarian lifestyle ... a kind of freedom in the knowledge that you can take care of yourself that many people in today's world don't have.

My father grew up, probably, not far from where you are, and my granny's story isn't a whole lot different than your grandparent's -eleven children, mostly raised by herself while my grandfather went north to find work to support them. They lived on what they could grow, mostly.

Ironically, my parents fought really hard to make a better life for me, and all I want to do is have what they had ;).

the Contrary Goddess said...

Self-affirming. Good words. Yes. Without the need for external validation.

I think our parents were misguided about what a "better life" was.

Fathairybastard said...

I'm always amazed at the life my folks and grand and great grand folks lived. They worked so hard, and took it for granted that they would work so hard. I think you're doing amazing things, and you shouldn't worry about what might happen. If our ancestors had done that and let it get to them we'd all still be living in Europe. You amaze me, every time I come here, and shame me for not being out in the yard hoeing weeds, like my folks would be doing. They're all rolling in their graves, watching me be so lazy. keep it up gal. You're doing fine.

the Contrary Goddess said...

hey fat harry -- you should be EATING those weeds! LOL! Poke and dandelion and lambs quarter and (new to me) milk weed and so many!

Wendy said...

I have tons of milkweed, but haven't eaten it. Butterflies love it, though, and it's the only plant Monarch Butterfly larvae will eat.

I would love to see your recipe ... if you care to share ;).

And speaking of weeds, I have two books: one covers "weeds", and encourages eradicting things like "lambs quarter" and the other is "Foraging New England" in which they show how to prepare a meal of it. Interesting perspectives ;).

the Contrary Goddess said...

I haven't eaten the milkweed yet. But my friend says that you prepare it basically just like poke -- bring it to a boil and pour the water off, then steam or saute or however you feel like "fixing" them. Asked what it tastes like, she said asparagus.

Fathairybastard said...

Oh hell! You mean that stretch of 3 foot tall things out back is a GARDEN? Damn. OK. I don't feel so bad anymore.

Ren said...

DAng!! I need you to come do a wild edible walk for my summer solstice celebration.:)