In an interview with Poets & Writers magazine, poet Frank Bidart was asked, “The word making for you is a crucial word…For your poetic vision it’s more than an aesthetic endeavor; it means more than mere creativity, does it not?” and Bidart replied:
“As you say, a crucial word. It’s one of the principles of the world. We live in this awkward culture that tells people that they have to have a job, have money to buy things, but that the job does not have to be connected to one’s soul, one’s inner life or spirit or sense of self-worth. On the contrary, the aim of work seems to be retirement where you can fish all day or go to Florida or someplace–which seems to me grotesque, an absolute impoverishing of the idea of human life. Human beings are makers. It’s the only thing that gives human beings something approaching satisfaction. It’s completely central to what a human being is, to living in a complicated process where one must constantly accept givens that one can’t control.”
For the past few months, I have been walking a tightrope between two realities, living in the space between what society dictates is true and what I know to be true. The process of starting a business has pulled me further into the bounds of a capitalist society where the only currency is money, while the process of starting a farm has rooted me to the earth and shown me that the currency of the world is energy, and that energy can be manifested in countless ways: sunlight, water, wind, physical labor, food. The act of leaving a job with a steady paycheck has at times stressed me and at times liberated me. The act of sowing seeds and then of harvesting has caused me to forget steady paychecks and to instead feel a security more deeply than money has ever given me. So to begin a farm business has been somewhat of a dance.
There are times I’ve thought I could work a full time job and still farm, times I’ve felt pinched and looked for outward sources of income and energy. Then I get to those jobs and, no matter how much I like my co-workers or believe in the company, I inevitably ask myself: Why am I giving all my energy to someone else’s dream? Why am I delaying the start of my own? My family has taught me to live freely, to live joyfully, to live in a way that fulfills my soul’s longing. The whispers of society have taught me that just isn’t always possible, that we must compromise and put our heads down to pay the bills and take care of our responsibilities. But how am I to be a responsible citizen if I am acting as a dumbed-down version of myself, following paychecks instead of passion?
When I flipped open Poets & Writers to Frank Bidart’s interview, I came to the question above and stopped.
Human beings are makers. I was not designed to sit at a desk all day.
It’s completely central to what a human being is, to living in a complicated process where one must constantly accept givens that one can’t control. Farming wraps me in this process, throws rain, snow, hail and drought down on me, asks me to give my body to the work, teaches me patience, flexibility and acceptance.
I’ve told myself this before, but it is a lesson I must learn over and over: the life that is easy is not necessarily the one that brings me alive. To make something–a farm, a piece of writing, a photograph–means we must pay attention. To make something well, we must be invested, have the persistence and endurance to be present through each part of the process, no matter how hard. To be present for each part of the process–it is the only way I know how to live and to be fully alive.