November 30, 2011 § 1 Comment

At 6:30 this coming Friday, December 2, I will be reading at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Hardwick. This event is being held as a benefit for the Hardwick Food Pantry and/or the Center for an Agricultural Economy’s Food Access Fund. Please bring a non-perishable food item for the former and/or a bit of fiat currency (or gold… you could bring gold, too) for the latter.

Better yet, I will be only one of five local writers reading original works. Julia Shipley, Pete Johnson, Annie Myers, and Bethany Dunbar will also be reading. We did this event last year, and it was a fantastic success. Come early to secure a good seat. And stay late, as a post-reading visit to Claire’s is inevitable.

Thanks, and hope to see you there.

The Other 1%

November 29, 2011 § 7 Comments

Thanksgiving came and went the way I hope all of my family’s Thanksgivings forevermore will come and go. There were nearly 30 of us gathered around a long row of cobbled-together tables, friends and family ranging in age from 2 to 70. There was snow on the ground, and sledding, good conversation and laughter and, needless to say, food aplenty. We disbanded early; of the families present, four had milking animals to attend to, and of course milking animals don’t really care that you’ve eaten a few too many pieces of pie and might prefer to spend chore time splayed across the couch.

Like most of us, I take far too much of my life for granted. This is the almost-inevitable result of living amidst constant abundance and largely in accordance with my own peculiar desires. There isn’t much sacrifice in my life, or if there is, it looks and feels too much like blessing to be taken as such. Oh sure, I have my moments, little petulant temper tantrums that tend to crop up when I am pulled in too many directions and it feels as if the needs of others are usurping my own. But like most of the stories we tell ourselves, this one is primarily of my own internalized design, and after Penny talks me down, I am always struck by how much of how we relate and react to the world is of our choosing.

From which I can only extrapolate: It is my choice to take so much for granted. Therefore, it can also be my choice to be more consciously grateful. Grateful for what? My family, naturally. Our animals. The friends that gathered in our home on Thanksgiving Day and those that didn’t. That fact that in about five minutes, I’m going to shut this computer down, get up from my desk, and head outside to labor alongside my wife, doing work that feels so damn good and important I don’t care a whit that nobody’s paying me to do it. The fact that I have the freedom to do this. And on and on and on.

I’ve been thinking about all of this in relation to the Occupy Wall Street protests. The protests resonate with me, but only to an extent. Because while I understand intellectually the damage done by the lockjawed grip of corporate America on the politics and policy of our nation, there’s a part of me that feels sorry for the poor demented bastards at the helm of these institutions. Ok, so maybe they’ve taken more than their share of our nation’s assets. Maybe they’re the driving force behind the unequal distribution of wealth in this country. And for this, they should be held accountable.

But of course true wealth is not confined to the narrow metric of money and stuff. And to the extent that wealth can be described as living life on one’s own terms, amidst a community that understands, supports and honors this definition, I am almost embarrassed by my affluence. Because the more I think about it, the more it feels as if I am part of the 1%. It’s the 1% that has learned (or is learning) that money is at best a partial accounting of prosperity. It’s the 1% that has learned (or is learning) that money and time are not readily conflated. It’s the 1% that spent Black Friday making or doing or simply being, rather than buying. It’s the 1% that is probably much bigger than 1%, but having no particular need for acknowledgement, is content to go quietly about its business.

It’s the 1% that can say, in all honestly, let them have it. Because what I’ve got is better. 

Pocket Change

November 21, 2011 § 3 Comments

Below is a list of what I pulled from Fin’s pants pockets when I was doing laundry this morning. There are times when I am struck by just how far outside the contemporary mainstream American experience we exist. This was one of them.

Spent .22 shells (2)

Chipmunk pelt, most of the flesh removed, not as smelly as you might think (1)

Penny [the monetary denomination, not my wife] (1)

Turkeytail mushrooms (14)






November 10, 2011 § 11 Comments

We just got the boys their first gun, a little .22/410 combo. “Youth model” is the vernacular, which I suppose is preferable to saying “this firearm, which is perfectly capable of killing pretty much anything it is shot at, was engineered specifically for children.” Indeed, it’s almost comically small and light; I’ve seen toy guns that looked and felt more like what I think a gun should look and feel like.

Not that I’m any kind of expert on the subject. I did not grow up hunting, or in a gun family. If I remember correctly, my parents owned a .22 back in their homesteading days as part of their chicken defense strategy (to be clear, they were defending the chickens from predators, not defending themselves from the chickens). I’m not sure if the thing was ever fired in anger or even in practice.

I had a BB gun when I was a kid, but after plinking a few Budweiser cans and killing a squirrel or two, that phase passed. About ten years ago, when we decided to take full responsibility for slaughtering our pigs, I purchased a single shot .22 magnum. It has served us well, and would have been a good gun for the boys to learn on, except for the fact that neither one of them was strong enough aim it steadily.

The boys want to hunt and I want to hunt with them. That’s at least a year or two down the road, but clearly, we’ve taken a big first step in that direction. I know many people would recoil at the idea of a 7 and 9 year old in command of what is, inarguably, a weapon capable of deadly force. There was a time when I would have been among them. But the closer I’ve come to the messy reality of raising and slaughtering my family’s meat, the closer I’ve come to the understanding that guns are not conceptual. They possess no inherent characteristics. Whatever traits we ascribe them, we do from the frailty of our humanness, with all the bias, contradiction, and simple misinterpretation that implies.

In short, a gun is a tool. And like all of the other tools on our farm, I aim to provide my boys the opportunity to learn to use it well.

Where Am I?

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