Well, it seems that the universe has been conspiring to make sure that I finish all my grading for the courses I taught this semester. First, my own internet access was out all day yesterday and then this morning blogger was acting up and I couldn't post. So I filled my days with grading papers and exams. I'm grateful that the baby spent much of this napping.
As I mentioned in an earlier post teaching the course on contemporary world issues focusing on Islam really took it out of me this semester. Keeping up with the news out of Iraq and Afghanistan and Washington takes a toll and I was too often angry and impatient about it all. In April, however, I found an unexpected source of solace. My family has begun volunteering at a CSA garden. CSA stands for community supported agriculture. There are many in our area but only one that gives you an opportunity to work on the farm itself. Each weekend that we work on the farm (two adults and two kids for about 4 hours) we earn a BIG box of vegetables harvested right from the garden.
The farm is amazing. Twelve acres on the banks of a small creek. Despite the presence of five rowdy dogs it is a deeply peaceful place. Working in the soil is immediately soothing and feels very "rooted." I think about the gardens of my German grandmother and the gardens of my Iowa in-laws.
Although the farm is organic and uses little machinery, it is not a safe place for a toddler. I wear the baby in a front carrier the entire time and I feel connected to the women I've watched in rural Syria who cultivate cotton with babies on their hips and the women in so many African cultures where gardening is "women's work" and done with baby in tow. The baby also seems to find the physical rhythms of gardening soothing. He sleeps most of the time.
It is wonderful to see the older kids moving confidently through such a large space. They help us most of the time but also take breaks under two large trees. Although they remain in our sight, it is a much further distance away from us than we would ever allow in our daily urban existence. They are learning about how food is grown, how much work it takes, and the cycles of planting and harvesting.
I feel restored after working there. It fills a need for quiet, for physical labor, and for scale. There is something about working the soil with fields and sky around you. I feel the restored to the right size. Cyberspace draws you in, magnifies your connection (here I am darting to Informed Comment, then the Iraqi blogs, then to Washington) yet somehow makes you feel smaller too. Working in the garden with my family around me, the sky above me, I feel right-sized again. The nervous energy of web-surfing is replaced with a deep calm. And I come back with a week's worth of veggies and the composure to research and learn and teach about the "big issues" again.