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Friday, October 9, 2015

Question!

Long ramble ahead. I have often said that it would be easy for me to be Amish, if only one didn't have to be Christian.

How did I get here? Well, it started almost 40 years ago, with a "Question Authority" bumper sticker I had on my car when I joined what proved to be a very authoritarian Christian denomination. I got flak for it, but no, I did not remove and and yes, I did continue to question...not only authority but just about everything. I had come to that particular doorway via previous questions; further questions caused me to walk back out of it and continue down the path. My motto, for a while, became "question everything."

I focused a lot on internal stuff... stuff I was taught or learned along the way. Much of it did not have a "why" behind it; a lot of what we do is habit, absorbed from common culture, from those around us. I heard an anecdote about a homemaker who always cut the end off a roast and set it aside before putting the majority of the meat in the pan and into the oven. She did this all her life. One day a friend was visiting and watched her begin to prepare the meal. Friend was puzzled by the removal of the end and asked why. The woman did not know, but that was the way her mother did it, was the reply; she had not realized this was NOT a common practice. Fortunately, the woman's mother was still living and on her next visit the question was asked, "Why?" Mom replied "I just have a small roasting pan, and they won't fit in unless I trim a bit off first."  I wondered how many similar habits I had, how many unnecessary things I did in a day, in a week...

My Five Daughters (we could have been a sit-com!)
All this came in handy, to me, as a mother of a passel of youngsters. What was important TO ME in raising my crew was not the spotless house my mother kept, but creativity and growing stuff. Being able to let chores that did not, in the long run, matter allowed me to not only claim extra bits of time (and mothers-of-many, for sure, will understand that every little 5 minute increment matters!) but more importantly to let go of the nagging worry about leaving things undone.

And the more I questioned, the deeper I got into things that, while they may not be visible, actually do separate me from the world by virtue of how I think. Take weekends, for example, or workdays. Even folks who have people in their family who do not work "the standard" 9-5, M-F, seem to try to  set aside the standard times off work. And yes, if you want and need to interact with folks who keep that schedule, those times do matter. But more and more, all 24 hours of a day are usable and all week as well. There is nothing wrong with taking a sleeping baby, in a carrier, shopping at midnight or 6 a.m. if it fits your life, and it may make the excursion much faster when the stores are less occupied. And the lake is still there on Wednesday, if fishing or swimming is your thing.

But more and more, over time, and largely as a result of a move "beyond the sidewalks, without electricity but with chickens" I began to sync to the natural world. "Vacations" or down time make more sense in the winter when there are not garden to tend and canning to do. "Daylight 'Savings' Time" is irrelevant when you naturally awaken with the sun and begin supper prep with the gathering twilight, after a trip to the barn to close up the critters. Long summer work days are balanced by extra sleep in the long nights of winter. Changing your clothes every day, regardless of whether they are soiled or not seems silly when you wear older clothes to do dirty daily jobs and save your good stuff for trips to town.

Now, I suspect that the actual Amish would look askance at much of what I have written, with their German heritage and picturesque, spotless farms. "Cleanliness is next to Godliness" and all that... But this German crone is not part of an extended family and is doing what makes sense to me.

Some of that shows (if you know me, you know how hard it is for me to find clothes for trips to town that do not show a spot of paint somewhere, and if you have had the misfortune to actually step inside the domestic chaos of my many projects-in process, well, enough said) but much of it doesn't. The way I think about things, the basic assumptions from which I operate, my motivation.

So, maybe then, I am wrong. I probably couldn't be Amish -- or whatever the northern tradition Pagan version of that might be -- because even in that context, I think, there might not be enough commonalities to bridge the differences, even if I wanted it to. Which, most likely, I might not. I am not, despite what many folks who encounter me in short increments would assert, a people person. I like my own company and prefer my solitude on a day-to-day basis. Money, necessary as it is to have some, is not even close to my primary motivation; I have quit or declined to accept jobs that would have required me to wear clothes that I consider uncomfortable (grown up lady-type office wear) or which required a daily application of face paint. A position with responsibility, honor and appreciation with low pay seems much more satisfying than one where the employee is just a replaceable cog in the wheel, regardless of remuneration. And so it goes.

Now, in retirement, my meager stipend from my working years floats the bottom line and the Powers That Be bring in a few bucks with art sales and the sharing of a bit of extra produce from time to time and that is fine with me. It means times, like last month, when necessary trips to town skyrocketed in number and frequency, the gas budget bottomed and borrowed from several other "envelopes," panic tries hard to set in and I may wonder where relief will come from. And I may wonder a bit longer than is comfortable, at that, but always, in the end, the Powers That Be come through and a sign sell or something such. And no, I don't go asking, knocking, petitioning, praying or stirring up extra abundance spells. The Gods know the needs. And I know that by showing gratitude for what abundances I do have -- be it three feed sacks full of sunflower heads of varying ripeness, an extra pepper that had been overlooked in the garden, or a big harvest of small potatoes -- and making the most of it all, and of my time, that I will remain in the flow.