By Matthew Kitchen, Phase I Fellow
I didn’t expect, in coming here, to see how inextricably agriculture is connected to the deeper roots of our existence. There have been two things that I unexpectedly unearthed this past week: The reason for death, and then the meaning of life; it seemed so out of order.
We started with harvesting chickens and then learned how to take care of them. A couple days later, after having a tough morning working in the garden (as a result of internally working through some negativity), we had a session on wellness and pondering spirituality, Afterward several of us discussed how we see God. (Perhaps it is something like walking on gravel barefoot to then happen upon a warming plant abloom.)
Even in our first couple weeks here, it felt as if we started by learning, in great depths, how to weed prior to how to cultivate. I’m still processing through this cycle; still learning why things must die and why we are alive.
Regardless, one thing I’ve noticed is that we all see goodness in life and are pursuing its perseverance.
The first week here on the mountain we had several intensive lessons on Permaculture. The word is derived from combining the words "permanent" and "agriculture." In that same class we were introduced to a concept called the "Scale of Permanence," which ranked the inherent conditions of a place by its changeability. We seemed to focus more on the negative form of change in decline. In our workshops about hardscaping, soil health, conservation, etc., we have been striving to learn how to maintain and, if possible, improve.
The common use of the word "sustainability" in this field, I think, encapsulates this ideal well. We want life to last. We want to work not only to sustain it, but to make it flourish in truth, goodness, and beauty. I would even venture to say we want to make it blissfully, even heavenly, and everlasting.
I think this is, in part, what makes death so difficult. Death resolutely ends what we’ve been trying so hard to keep alive.
This past week I also, though, got to see a dear friend of mine get married. Outside under a white trellis, he made vows professing his eternal love and devotion to his, now, wife.
It made me think: love certainly seems to make things last.
There are undoubtedly complexities that I’ve flown over in making generalizations via my thoughts this week, but they have brought me to a place that, I think, has a good view. Through love, and the care that stems forth, life lives on.
I believe this definitely applies to people, and, in the context of agriculture, I think it also includes places. This earth is the general one that first comes to my mind.
All in all, it’s been a challenging week here at AMI, but I still love it here. Although my time on the mountain will not last forever I think, because of love, in some ways it will.