It's almost December as I write this. I'm sitting in that trailer house I bought last spring. A few friends and I spent a ton of energy making it livable. So though it's twenty degrees outside, I'm sitting comfortably in my living room listening to the furnace run. My coffee pot is happily keeping me happy on the kitchen counter. Shoes and bookshelves and TV and car keys each have their places. This has become home, though (like most homes) there is still a great deal of work to be done. I am hesitant to say so out loud, but I think I'm ready to face the Minnesota winter in this place.
I've been working lately in the barn. There's a solid prospect of a horse or two coming to live here in the spring, and it's been fun to turn from cleaning junk out of the barn. Now I'm focusing on building a couple box stalls and planning for water, fence repair, and the like. I'm very excited about all that. The pasture fence will need a little work, but a few days of labor will probably have the place ready for equine occupancy. Then there will be more complicated things that need to be accomplished next spring or summer, like getting a source of water in the barn itself. But that's manageable. And I am so enjoying the deep connection to my farming roots and those kinds of projects. I don't know what I was thinking a few years ago when I figured I could live in the Twin Cities.
Also tremendously exciting is that in the next few weeks I am becoming a grandpa. That is a deep joy waiting to come to full flower, and I'm patient.
I'm thinking a lot these days about the chaotic times in which we live. As I write, the new omicron variant of the corona virus has captured everyone's attention. We continue to live in the midst of this global pandemic with great fear and conflict. We continue to be polarized around everything from politics to medicine to sexuality to ... well, to everything, it seems like.
I think often about Wendell Berry (if you don't know him, look him up) and some of his philosophy around land and spirituality. Boiled down, I think it applies like this. In times of chaos and division, the responsible thing to do is build three things. First, land. Make sure you have space. If at all possible, own it. That provides a firm economic footing. Maybe this means owning a home. Berry in one interview said that it's incredibly important to find a few square feet of scrub land, if nothing else, that you can manage. I agree.
Second, skills. As much as possible, know how to take care of yourself. This means everything from basic first aid to cooking. Learn how to do the necessary things to make your life work. Can you plant a garden? Butcher a deer? Fix your plumbing? Change your oil? If not, learn how.
Third and by far most important, community. Build a network of friends who can do life together. Any shortcomings under #1 and #2 are covered if you build a strong community. Eat together. Worship together. Talk about important things together. Care for each other's needs and work on projects together. We too often fail to realize that community needs to be intentionally built. This is so important.
Obviously we could dive deep into each of these three, but not right now. Suffice it to say that when you experience fear in the daily headlines, these three are a solid place to invest the energy that grows out of that fear.
I'm not advocating being a "prepper" or having stockpiles of weapons or non-perishable food. Too often that just feeds the fear and division. Instead I'm saying as much as possible, build a stable life. When you have made some progress in that direction, the headlines can fly over your head like birds, without making nests in your hair.