There will be few moments of surprise in the words that follow for folk who are blessed enough to have spent some part of their lives living on the land.
If our connection to the pith and pattern of the earth is strong after years of living in the quiet focus of the woods, the bush, the fields and the furrows, we may even giggle at the over complication in the observations that follow.
I am one returning to the space of the countryside after years of being crammed into cities and consequently sewn into the folds of forced labour.
I’ve tried to live like a responsible adult—working two, sometimes four jobs to pay the rent, kidding myself that the monotony and the deafening roar of city life is some inevitable price to be paid. Parading around in my martyr’s crown, forgetting that I held the keys to the stocks around my ankles in the back pocket of my jeans.
This Easter we traveled to my partner’s late father’s house, tucked away in the folds of a quiet mountainside. This home has held his whole family, friends, distant relatives—all welcome in a flurry of fire-side warmth, the freshest of air and morning birdsong.
The mountain is Eden, and our family home is a precious haven. Easter especially is a time we band together and get things done about the place. Re-painting great expanses of hallway, re-constructing decks, sweeping decades of dust and muck out of the barn. With our brother-in-law at the helm, teaching us precious life skills with the enthusiasm of a mad scientist’s encyclopaedic mind, we gradually chip away at a list as long as all of our arms. We come to know each other and every inch of our home away from home so well.
It’s such a blessing to have a place where everything we do is for the benefit of our whole family and the little ones just or not yet born who shall care for it in the future.
My love is for the fire and all aspects of starting and maintaining it.
At the end of every stay I dutifully clean out the mounds of ash from deep within the belly of old burner, and feed the plants with the bounty. Every part is swept, and left empty and clean for the next round of late night cuddles and conversations at the hearth.
As the second last day ticks around, it’s time to refill the crates of firewood down in the garden shed. It was here, last weekend, that yoga and the axing of wood met each other and inspired a conversation. Each swing down with the focus of the cut sharp lest I missed and severed some digits, brought with it some one-pointed concentration.
The entire earth—the busyness of mind, the uncertainties—all dropped away with the fall of the axe. And the satisfying split was a crack back to a shining consciousness. In that moment, there was purpose.
And that was just the big logs…
The next task was the sawing of thick tree limbs into manageable bundles of middling wood—something between kindling and log. Initially, there was an awkward fumble with angles and the very real danger of spilling some lifeblood with a rough cut to the wrist, but then a special kind of spatial awareness kicked in.
I had three stumpy piles built up a little less than thigh height and discovered that by angling the branches so that they locked their various bumpy bits into the stumps (then applying pressure with my left leg to lock it in) I could stand upright, both saving my back and using the strength of both hands to saw with the rusty teeth.
My efforts would have looked ridiculous to any seasoned lumberjack, but it was completely ergonomic, and my yogic flexibility and self-care was engaged with a sweet satisfaction. It was unexpected cardio, meditative joy and purposeful pursuit all rolled into one. Heaven, in a word.
I sawed, axed and packed for an hour that felt like a few minutes. Mind beautifully clarified, heart full and entirely engaged in a task that allowed being and body to align.
This was karma yoga: an act of gratitude for the warmth of the night before, and an offering to others to warm their winter nights ahead.
We have a home shared with those we love, a home that has its own life both before and beyond us, and we are blessed to be experiencing it for now. And every time it welcomes us, I feel a need to devote time and energy to it in respect to my partner’s beautiful father, Greggles, who now sleeps soundly in the rose garden, to those beautiful kids who will hopefully share it with their own little ones someday, and to everyone who will ever, and has ever, known and loved it and the land it stands on.
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Apprentice Editor: Karissa Kneeland / Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Rebekah Moore