Saturday, December 18, 2010

Sleeping in the Bed I Made

The year is winding down and my suitcase will sit quietly in the corner for the remainder of the year. My next trip isn't until 2011 and it's great to be home for the holidays. I can cherish cooking and consuming Christmas comestibles—Tom & Jerry's, pinwheel cookies, and Aunt Hennie's plum pudding with rum sauce. I have time to sneak off to the workshop to craft a gift or two from wood grown on Sandhill's land; to settle into a daily yoga routine on my bedroom floor before dinner; to tailor individual holiday greetings to friends scattered far and wide.

When home, I appreciate the seasonal rhythms of the winter: sipping my morning coffee on the couch next to the wood stove; lingering in conversations because the workload on the farm drops with the temperatures; savoring the miracle of freeze-dried laundry (where cotton comes off the line softer than down on a new chick); snuggling under the covers with my partner, where we sleep with arms and legs interwoven like snakes; enjoying a healthy mix of contemplative noodling on my laptop, juxtaposed with aerobic outdoor forays to secure next year's firewood; testing the pond ice to see when it's stout enough to conduct the annual census of snapping turtles, parked liked submarines in the mud near shore; pausing in the late afternoon to admire the graceful descent of the weak winter sun as glimpsed through the bare branches of the majestic white oaks southwest of our back door.

And, perhaps most iconic of all, I get to sleep in my own bed… which is somehow more restful and rejuvenating than another other place I slumber. This is precious for a couple of reasons.

First of all, I don't take sleeping in my own bed for granted. As a purveyor of community—both as a networker and as a process consultant—I'm on the road 60% of the time, and I don't take my bed with me. The 40% at home is further diluted by my steady desire to spend nights with my wife, and she lives three miles away. While I like her bed as well, it's not my bed.

Second of all, I made my bed with my own hands. My first winter at Sandhill I hired out as a gofer for a local logger (Roscoe Blaine—can't you just tell with a name like that that he'd be handy with a chain saw?), and I took part of my payment in fresh-sawn white oak lumber. After air drying it in our barn loft, I turned some of those boards into my bed. I've slept there for 35 years now. Both of my kids were conceived in that particular piece of furniture, and with any luck I'll die there. In short, my bed is powerfully imbued with my spirit, with the spirit of my family, with the spirit of my community, and with the spirit of my place. Strong juju.

Bed Check
With no more trips planned for the next fortnight, I've been able to close out my 2010 accounting for how many beds I'd slept in. It turns out that my nest at Sandhill was one of 52 where I laid down my head—one for every card in the deck. (Does that make me the joker?) And that doesn't count the 29 times I slept on overnight trains. All of which is to say that there's substantial truth to the claim that I sleep around.

Fortunately, only three of those beds were in motels. Almost always I'm able to find a bedroom (or at least a couch) in the homes of clients or friends, and that works well for me—blurring the line between work and play, and sidestepping the antiseptic, faceless ambience of motel rooms.

People ask me all the time if the traveling wears me down. Mostly it doesn't. I have a strong constitution and a healthy body. I can sleep anywhere (and do, apparently) and eat anything. I like my work and benefit greatly from the chance to renew and strengthen relationships around the edges of my networking and consulting. The travel (especially by train) protects time for reflection, for letting go of what I just left and for getting ready for what's ahead. This is something that's harder to come by at home, where my To Do List can never fit onto a single page.

So I know why I travel, and have a clear sense of its many benefits in my life. That said, there are nonetheless significant tension points:

o I'm not at home enough to shoulder my share of on-farm responsibilities (meaning that the other members have to do more).

o Ma'ikwe and I love to spend time together, yet it's not simple to figure out how to manifest enough of it. To some extent we can work and travel together (which is great), yet she doesn't enjoy the travel as much as I do, and the pace is too much for her. So there's a limit to how far we can take that. The calculus is further complicated by our not living in the same community, so even when we're both in Scotland County a significant portion of the 40% of my time in Missouri is spent apart.

o I miss home. By doing the work of promoting community, putting out fires in community, and training people to better succeed in community, I'm not so much at home living community. While ironic, to some extent this is inevitable—after all, how much sense would it make if all the work I currently do were done by people who don't live in community? I also miss the steadiness of homesteading: milking the cow, splitting wood, replacing rotten sills, canning salsa, doing childcare shifts with our two-year-old, changing the oil in the car, refilling the pepper mill. I get to do some of that, but not as much as I'd like. Not as much as would fully ground me.

I could whine about my life not being perfect, but where would that get me? My life, after all, is a bed I made. There's no point in complaining that I have to sleep in it.

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