Monday, January 31, 2022

Interlude

"There have been and continue to be a variety of alternative arrangements of existence to the current late liberal form of governing existents. But whether any or none of these are adopted, the type of change necessary to avoid what many believe is the consequence of contemporary human carbon-based expansion - or the overrunning of all other forms of existence by late liberal capital - will have to be so significant that what we are will no longer be. This of course, is not what late liberalism ever says. It says that we can change and be the same, nay, even more of what we already are.
- Elizabeth Povinelli, Geontologies

[I start this post by reassuring the community: Nea is alive and well and living with me in Brooklyn.]


November 13th I packed up a two suitcases of clothes some jewelry and the books on my reading list* and left the farm for the winter, leaving the sheep chores, the snow shoveling and the greenhouse preparation in the capable hands of my incredible co-farmers Heidi and Mark. We closed down the big communal barn for the season and my parents moved into the farmhouse for the winter as they inch closer to finishing their new house up on the hill. The Worlds End community, reduced to its bare essentials; simmers. 

This rare success at escape velocity thanks to a job - a sort of interim director position at Fox Fodder Farm my friend Taylors flower shop. And so for the last 12 weeks I've slipped back into city floristry; navigating the flower district and working with Taylor's staff to hone their design and buying skills. 

I've found it oddly restful and deeply satisfying to work for someone else (I love being told what to do) and also I have really missed my friends and community here in the city. When I first got started as a florist 15 years ago I was struck by how closed and cagey the floristry world was. Now I look around to see a welcoming and supportive community of people willing to share experiences, clients and suppliers. With that comes the drawback of a certain amount of gossip, drama and judgement that occurs within any tight knit industry or social group. This is - arguably from an anthropological standpoint - the connective tissue or glue of any social group or community - the ability to catalog and track the status of individual members of a tribe - who is available to mate, who is sick, who is in need of an attitude adjustment, etc. We have not changed so much as social animals...

On my commute to the flower district early in the morning I get off the train at 14th Street - maybe ogle the Campo Rosso radicchios at the Union Square farmers market - and then walk up to the flower district on 28th Street. Being back in the city is a visceral reminder of the effect the pandemic has had on wealth disparity. On my walk I pass countless homeless people who sleep on the street; more than I ever remember. My initial awe at the price of flowers (they've almost doubled in price since I left) is followed by this plain fact; the money is flowing freely in the higher echelons of NYC wealth. Which is great for me and my florist friends who ultimately profit from this boon. But not necessarily great for all - or indicative of the world we say we want (if what we really want is a more equitable world)...

I have come to think about this conundrum of inequity, and by extension, climate catastrophe (seeing as greed and wealth accumulation has lead to the utter demise and degradation of the physical world we inhabit) as needing individual, personal remedies outside the realm of our political systems which clearly are deficient at this point in human history (when we have the technological capability to feed and house every person in our country and save ourselves from 2 degrees of warming; yet we do not.)

First - in the way of Pema Chodron - can we engage with the neediest - can we meet them with eye contact and even if we don't have money in our pockets can we roll down the window and say good morning, can we touch their hands when we give them change and not feel as though they are untouchable or contagious? This I feel is such an important place to start. The immediate human to human scale. Today, next time you are out and about. 

Second - we must create new systems of living and working together. Different and apart from the traditional structures of capitalism, different from the normative structures of family and state, different from the businesses you and I have built or have worked for or even believed in. I may 'do business' for the rest of my life in order to fund my work and my community - but trust - I do not believe business, no matter how clever, is going to ever be the catalyst for change...

I do think co-operatively owned businesses (and or land) is one way we can see - from our vantage point - a new and different future. In a cooperative, everyone has equal voting rights and the group ensures that everyones needs are met. Which requires a lot of relationship work and communication - which I remind you is the literal root of the word community. And in structures like this, everyone is taken care of and benefits from the energies and work of the group as a whole. It functions for the good of everyone equally because it doesn't favor capital and the accumulation of capital for accumulation's sake. 

In my 1000 year future plan; Worlds End is one of a series or communities loosely networked across the east coast. In this future, the educational, healthcare and other specialized needs of members of these communities could be met by other communities in the network if not by the immediate community itself: if someone from a community elsewhere wants to learn about silvopasture (a specialized way of grazing sheep in forests and on wood lines) they could come and stay and learn at Worlds End. Or if someone from Worlds End needed an appendectomy they might hopefully travel to find it elsewhere. This may seem uncanny - but 'uncanny' (and small) is where we need to be thinking if we want to really get out of the echo chamber which is believing we can fix the system from within the system...I want to devote all the energy I have left in this life to fantasizing and building new potential worlds. 

[The process of converting Worlds End into a collectively owned entity continues; it is a slow and tedious endeavor. We have recently formed what's called a 'steering committee;' comprised of friends and current and former employees of the farm. The committee will take about 1 year to draw up the guidelines for cooperative ownership. It is my wish to share with you the details of this process as we go along in order to help inspire you to consider similar paths in your work, businesses, land stewardship, etc.]


*My recent reading list!
The Dawn of Everything, David Graeber and David Wengrow
Geontologies, Elizabeth Povinelli
Kudos, Rachel Cusk
Doughnut Economics, Kate Raworth
On Dialogue, David Bohm
The Ending of Time, David Bohm and Krisnamurti




7 comments:

Karen Hartford said...

Good morning-happy to see a post from you in my feed. I am lucky to know an amazing man who started an employee owned company on Marthas Vineyard. Here is a link to one of the pages on the company blog and on Amazon you can read a write up of his book called The Company We Keep by John Abrahms. If you don't know of him he will resonate with all you want to do. Have a great week-Karen

https://www.southmountain.com/press-and-media/category/smco-model/

Amy S said...

As always so well written! Thank you for adding your reading list at the bottom! I have previously enjoyed other book suggestions you have listed! May I also make a book suggestion, “Women’s Work The First 20,000 Years”, by Elizabeth Wayland Barber.

Shelley said...

Following along, as usual. xx

Unknown said...

Thanks for writing again Sarah, It's always such a pleasure. Even though we are on the other side of the world down here I always find that you put into words all of the things I've been thinking about/ mulling over.

Marianne said...

Good morning Sarah,
What a pleasure to read your words. They never miss to echo inside my own state of reflection about the status of our world. Thank you a lot Sarah, for taking of your precious time to share your thoughts. I always appreciate to read your posts. There is something precious about real blog posts that I really appreciate in the time of flying through instagram for exemple (wich I also like, but not for the same reasons). I value the longer time it takes to read this longer posts, I value the time you took to build your thoughts into this writing and the rich references your never fail to share.
I wish you a nice winter in the city, and all the energy you need to push your beautiful dreams further this year.
All my regards to you and the oh so sweet Nea from the other side of the ocean!
Marianne

Anonymous said...

I love to read your posts- thanks for sharing again ❤️

Wendy C said...

I love reading your totally relevant and thought provoking posts. I have been left my grandfathers house and land and my husband and I are trying to build around us a group of like minded friends and family to live near each other, work together and provide for ourselves and our community. I am a strong believer in self sufficiency, local economy and and above all else respect for our natural world. Your writing is so strong and purposeful, thank you, I totally relate to your views and opinions. Please keep writing.