Sept 4th, 2012


Now that the peak of the summer season is past, I have had time to settle out and put thoughts and experiences into words.

A wild onion flower.

It has been a long month of August. With days filled to brimming, one after another. August has been a month of great joy, great grief, great failure and great accomplishment. A month and a season, within a year that I will be harkening back on for many years to come.

Part of the beauty and functionality of community life is that we can cross train in each others fields of speciality so we can cover for one another when someone wants to take a trip to visit family, or spend a weekend in the city. We try to not schedule long departures from multiple people at the same, but life happens.

In the early part of August, four of our members (more than half of our members) had separately made plans to leave site for one reason or another. That left Walt and I as the only practically experienced people onsite for a solid couple of days.

I found a peaceful retreat watering plants in the dappled light of the plant nursery

Amidst the coming and going of all these people people in the early part of the month, the daily work of animal and plant husbandry fell primarily upon me. It so happens that during this time, we were hit with the biggest spike of heat we had all year. So with the long, hot, dry days of summer coming to a peak, I spent my days meandering through gardens, orchards, and nurseries spaces, along with the pens of the sheep, goats, rabbits, chickens, and ducks. Managing our water levels, gauging the recharge rate of our well, while organizing daily work parties for interns and apprentices, and still living amidst the community.

About this time I got an email from my Sister. I hardly get emails from her, and stomach sank as I read the words,

Dylan died last night...

Dylan is, or was, my 23 month old nephew. Son of my sister and brother in law who live in Arizona. Dylan was swept away in a wash during a late summer rain storm; victim of his innocence against the extreme relationship the desert has with the life-giving monsoon rains

High winds ride a monsoon storm front in Downtown Phoenix. This massive wall of desert dust is the harsh warming that rain is on it's way.

In the wake of Dylan's death, a deep mourning set in. A mourning I am still very much in today. Grief for the loss of such a young and innocent life, for the loss of such potential, for what my sister, brother in law, and the rest of my family must be going through at this time. This process is still reverberating through me.

Dylan, a weeks before his Death, enjoying an outing at the riparian park.

To a large extent I have come to grips with the mortal reality of our corporal existence through slaughtering dozens of sheep, goats, rabbits and chickens. Death is something that I live with, just like I live with germinating seeds, and the ripening of the years harvests. It is all part of the Great Cycle.

But even while living so closely with the cycles of birth, life, death and rebirth, the loss of a loved one is no less traumatic and painful to experience.

As the grief moves through me, I can see pieces of myself withering like dry leaves, and vanishing with the winds into unknown distances. Thoughts of my past, of my present and of my future whirl around. And I am situated at the center, feeling a sense of my own powerlessness in the face of the will of nature, and also the coming to life of my own somewhat estranged sense of personal power.

As time moves on, Death moves along with us. In the daily work of tending to gardens and animals, I find a kind of worship, ritual and healing I know of in no other context. With the help of the people I love, we are creating a life together. And in that life remains the knowledge of our inevitable death.

The work and worship in the August sun leaves it's traces throughout my life; Traces that remind me that a life of abundance is a blessing that takes hard work sustain, and finally, at the end a life well lived, there remains those unknown distances to traverse while crossing the threshold we call death.