Trail and Transformation

Back on the farm. Of the many moments there are to share, there are two major themes that stick out. The photos are currently on my other computer, so I’ll have to share those later on.

The first major theme: getting off the trail. Two days ago, I went for a hike around Omer’s farm. I decided to begin by heading straight up the side of the mountain his farm rests on, figuring I’d either hit a road on my way up, or a summit from which to judge the next best step.

I was in need of some real wandering. I find myself continuing to question where I’m headed; this permacultural path that has been such a departure from all that I knew before, and I often wonder where it’s all headed.

While it was nice to follow the road around the pine covered mountaintop, and the guidance gave my mind the freedom to roam, I found that it wasn’t until I lost my bearings and hopped off the path that the real juicy things started happening. It was off the path that all the flowers were hidden – pink flowers particular to Israel called rakefet (rah-keh-fet). I hopped from rock to rock, and my roaming mind was brought right back to reality when my foot landed a few inches from a sleeping snake. After a summer in Yosemite, my eyes went straight to the tail, searching for a rattle. As the three feet of coiled scales snapped to attention and slithered quickly and harmlessly off into a bush, I couldn’t help but laugh to myself (though I felt a little bad for disturbing the snake’s sun-warmed slumber). How easy it was to miss these things when my mind was elsewhere.

It wasn’t until I got off the trail that I could see clearly again where I was, and where I needed to be going. Without having taken that leap up the mountainside, I never would have reached the heights I needed to see from – a place I could look back and see clearly where I had come from, that I might know again where to go. Despite the snakes and the scratches along my calves, it was worth the thorns for the flowers seen along the way.

My meaning here isn’t terribly subtle, and I guess that’s what struck me about this hike – I was looking for some reassurance, something to reboot my faith a bit, and what I got was almost too blatant to ignore.

Theme two: transformation, and purpose.

Yesterday, Omer and I resumed our cheese making. I’m beginning to get some of the patterns now, though I am still amazed by the subtle things Omer does and the many things he knows that seem to flow so easily for him. As we were cleaning the trays and vats, we began to speak about my next few months, and my wonder about what they might lead to. Omer has been an incredible listener, and it’s been amazing to get to share my many ongoing musings with him.

What stuck with me as we discussed our respective pursuits: Omer’s eloquence and sincerity talking about cheese making. It may sound strange or over the top, but there was poetry in the way he described the transformation of milk into cheese, and the basic sense of fulfillment that brought. It’s such a simple act in some ways – to transform one thing into another; to step back at the end of the day, and see clearly that you were responsible for bringing change into the world, no matter what that change might be; to make cheese from milk, and to do so day after day.

Making cheese with Omer, and going through the same routine of pouring, washing, moulding and salting, here and there with minor changes – it’s helped remind me that transformation and change generally aren’t one time events. As much as I’ve felt at times that I’ve reached a changing or turning point in my life, my experiences continue to prove that change is something that must be enacted on a daily and even a moment to moment basis. We may have moments that change how we look at the world, or how we view ourselves, but the real test is how we apply these lessons in the little decisions we make; that repeating process of thought to action, milk to cheese.

Talking with Omer, there was a real sense of love and positivity that I took away from his descriptions of his profession. Making cheese was his way of bringing something good (and tasty) into the world, and really, how can you knock that?

This brings me back to permaculture, and the ongoing process of reacting to and learning from our surroundings that permaculture urges. There’s something wonderful to me about the consciousness permaculture has about this process – one that is so applicable to the design of a garden, as well as to one’s self.

If any of these thoughts resonate (as general as they may be), I’d recommend checking out the book “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” – it’s the third book I’ve tackled since the New Year (which may be more than I read in total during college), and it talks a lot about these ideas of reconciling internal and external change and process.

Omer has again whipped up an insanely good dinner (I mean really, how do you go wrong with cheese fresh from the cheese cave down below?), and my tea is getting cold in my glass. Tomorrow is my last day on the farm, and I’m hoping to soak it all in. New York – I’ll see you soon 😉

Love, love, love (you know the melody),
Dave

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