For a while, I thought Americans had lost the desire for independence – the kind of independence that defines success in terms of how much food, clothing, shelter, and contentment I can produce for myself rather than how much I could buy . . . — Gene Logsdon
I am not a big believer in “rugged individualism.” Actually, to be precise, I really disdain that entire idea of a person able to do everything for themselves without the help of anyone else. At best that idea is a lie. At worst, it’s a danger.
But the idea of independence, of people able to provide for themselves at least in part, of humans able to create pleasure without consumption or constant entertainment . . . the opportunity for people to be self-reliant, as my friend Leni suggests — that idea I can really get behind. It’s one we are working to cultivate just as much as our tomatoes (have I mentioned that I planted almost 50 tomato plants?!) here on the farm.
When I was a little kid, Mom had a loom. At least I think she had a loom. I have this memory of one in our living room for many years until it was just not there anymore. I suspect that Mom – much like the daughter she raised – loves crafts, real crafts that take skill and training to create. Art in fact but with a practical aspect. So I imagine Mom wanted to learn to weave. Perhaps she did. I will have to ask Dad if she made anything.
In other places in my life I have seen looms, particularly in the mountains of North Carolina where I spent my childhood years. There craftsmen and craftswomen have found their community – a place where potters and woodworkers and weavers can find the support and the independence they need to produce best.
That loom of Mom’s seems the perfect metaphor for how I see life at its best. Each thread must be strong enough to hold up to the weaving process and then must stay steady in itself as part of the larger piece. It can neither be all about itself because then it remains just a thread, but neither can it be only about the larger weaving because the piece then cannot hold together.
St. Paul has a much more complete metaphor for the same idea.
Independent but intertwined. I think that’s the best of things.
In the last week, we have sold out every day of the eggs we have available. The community around is coming to know of the farm stand and showing their support for what we do while also enjoying fresh, free-range eggs whose only transport is the 1/4 mile up the driveway.
More and more, I’m impressed – like a gentle hand on my heart – with the urgency of being local in our living, of finding ways to pour our dollars and our hours most fully into the people nearest us, of divesting ourselves of corporations and pouring ourselves into businesses where we see the person who earns our money as we hand it to them. I think this is about independence, the way it ripples out from ourselves and helps create communities that can thrive without the new Walmart and downtowns where we can buy what we need from the people we know.
I’m not trying to be political here (although of course, I am.) I’m just suggesting that independence is about more than money and ease – in fact, actually independence – for individuals, for families, for communities – might cost more and require for more work. But the things that matter. . . the lifestyles and relationships that really matter – they don’t come cheap or easy. Nothing that is worth it does.
On Friday evening, our friends Sarah and Marshall came for the night, and Dad joined us, too. We shared a meal, talked, laughed. Dad showed us the picture of his hike. Then, we went out to the firepit in the field in front of the barn. I brought a partial bag of marshmallows (I wonder if I can make them myself?), and we toasted a few and told stories. Finally, long after the sun had tucked itself around the world for the night, we packed up the marshmallows and unfolded our sleepy limbs for bed.
Just before we headed in, Sarah said, “Look lightening bugs.” I stared and watched the lightshow in my own front yard.
Now that’s independence.