Love, dirt, being of use, and why I wish “intuitive working” were possible

raised bed garden with green leafy vegetables

My friend Bethany recently wrote a beautiful meditation on transitions, rituals, and love. She argues that, contrary to our mainstream cultural narratives, graduation is not the only time when we can embark on new journeys and adventures, nor is marriage the only valid expression of love.

To illustrate of the many ways that people can express their love for each other and the world, she describes her current job on a farm:

Farming is teaching me more about patience and cycles and transitions than anything I may have ever done before. I see, almost daily, how the labor of my body—led by the love in my heart for the world and my place therein—interacts with the plants in the ground. On Friday, I pounded tomato stakes, hoed potatoes, weeded chard, broccoli and kale, helped uncover beds and beds of cabbage, ate the fruits of last year’s harvest for lunch with the farm team, hoed squash and cucumbers and basil, hand weeded dill, listened to the plans made for the coming weeks, and cleaned the tools at the end of the day.

When I read this, I could barely keep from crying.

This is the work I want, achingly, to be doing.

I know my body feels best when I’m moving around. I know my mind feels best when I’m engaged in meaningful work, work with tangible results. I want, as Marge Piercy puts it (in the title of a poem that I saw on the subway on my way to my office job), to be of use:

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.

close-up of strawberry plant Continue reading