I surprised my mom for mother’s day and she was so happy. She’s a colourful character and sometimes a little hard to swallow some of her Trumpisms but I know she loves me and just wants me to be safe, happy and creatively fulfilled. I’m glad to be healing our relationship and know that by doing so it’s also healing the relationship with the part of her in myself 🙂
Tonight I find myself at an old refuge of mine, a cliff side cottage at an organic farm in the Sierras. I met the wonderful Kern family many years ago when I’d just started doing Vipassana mediation. They provide organic veggies to the North Fork mediation center and after the course I went to visit their farm …and have visited dozens of times in the years that followed.
Each month I drive about four hours north of LA, past Fresno and through a little town called North Fork. Hidden just beyond the town, where the Fire Station is also it’s library, is an organic farm that I was lucky enough to encounter in early 2010. Volunteers, also known as WWOOFers (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms), come to the farm to help plant, harvest and provide general maintenance to the family that lives there.
When the intensity of LA life builds, i find it deeply therapeutic to get a little slice of nature in order to balance it out. Inevitably, after a few days of quietness, the mind calms down and I feel my creativity become more focused.
Some mornings are grey and cold – but today was bright and sun lit as I walked at 7:45am to meet the WWOOFers for the morning brief. What would it be today? Harvesting tomatoes? Gathering leafy greens? Stocking the community store in North Fork?
Whatever the morning’s tasks entail, it will no doubt be rewarded with a grand home cooked meal and an afternoon of solitude and writing. While the world hustles, I know I’m missing out on business opportunities, sexy parties and other social events, and at the same time I’m missing out on nothing; as long as I am fully aware in the present moment then I am a complete being, content and balanced.
Weeding the carrots? What a perfect way to start the day.
It is massively hot and fruitful up at the North Fork farm. Boxes of swollen tomatoes need to be plucked almost daily and squash is literally jumping out of the soil. The terrace that I’d begun the previous month is near completion (as Katy’s proud stance affirms!) and will soon be home to a row of fruit trees. I really hope to one day eat the fruit from these trees!
After the days work, I’d escape the scorching heat back at the studio, where I’d write in my journal and take breaks to meditate or do some yoga on the porch. Sometimes I’d just sit on the large rock that protruded from the cliff’s edge and look at the river below and the mountains that shot up on the other side. The grasses and brush had turned a rich golden carpet and was pierced by the still green trees that stood defiantly against the oppressive heat. The only noise from this vantage point is the gushing of a nearby waterfall and the occasional hawk call, telling all the little rodents and animals to watch their step.
Sometimes serendipity takes you by surprise – but sometimes, if you really pay attention, you can catch it with its hand in the future jar. After serving a Vipassana course back in April near North Fork, CA, I had experienced a great stroke of luck. At the end of the week, a fellow meditator, a Thai man named Sathya, had informed me that he was visiting a farm up the road and asked me to come along. Of course I’d agreed and as soon as I had entered the property and met Hansel, the farm owner, I knew – right then and there – that this place would hold a great importance to my future.
I had been in touch with the family soon after returning to LA, expressing my desire to offer them a little rent in exchange for letting me come up from time to time. They told me that that sounded like a great idea and to just give them some heads up before I came through. I could have easily put it off, after all, who has the time or capacity to stop life and go live on a farm? Well, the beauty of a lot of the work I I is that is can be done online – and the farm was blessed with DSL and even decent AT&T reception. Technically people didn’t event have to know I was on a farm 🙂
So soon after a joyous July 4th in the woods of NorCal, I ascended through the winding mountain roads to North Fork. I passed through the little town and continued driving into the Sierras, carefully noting my odometer so I would not miss the nondescript turnout for the farm. I had even made a note of the combination lock of the gate, so when I finally found it after a few wrong turns, I was able to open it right up and find my way to the small cliffside studio I had rented for the week.
Part of the deal however, was that I had promised to help out on the farm as much as I could and the very next day at the crack of dawn I found myself, together with a handful of volunteers, moving large amounts of earth to create some new fruit tree terraces. It was a extremely liberating feeling, being out in the sunshine, creating something with my energy that would produce unquantifiable amounts of new energy in the future, in the forms of apple, pear and cherry trees. Around lunch time, the days work would come to an end and we would all gather in the main house for a big vegetarian lunch.
I spent the afternoons and evenings in quiet solitude down at the studio. Writing in my journal, doing yoga on the porch and reading a slew of old books, magazines and articles that I’d neglected over the previous months. Occasionally I would take small hikes around the property, discovering small waterfalls in hidden groves and exploring the rusting artifacts in the farms junk yard. As evening fell, I would often sit on the large rock that clung to the cliff’s edge outside the studio and look at the winding river one thousand feet below. When the sun set it would often casting rich reds and purples long after the burning yellow orb had disappeared behind neighboring mountains.
This had been the first time I had visited the farm since discovering it in late April. As I locked the gate behind me, I was glowing with a sense of calm satisfaction and creative fulfillment, ready to tackle whatever the City of Angels was cooking up for me next. It could toss me around and suck my energy, but as long as I knew this farm was here, I knew I could always have a place to heal and get ready for the next iteration.
In a classic mental hackjob, I spend a week serving a quiet week of Vipassana mediation center, chased up by the exciting new discovery of an organic farm between SF and LA that needs volunteers, and then high tailing it to SF, to surround myself with bizarre inspiration from wickedly smart people. Like young Andreas Stadler and his home made brain scanner: