A few years ago I was doing the unimaginable: dealing in person, unmasked and in real time, with a teller in the small bank in the village close to where I live. The bank’s manager, who kindly keeps abreast of my work via my newsletters and such, came out of her office to say hello, and we ended up speaking about the challenges of farming – farmers’ version of talking about the weather. After a minute or so I apologized to the teller for her having to wait for us to finish with our lamentations. With no hesitation, as if it came directly from what she was thinking at that very moment, she said: “Oh, no problem. I’ve got way more important things to think about than food.”

It was a bewildering declaration, and a confession of sorts about how easy it is for what we do day in and day out to become unconscious and all but discredited and beneath consideration. Beneath us. It’s akin to demeaning breath.

So I devoted a meeting of the Orphan Wisdom School to the subject. It went pretty well. Time went by. A plague came to call, overstayed. Everything that’d been on autopilot lifted from the ooze and the fog and got something like a second glance. It looked for a little while like this could have been the indisputable, non-negotiable alarm that would drag the current regime and its habits to the edge it has so far avoided. People were ready to dig up their lawns, start planting food. It was that extreme, that promising. Now, people are about to enter ‘Stage Two’ of returning to normal, and most of us have more important things to think about.

I proposed a month or so ago to have my first sustained go at the subjects of agriculture, fences and wilderness, domestication, ‘back to the land’, paganism, animism and a half dozen other bottom lines that underwrite our way of life here in the west. I’ve been considering writing a book on the matter. I missed doing the Orphan Wisdom School a lot, and the suggestion was made to do a livestream weekend devoted to these things. Even with my ambivalence with the flatscreen, still I signed on. The session’s description is below.

Unless you are an activist of a certain stripe, the phrase ‘food sovereignty’ has an agitated and dusty ring to it, I suppose. Not an easy sell. Same with ‘a covenant of mutual sustenance’ between humans and what gives us life. Same, as it turns out, with ‘grief and dirt’. The session I’m proposing has very few takers at the moment. Embarrassingly few. It could make a person wonder about their choices. Especially in the face of Stage Two freedom.

If there’s any truth to the axiom ‘We are what we eat’, then an awful lot seems to depend upon how we are with what sustains us.

If you agree, please consider joining the Grief/Dirt session, July 9-11.

Stephen Jenkinson
Founder of Orphan Wisdom