Crofting: The Rhythm of the Day

I am concerned about a couple of things here. One is my health. I have spent the last year battling a terrible reaction to a flu virus which left me sensitized to many chemicals. I have had to alter many things about our daily life in terms of food, cleaning products and even where I can shop. I cannot tolerate -at all – scents and chemical cleaners. Plastics are gone from our life, as I am concerned about their esters leaching into food. I am very cautious about buying prepared foods. I have been back to the doctor, and asked for a change in medications. I am hoping that finally we will see some advance and improvement.

The other is that we too can get caught up in a way of living which is not a way of life. Our energy costs hold steady from month to month, but I don’t seem to be able to drive them down any. Some of this is unavoidable, as we have a refrigerator and a hot water heater. The two surviving silkie chickens are living in a crate in the heated shed for now, as both have had some spells of ill health and injury. They have become pets, and as it is very inexpensive to feed them, I don’t mind. They are happy and melodious these days. One had a setback and spent an hour in the kitchen, on my lap, next to the wood stove. The dear little thing got so comfortable it put its head down on my arm and went to sleep for a few minutes. So cutting off the silkies’ comfort isn’t viable – the shed stays heated.

I keep a big pot of hot water on the wood stove, but often I forget to use it when I am washing dishes. It is easier to run hot water quickly over the dirty plates, and scrub them down with a soapy dish brush. I’ve also had to use the dryer this month because of my ill health and bad weather. Today is the last day for that, though!

I have been reading much on the Sami – the reindeer people of northern Scandinavia. While they have had to change their traditional ways to some extent, they are anxious to lose no more ground. They have been people who were not tied to clocks and calendars; they do not even define dates for the change of seasons, but call the changes according to what the natural world is doing. They once followed the reindeer, almost as wild as the animals themselves, but taxation and government accountability changed them. Still, there has come a time when the herding Sami, as well as those who fish and farm, are saying “no more.” They believe that the eco-culture of the North will be changed drastically if they must become reindeer-farmers rather than reindeer-pastoralists. Many of them would like to go back to smaller herds and more family groups in the far north, using the snowmobiles, ATVs and helicopters much less often. The governments made the mistake of seeing the reindeer as a commodity with a monetary value, which the Sami did not. The reindeer were valuable in themselves; sometimes animals were used as a currency. The parallels to the pastoralist patriarch Abraham in the Biblical book of Genesis are obvious.

Like the Sami, I see no reason to be bound to a clock or calendar, although one friend has pointed out that the government does expect the tax forms to be filed on time. We have occasional appointments to make, and we do try to be prompt for them. It is good to remember family birthdays, too.

Circle of the Year, from "Sami Culture"

But I’m wondering if we regulate our spiritual weeks, months, seasons, years, too much. What would it be like to have “church service” or “meeting” when we felt so moved? When we needed to pray, or we needed to praise? What if we celebrated the Pascha (Easter) or the Nativity (Christmas) not according to new moons or artificial dates, but when the time was right? Would we call upon the histories and examples of certain saints when we thought we needed them? Would we remember Herman of Alaska when the salmon spawned? Would you read the passages about Mary of Nazareth when we were anticipating the birth of a child in the family? Would we talk about the poetry of John of the Cross in the dark long nights of the winter? And if that was the way of the saints in our natural ecclesia (church) who would be our saints? Perhaps there would rise histories and remembrances and writings of people who were not noticed in Rome, Antioch, Moscow or Canterbury.

We are moving in a few days to a different schedule while keeping the same house. I think it will make the croft more useful to us, and ourselves more integrated in the life of the croft which now may seem a little bit peripheral. We will go to bed as the night falls, and rise, as much as possible, at dawn. In this latitude, just before the winter solstice, the corresponding hours would be about 7-8 am for sunrise, and 5-6 pm for sunset. We anticipate being in bed by 7 pm, asleep before 8 pm, and according to research on people put on natural nordic winter day/night cycles, we can expect to have a couple of hours of near waking in the night. This used to be a special time, according to anthropologists and sociologists. It was a time to share dreams, nurse infants, pray, make love, meditate and remember, without resorting to artificial light. Then naturally, the body eases back into deep sleep for another four or five hours.

I suspect that some of what we call insomnia is the body asserting its natural rhythm, but our commodified and regulated culture calls it a medical condition, and prescribes drugs to keep us in a state of suspended thought for seven or eight hours.

When spring and summer come around we will have more hours of activity, and rather than being lulled into the cultural pattern of stopping work between 5 and 6 pm, eating, and taking leisure, we may use those later hours of sunlight for work, and reserving the hours of high sun and UV exposure for rest and recreation.

Another change we want to make is to do more of our activities together. I want to spend more time with the animals, and I have asked Nicholas to be more involved in food preparation. We are not going off to separate jobs, so we think we would like to have our work more intertwined.

We can’t ignore the tick-tock time nor the weekly regimen completely, but I am hoping that a more natural rhythm to our lives will improve our health and lower our overall anxiety and stress.


3 thoughts on “Crofting: The Rhythm of the Day

  1. Wow there is so much here to comment on!!! First of all, you encourage me to keep on doing what I can do. I may not be able to tackle all I think I ought, but I can keep trying. And I want to encourage you to keep on following these leads in your spirit about how to live and hope for recovery in your health. I have done this with Patrick, and even though we are not “there” yet, I secretly know we are well on our way. I believe with all my heart God has led me all the way and it seems obvious to me He is leading you. I get tired of the valleys, but I also get excited about what is coming. An opportunity to fulfill what has nagged at us to do? At least to some extent.

    I was thinking that I read somewhere the Amish don’t observe the time changes. Maybe some don’t and some do. Anyhow, when we were homeschooling both boys and they were younger we really did feel sometimes that we were not worrying about the clock for much of the time. There were some things, of course, but we got a taste of what you are talking about and it does make one hungry for more. It is exciting for you and Nicholas to get to try these things!!! It is hard for you, I know, and the challenges are many, but you are doing it!!

    I definitely love the ideas you are bringing up about being more spontaneous in worship and prayer. Again, we did a lot of that in our homeschooling and it felt so right. It makes it hard to be patient with what we find in the church world. I suppose that is why we have settled into a worship group that besides being set strongy for the time and day, is otherwise totally free to be used by the Spirit of God in anyway He chooses. We are the only ones there who know anything about Quakerism, but many aspects of the meeting is very Quakery. It has become more ecumenical and this is bringing some challenges that concern us, but there is no way we could go to any other place called a church. So, we just hang on. If Patrick continues to improve he will be able to get up early enough for us to go to the church meeting of many of these people who go to our worship group ( a German Baptist New Conference).

    I don’t know if I could go to bed at 7 with all the distractions around this family, but I do remember when I was pregnant many years ago and we only had one other child and we got into this habit of getting up really early, As the months went on we kept pushing the time we went to bed and got up earlier and earlier until we were getting up around 4 am and going to bed around 8. I have never been a “morning person”, but I did really well with that schedule then. I think if we have a strong motivation we can become whatever it is we think we ought to be. I can’t wait to hear how it all goes!! I will pray for your health and your husband’s.

  2. While we love the rhythm of the liturgical year around here, day to day life is much easier for us when the clock isn’t as involved. The amount of time spent with doctor visits and IVs and such right now is a big struggle for us… We didn’t realize how much the rhythm of our days flowed totally separate from “time” as homeschoolers (and homeschoolers with a chronically ill mom) – until so much of the day became invaded by it due to appointments that have to be kept. On the days we are home, we try to let our old rhythm rule as much as possible. Though we do stop throughout the day to pray the “hours” – we don’t necessarily pray by the clock. 🙂 We tend to pray the third hour at noon! 🙂 Stopping throughout the day to purposely practice the remembrance of God keeps the rhythm of our day smooth… but doing things “by the clock” tends to create havoc – at least interiorly. We’re kind of a unique family though – I know that being organized by the clock is really helpful for some people…

    • If I get to morning prayer by noon, I’m ahead of the game! Any time before 2-3 pm is morning prayer, and evening prayer any time before falling asleep. Sometimes I go straight to compline. My husband loves the liturgical year but sometimes I think we get Pascha and Nativity too isolated; each Sunday is supposed to be Pascha. Fasting can fall into natural patterns, too, according to what is growing and what is left from the harvest. Patience Gray’s “Honey from a Weed” is about that.

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