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.
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.