For those who are new, this ‘Why We Homestead' series is being written by my delicious husband Stuart. To catch part one of the series, read Why We Homestead, Part One.
Why We Homestead, Part Two: Scratching An Itch
On a Spring morning, the light from the sun’s rays separate as they crest Jump-off Ridge. Brilliant fingers of golden light begin to reach out and touch the soil. They creep along the ground searching out mounds of earth pilled in rows. As the ground begins to warm a young and sleepy pea shoot is compelled to rise, as if being pulled, from its blanket of dirt. It stretches and reaches toward the warm light.
Often times I have thoughts floating around in my head that I can’t quite pull together; so, sometimes I will ask my wife a question I am wrestling with, and as we discuss my thoughts begin to be grounded and clear. Sometimes I have already formulated an answer to the question and I will ask to see how close hers is to mine. Recently, I was thinking about the question of why we homestead. There were lots of varied answers, all true but with different levels of importance and priority. I was thinking there is a main reason that is foundational which energizes and informs all the others.
So I asked Shaye, “If you had to give someone one essential reason for why we do the things we do, what would you say?” She thought for a few seconds, looked at me and said, “I do it, essentially, because I enjoy it.” I smiled as she said this because it was if she had x-ray vision and was looking into my head. That would have been the exact response I would have given.
I am almost tempted to stop here and say that this is a satisfying answer. There are of course secondary reasons for why we do what we do but none this fundamental. Honestly, the secondary answers would not be able to be sustained if there was no fundamental enjoyment.
Of this I think St. Augustine was right, “This is what I insist upon: human actions can only be understood by their root in love.” What it boils down to is love which, as Augustine says, drives human action. Therefore, the things that we are doing and the place that we find ourselves now should be connected to a string that is attached to our hearts. As I follow this string back I can start to get a picture of the kinds of things I love. As I get a clearer picture I get a better idea of the kinds of things I need to do to pursue that love. As I look back I also see empty spots, places that need to be filled with desire and need to be pursued in practice.
The next question one might ask is, “Why do you enjoy it?” And someone might point out that not everything anyone enjoys is necessarily commendable. Fair enough. And yet I still find validity in that initial response much like the way you might respond to a work of art the first time you encounter it. At first you might not know why you like it. You are just drawn to it, pulled in by some unknown element. You aren’t necessarily thinking about the colors or the subject matter, you just stand in front of it and stare for a while letting your eyes run over the canvas. It’s as if you are sinking into it. The painting next to it didn’t make you respond this way. It didn’t draw you in like this. Why not? You could get into the elements and principles of design but that would take some more thought and time to analyze. For now, you just know that you enjoy it, and in that moment that’s enough.
There are some things in life, and I might even say the most basic parts of who we are, that do not start with or are done out of principle but rather from a deep rooted, sometimes unknown, desire. I look around me and wonder how it is that we ended up here. I know we made decisions that we thought through, but as I look back on it all it is as if we were compelled here, drawn like a metal whose inherent property is attracted to those of a magnet.
It’s an involuntary, though not unwilling, attraction that is connected to the inherent make-up of who we are. This gravitational force is pulling us to itself. It’s a picture, a vision, a light. It’s like that green shoot being pulled from the ground toward the sun. What are those properties in us that cultivate the desire to do the things we do? That will take some thought, and some more screen space.