Homesteading is Zone Zero for Social Change

Some of us moderns who crave deeper connection, deeper meaning, find ourselves drawn to homesteading or living more naturally as a direct response to the times we live in. We are craving a more nourished life. We are craving a better lifestyle.

How is better defined? What are we really doing here?

Like Neo in The Matrix, many of us are waking up from an altered reality.

When we take the red pill we begin to see a reality governed by natural laws. We taste a reality that is sprung from the natural world. We feel a reality that recognizes and participates with natural elements and forces. We hear a reality filled with the sounds of the leaves, rustling and buzzing of insects, chatter of the birds, calls of mammals.

As homesteaders we inevitably discover natural beauty, natural food, natural wellness, natural materials and natural ways of living.

On this kind of path, we also wake up to problems that have arisen from disconnecting from nature: pollution, war, inflation, 40 hour work weeks, climate change, health epidemics, division and so on.

I personally cannot consider taking the blue pill and plugging back into the dominant culture. Actually it would be much easier in many ways, but I would be turning my back on many gifts uncovered.

If aligning with the natural world is so rich, so great, then what is my struggle?

I listen to Michael Meade’s recordings often because his stories and mythological interpretations of our world’s modern dramas help me make greater sense of my own healing journey.

I really appreciate Meade’s understanding of the word apocalypse. According to Meade, the old way of understanding apocalypse is to see that it is not just destruction. It is simultaneously the end, but it is also the beginning of something new, of a new way of living, a new understanding—a new world.

We are living through a great turning of the tides of time and churning of the chaos that surfaces between the end of one era and the beginning of another. We are as if caught in a cosmic moment of time turning over and life turning as if upside down. We are in a tension of a great transition in history when both destruction and creation are involved, and when one can turn into the other in true apocalyptic fashion. Although people tend to imagine apocalypse as the fiery end to the world, either through wars that explode everything or through the overheating of the planet which turns everything to ashes, a core meaning of the ancient word apocalypse is: collapse, renewal. That is to say apocalypse refers to an end that is also a beginning. Disorder, disorientation and loss are all essential aspects of apocalypse, but so are revelation and the potential of renewal.

Michael Meade, Episode 352 – A World on Fire, Living Myth Podcast

Collapse, renewal. Without destruction and death of the old way, we cannot have a new beginning.

As our world is in the midst of an apocalypse of destruction, climate change, war, disease, extinctions, we are also simultaneously being reborn into new beginnings of a new way of living in this world. Each one of us is being reborn, rebirthed, in a mythological sense. New cultures are being birthed in this very moment.

And so I come back to my question…

If I find beauty, wholesomeness, healing, magic and joy in connecting with nature, then what is my ongoing struggle?

I find a mini version of the external dramas that our global humanity is facing playing out inside myself on a regular basis.

I am a human-animal-being living on a magical planet, discovering beauty and connections between myself and the natural seen and un-seen beings around me. (An interpretation that I could not have fathomed in my old life.)

… and also

I am a modern human living in a world filled with all of the problems listed above (and many, many more of course).

I am daily facing the challenge of coping with existing in these two worlds—and I am gently working to dissolve this binary in myself—because to heal, to become whole, these two worlds, these versions of myself must live simultaneously, not separately. Parts of the whole.

As a homesteader I still carry my connection to the modern world and I cannot escape, discard or dispose of it. In retrospect, its both sad and funny to recognize how our culture teaches us to escape, discard and dispose nearly everything we touch. (Which extends to giant swaths of ourselves, of parts of our very being.)

The modern world is and will always be part of me. I am imbued with modernity. Learning to accept, appreciate and embrace that part of me helps me better appreciate the world that we live in today, as a whole.

In permaculture we are taught to begin designing a homestead, garden or farm from zone zero, which is considered the home. We start at the hearth and work our way outward as we design our gardens and systems. Start at the center. Start where we live.

Zone zero can also be considered the individual when it comes to a community. I am zone zero for my life. Another way of thinking about it is that the world revolves around each of us simultaneously. I am the center of my own world.

Its not selfish or foolish to think that the sun revolves around Earth as it rises and sets each day, because it is truth. Scientifically of course, its proven and accepted that Earth revolves around the sun. But from our human perspective, from our human experience the sun moves around us.

Likewise we are each the center of our family. We are the center of our community and we are the center of life itself. We are not the center as in the most important thing to exist, but we are the center in terms of our experience. We are also the center of responsibility.

I am lucky to have uncovered through my struggle, but especially to have taken notice what is modeled and taught by elders I respect and honor, that I have the power to shape my own life. I can design the trajectory of my life, of my thoughts, of my perception of the world. I can choose what stories I relate to, what stories do I relate to the world around me.

As the designer of my life, as the one at the reigns of this human animal, this bag of bones and muscle, I have realized the joy and necessity to redesigning my life around my heart. My heart is zone zero. This is my pleasure and my responsibility.

Those of us without long standing cultural traditions that go back millennia (read: oral tradition), those of us who took the red pill and are taking a good look at the dominant culture around us, are discovering that we are culturally impoverished.

We are culturally malnourished.

Homesteading as a modern movement seeks to fill some of the poverty with more natural connection. Our modern homesteading movement has made leaps and strides but we are far from completely solving our problems. Much work is yet to be done for our culture to heal from what was forgotten and discarded.

Have patience, have understanding. We are fumbly and awkward.

Each one of us is zone zero for cultural change. Each one of us is at the center. Each one of our thoughts, words and actions has influence on the culture around us, including our family, friends and to some lesser, but not less meaningful extent, the greater world around us.

I am beginning by learning to appreciate not only the natural world around me by opening my eyes to the wonder, magic, nourishment, connection and mystery, but also the less glittery practice of learning to appreciate the modern consumer driven culture that I was brought up in.

How lucky I am to have access to cheap fossil fuels for transportation, building, and cooking. How lucky I am to be able to buy food, tools and luxury goods from thousands of miles away, to arrive within mere days. How lucky I am to have instant access to unfathomable amounts of information at my fingertips and connection to my brothers and sisters across the world. How lucky I am to live during this time of great change, great modernity.

I am grateful that in this moment I can bear witness and participate in the culture that benefits from ever changing technological improvements (as I sit here and write this letter on a laptop in the foothills of a rural valley). And yet with all this abundance of resources, information and technology I also get to live and bear witness to a time of wars, extraction, destruction of forests and loss of species on epic, global scales. Marvels and madness.

To live through an apocalypse is to live through the end of one world and the beginning of another. I am living through the time of rebirth, re-dreaming, re-visioning of our very human culture.

My own heart and spirit are being revealed through lifestyle and culture changes within myself, within my family, within the walls of our home, in our gardens and in our community.

The process is messy and chaotic. Its both ecstatic and painful. In myself wars are waged just as wars are waged on this planet. I also find great love and peace.

My inner apocalypse mirrors the times we are living in and as I am being reborn, so too is our culture. I am taking great honor in my influence on our culture, however minuscule it may be. But in my family’s culture my influence is huge. I am taking honor in claiming the responsibility to nourish my being as I design a life around my heart, my zone zero..

I recently looked to the dandelions in the grass with great joy. Under and around the massive pines and firs their flower stalks stood tall and proud. Most of them bare and bald, but some still hold their seed puffs for the right moment to disperse.

Just weeks ago these dandelions dotted the landscape with yellow constellations and I found so much beauty in seeing those bright sunny flowers. Coming out of winter they were some of the few blossoms around and they sure were a sight to see.

When I kneeled down to look at the spent dandelion flower stalks I found just as much beauty in them. Not just because they were backlit in the golden hour, but because I saw beauty in the very nature of having dropped their seeds.

How wise dandelions are to flower and drop seeds so early in the season before settling in for an almost certainly droughty summer. Some of their seeds will become food for rodents, small birds and insects. Others will have a chance to germinate into new plants in the next wet season.

I wasn’t caught up missing the flowers. I saw those bare seed stalks and knew the seeds had dispersed on the wind and to the ground. What I felt in that moment was the joy of being able to witness the beauty of dandelion living through their fullest expression.

What a blessing to find and be nourished by simple beauty everywhere. Beauty is even waiting for me right under my feet, timelessly waiting for me to take a breather from my struggle to look down and connect with Earth. Waiting to remind me—to help me remember—just what it is I am doing here.

How ironic that dandelion can offer so much beauty, this innocent victim whom genocide has been waged upon in millions of lawns across America for the better part of a century (in the name of purity). Herbicide sprayed upon millions, perhaps billions of dandelions. This is the war culture most of us moderns come from, belong too. This is the water we swim in—the air we breath.

Still dandelion continues to offer nourishment and beauty to those that wish to look to them from a place of love and wonder. This is the heart place I want to design my life from. This is the culture I wish to create in myself. This is the culture I wish to belong to.

Thank you Dandelion for helping me in the time of my rebirth, in my revealing. Thank you dandelion for helping me see beauty in myself and by extension my brothers and sisters on this beautiful Earth home.

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