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Email Anna Alkin,
aka Big Mama,
I've been thinking a lot about how to affect systemic change in the face of the vast, overwhelming environmental crises facing us as a species, like that of global climate change. And my ongoing meditation about climate change, interestingly, has been shaped by my health challenges. You see, I recently discovered that I have an autoimmune disease, Sjogren’s Syndrome, in which the immune system attacks the moisture-producing glands of the body, particularly the mouth and eyes.
Last year, I took my seven-year-old son, Ian, to see a documentary about bees called Queen of the Sun. The movie cataloged the various problems facing honey bees in our world, and likely moved on to tell inspiring stories of folks working to solve the crisis, but I wouldn't know. I didn't get to see the end of it.
This morning as I was pouring maple syrup on my waffles, I thought of a Facebook friend of mine in Iowa who not only has beehives, but maple trees which she taps for syrup. Her next-door neighbor recently leveled all of his remaining maple trees in order to plant more rows of corn on his farm. The price of corn is at an all-time high, due to last-year’s drought and due to increased demand, in part for ethanol production. A cruel irony abounds as many small farmers, not just huge corporate agribusinesses, convert all their remaining land to crops of corn.
Humility, derived from the Latin humus, meaning “soil, earth.” I've been thinking a lot about humility lately, particularly now that I have begun a daily writing discipline this year, in hopes of writing a book.
It’s been a while since I last posted, so it seems that a bit of a farm update is in order. Our young hens are now laying up to six eggs a day, which is pretty impressive given how little light the days bring, and how cold it has been this January. Our roosters, Cecil and Mr. Jimmy both know how to crow now, after some weeks of strange, garbled sounds as they practiced and perfected their crows.
It's interesting timing that I was helping to clean out a friend's barn yesterday as the news broke about the tragedy in Connecticut. It was a sanctuary to me, keeping me grounded in friendship and hard work. I had no idea how sheltered I was at the time, bathed in goodness, even as I shoveled a path through a deep bedding of goat's poop and pee mixed with sawdust.
Anywhere from one to seven times a day, we receive a call from someone looking for emergency financial assistance from St. Vincent de Paul.
As he was getting ready for bed last Thursday night, Ian decided that he wanted to put his three baby teeth under his pillow for a visit from the Tooth Fairy. Now this came as a bit of a surprise to Will and me, catching us without three $1 or $5 bills handy to pay the Tooth Fairy’s tab. Out of the nine baby teeth Ian has shed, only one thus far had been put up for sale. And to top it all off, this decision of Ian’s arrived ten days after his teeth were pulled at the dentist’s office. In other words, we were blindsided.
As Superstorm Sandy made landfall in the Northeast last week, a wood stove was being installed at our home in the Pacific Northwest. The timing of the wind, rain, floods, and power outages on the opposite coast helped to reinforce my resolve to become more energy independent and carbon neutral in heating our home, which was helpful as I took a deep breath and wrote a big check out of my little family’s savings.
Last weekend at the Saturday Market there was a new vendor I felt compelled to meet. Something about her was positively bright and full of color, even as she huddled under mounds of blankets to stay warm. I planned only on introducing myself, and chatting with her, but as we talked about her craft of reading tarot cards, Ian began whispering insistently in my ear, then saying aloud, “Why don’t you have her read cards for you, Mama?”