Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Rainbows and Unicorns

It was a beautiful time last summer. The Garden flourished. We contributed to a community CSA, and took our produce to market every weekend. With Soil Sister's knowledge and collaboration, and the help and hard work of many friends and visitors, we not only planted nearly all of the existing beds, but broke new ground for artichokes and grapes.
The Farm experienced a time of peace and harmony unknown for a long time. Even Soil Sister remarked that in 10 years, she had never seen the Farm so prosperous and happy. It was a magical time.

Unfortunately, the contagion of fear crept back in.

For me it began with an incident of bizarre behavior by a member. As I was happily forking a bed to plant beets (or some such crop) the Farm's newest Member, Harley, peeled out of the parking lot and jumped the bridge a la Dukes of Hazard in the aging pickup truck that was one the Farm's few remaining functional vehicles.
These vehicular hijinks were followed with a stream of vehement obscenities screamed towards the garden from the road with such vitriol as I have rarely seen.


I leaned on my fork, dumbfounded. My mind scrambled for a rational explanation and decided that someone had stolen our truck. I ran to the Farmhouse and began ringing the emergency bell. The People started gathering near the bell, and I was told the story of how Harley had freaked out because the gas tank on the truck was below half full.

I tried to absorb this as the adrenalin pulsed through the veins in my neck.

Our rickety bridge was held together by prayers and Faerie Magic, all the fasteners having worked their way out some years ago. The truck was held together by baling wire and duct tape. It had never occurred to me that one of our own people would treat our Farm with such blatant disrespect.

My Farm was not cursed and attacked by an outsider, but by a Member; someone who was responsible for setting the tone of non-violent behavior the Farm strove to uphold.

I couldn't grok this. I sat down. I smoked a cigarette.

Zach offered me a beer and I gratefully accepted it with a shaking hand as the rush began to wear off.

This incident was followed by a number of meetings, spurred on by an eloquent letter to the Membership (by yours truly) outlining all the reasons this was totally unacceptable behavior and demanding consequences.
Now our Brother Harley is a 'Nam Vet, and I have deep compassion for those bearing such wounds to their psyche. But no counseling was ever set up, many excuses and one apology were made, and Harley's behavior continued to get more bizarre.

Around the same time, Harley was befriended by Wormtongue, a garden intern and veteran around the same age. An us VS them dynamic was set up that I was mostly unaware of. Wormtongue had his nose so far up Momma Hen's butt she couldn't see straight. He even got to Soil Sister, convincing her that I had taken over the Garden and it wasn't "hers" anymore.

I was aware of none of this, until a meeting was called where Wormtongue accused me of being a tyrant in the Garden. I was shocked, since there are several steps to go through to resolve conflict before it goes to a meeting. No one had tried to talk to me one on one, no one had asked for a third person meeting to discuss the issues they had with me. I think many of The People were as shocked as I was that such judgmental accusations would be made in meeting.

What could I do but ask my fellow gardeners how they felt? Dream didn't say much, thinking perhaps his input would be blown off since we were a couple. Soil Sister described how she had been feeling; like it was "my" garden now. Squidee, our newest garden intern said "I don't know what the answer is, but we gotta do somethin 'cause the plants ain't happy." Only Kathleen really stood up for me.

Momma Hen was the Facilitator of the meeting, and though I appealed to her to intercede, she just stared stonily at me while allowing Wormtongue to go on and on about how I was a tyrant, giving no examples but using the same language over and over again.

Finally I put a stop to it myself.

"I think we've heard enough from you. This is an issue for a third person meeting." to Wormtongue.

And to The People, My Family who I lived with and loved and worked my ass off for; "I'm really trying to handle this in a rational way, but what I'm feeling right now is like saying 'OK People, YOU figure it out. Cause I've GOT someplace else to be, and better things to do if I'm not wanted here.'"

I felt thoroughly betrayed. The group process had been ignored and broken down. I decided that if the Membership could not work within their own process and set an example of behavior for others to follow, than this Beautiful Dream was dead, and I was stuck in nothing more than a bizarre episode of 'Survivor'.

I tried to complete my residency commitment, and to help bring in the harvest and plant the fall crop, but my heart wasn't in it. Just being in the Garden made me sad. I had a good talk with Squidee one day, describing how I felt. He is a good listener. He understood. I cried on his shoulder.
I realized the other day that he is in a select group now. He's one of only 5 people in this valley who have ever seen me cry.

One day I woke up to Wormtongue's loud, boisterous, self inflating stories being hollered across the lawn. He and some visitors were picking all the apples on the Farm. The apples were not yet ripe. They were set in the pantry where they proceeded to rot, as much of The Harvest rotted in the field.

That day I left.

And many of the most highly functional People left at the same time.
The remaining sane people were driven off one at a time by the core of fear that now lived in the heart of the Farm; even Soil Sister and Snow Gently Falling who had been there for ten years.

So I didn't live happily ever after at that vortex that is the Farm.

But I still live in the Green Valley, and lots of My People that I shared that magical time with still live here in the Valley too.

As one story ends, another begins.


  1. Wow... I see similar stuff all the time. People are afraid to confront one another directly, so they go cry to someone else. That someone else only gets one side of the story, and instantly condemns the one they've not heard from. And this from so-called "professionals" at work. Me, if I got something to say I say it to whom it needs to be said. Which has gotten me fired a time or two...

    I hope you find somewhere better to plant your roots. By the way, still got the van? I love that van, you did a great job on it!

  2. Somehow I missed your earlier post.

    It sounds really odd. The social dynamics somwhow worked in such a way that the people who had put the most into the community, stood by while it fell apart.

    The Pilgrims started out as a truely communal -all sharing organization, and it did not work. Of course the free market people jump all over this, but your example makes me wonder if it had more to do with conflict resolution. When they went to everyone looking after thier own stuff, people could only ruin their own apples.

    I am glad to see you back by the way.

  3. Hi Mayberry, yep, still have 'The Beast' who is parked in the yard while I winter somewhere with a wood stove. Soon I will be moving back into the van for the summer, camping on raw land while we build a house and develop infrastructure.
    Thanks for stopping by, Russell. Yeah, it was weird. One of the few 'rules' there is to talk to someone directly if you have a problem with them, and it astounded me how the conflict resolution process was completely abandoned by those who set it up and should've been upholding an example. I think it could work if we could ever get out of the pattern of playing into "ego stories", but there you go. Even people who come looking for a different way still manifest the same bullshit that happens in "the real world". Sigh.
    Fall down 5 times, get up 6.