Roosting With Roosters

by Sherrie Kelly

Coming to school this fall was quite a different experience from last year. Instead of moving into a generic dorm where even a window was not necessarily guaranteed, I got to move into a farmhouse. My room has a set of windows overlooking fields that end at the edge of a fringe of woods. It sounds quaint, perhaps a bit outlandish. I assure you, it’s wonderful.

At the Sustainability House, we are seeking to live in a way that assists the Earth as much as possible in carrying out its life-sustaining processes. With a huge, plentiful vegetable garden, two pigs and a slew of chickens, we are learning to hone food-processing skills and self-sufficiency. Last week we tallied the number of dishes we each used per day. A few weeks ago, we learned how to use a scythe – immediately transplanted to a bygone era when its efficiency was far more revered. We also threshed oats ourselves, beating them onto a tarp to be collected. Imagine oats of all different sizes – not uniform, nor from a sealed bag! They were all individuals.

This week I got to do chores. These entail feeding and watering the animals, collecting eggs and keeping track of the houses’ energy usage. One wouldn’t think that such simple tasks would bring up strong emotions, but they did for me. It’s one thing to be inside a house studying theories and concepts, quite another entirely to be out with your hand on a pig’s snout and your feet on the ground. The geese congregate in the backfield every morning, cajoling one another. I often get to see the sun rise: a flaming tendril into the sky. Every morning the pigs greet me from stoic stances in the pen, tempering their excitement to be fed and to grow.

Simply by living in this house, life has taken on new clarity. It’s amazing to reflect on how much an environment can shape a world outlook. It is easier, amongst like-minded peers, to feel a deeper sense of place here. Coming home every day is a constant reminder that we are here: in Canton, New York in the fall. More than ever, there is visible flux in the air, on the trees; everywhere in between. The smell of decay is somehow endearing. Coming back to the farm brings a hopeful feeling. It is also, more broadly, hopeful in general that an opportunity to live like this exists for students. All is not lost; there is still so much care to be found in the world.

How easy it is to get wrapped up in a hectic schedule and equally as easy to embody that anxiety, to become affected by it. But living here allows college to be observed from a distance – keeping the big picture in mind. It allows us to see that living mindfully is both possible and incredibly necessary. The stars are more radiant out here too – their presence both humbling and comforting.  Going outside (in my case to do chores) served as a reminder each day: life is pulsing all around us and this is a beautiful place. I became rooted in the moment; with this pig, with these people, on this land. Perhaps you can be too.