Margaret MacDonald & Myles Trainer
The tail end of January, February, and much of March saw an onslaught of wintry weather. The harsh cold, ice, and wind necessitated a hunkering down both of mind and body. At the Sustainability House, it was at this time that we took up the task of building the foundations of community, with little inspiration from the stark offerings outdoors.
We immersed ourselves primarily with indoor pursuits: canning and bookmaking, knitting, woodworking with Everett Smith, attending his barn party, visiting ‘green’ homes, and grafting with Bill MacKentley. We talked about initiatives and outdoor projects we could not yet attempt – and still can’t. Essentially, if we had to be described as a unit, we might have been termed recluse. Not to say we weren’t doing great things! Only that they were within a limited wingspan.
The darkness of this season slows one’s quality of life, promotes a closed sort of mentality. Perhaps not so insightfully, people are inextricably bound to the patterns of weather. In emulation of winter, our bodies speak languages of self-protection, perhaps increased self-absorption - it’s only natural. Earth itself is hidden, blanketed; seemingly removed from the closeness of touch. To an extent, so might we be.
The first weekend of spring break began with the swiveling of our clocks as we sprung forward an hour for daylight savings. The lost hour caught some of us off guard but was a good reminder that warm temps and new life are just around the corner. Upon return the first noticeable change was dinner. Rather than being cooped up around the dinner table we were refreshed by a window filled not with winter’s nighttime darkness but soft evening colors of brightness. As our days stretch longer sleeping patterns change, allowing for more time to sit around the table or be outside together.
Although our group has been living together for a few months now, the edginess of winter’s energy-drawing cold still lingers. As the days get longer and we aren’t as trapped in their darkness, we are more apt to go on adventures to the sugar bush or take a run to Everett’s. These types of activities not only give ourselves energy but to the people we share them with.
We look forward to shifting our routine to one more closely attuned with spring’s seasonal shift. Like the earliness of this year’s daylight savings, we have been proactively planning the garden to supply food for future sustainability semester participants. Opening Johnny’s or High Mowing, two of the many seed catalogues we have, the memories of our favorite candy shop start to swirl. The colors of Picasso’s Girl Before a Mirror emanate from pages as we flick through. The seeds represent our changing mindsets as well as diets.
Like seeds, this is the time of year ripe with potential, especially when thinking about how good our pancakes will taste in the next couple of weeks. The forests surrounding our property will bring us, shedding our layers, out to collect sap. In anticipation of thick mahogany syrup to pour over our favorite breakfast items, this week our plan is to finish organizing the sugar bush so we can keep an eye on each tree’s production. Each tree has a name and number showing its diameter at breast height (DBH).
Opening the door to load the van the sun hits our cheeks and it’s hard not to take a step back, letting vitamin D levels recharge for a minute. This energy will help us through the last months of the semester as, more importantly, we attempt to intrigue people with what sustainable action can achieve. Next week we are all teaching separate middle and high school classes in St. Lawrence County. This positive energy is helpful to show kids the importance of knowing the state of our world. Similar to the colorful seed catalogues, we can show them that the world isn’t one black and white painting and that many hues color the cohesiveness of the final product.
The winter portion of our semester is coming to a close. Although its physical manifestations are slow to vanish, the smells have begun to shift, birds commune with one another, the days’ lightness lengthens and stretches. We’ve reached an intermediate period. Light and dark worlds collide with messy grace. Like flowers, spirits grow. The second half of our semester brings many opportunities to reach out and share what we’ve learned, spreading it to the wider community. Our world will become less inverted, the components of sustainability rendered more connective. This new energy with seasonal change will bring the house together creating a unit that innovatively advocates sustainable action and the pleasures of living contiguously with the environment.
pic 1- Everett showing where creation begins
pic 2 - Games around the kitchen table
pic 3 - Longer days
pic 4 - Banana Dehydration
pic 5 - Maple Tree Naming