What we’ve quickly learned, 3 months into living in the country, is not to squirm when walking into the sticky traps of spider webs, not to balk at the stench of chicken shit, not to recoil when opening a damp box of clothespins only to be met by an explosion of earwigs. The ants are determined to invade our kitchen, and we learn to pinch them between bare fingers and feed their tiny corpses to the compost. Now all the big city vegans may start shouting AHIMSA! at us for that, but living in the country is teaching us that taking life is part of giving life. In the city we are allowed to forget that humans take up space—and in the Western world we take up a whole lot of it. The city allows us to forget that our concrete existence is no hospitable home for a multitude of birds and bees and creepy crawlies. But out here in the country, to carve out a space means to fight for it, to wrest it away from the cobwebs, the dirt, the mice and raccoons, the ever-persistent ants. We are learning that in the circle of life, we are big animals, and predators at that. That is the nature of things. To take up this space for our own lives is to take it away from something else.
And yet to take up this space is to create the possibility for life. We tend to the scarlet runner beans and the sweet strawberries on our porch as if they were our own brothers and sisters. The garden is teeming with all of the seeds that will nourish and sustain us through the fall and into the long, hard winter. We have learned to walk this land with gratitude seeping from our feet. We have learned to kill the ants because they are destructive, but we let the spiders live. When a large moth flaps into our lit kitchen, or a neon green caterpillar hitches a ride into the house on Liz’s shirt, we carry them back out as delicately as we are able. And so we share this space the best that we can.
Our diet shifts here too—becomes heavy with organic milk from the local creamery and fresh eggs from our own backyard. We consider our choice to be vegetarians and wonder if it’s the choice that makes the most sense. The more we sit inside this natural world and interact with all its complexities, the more we understand that, above all else, eating local is the most healthful thing we can do. For ourselves and for the planet. We’re not sure how exactly we’ll feed ourselves throughout the year—although we’re certainly excited to experiment with fermenting the goodness of the garden, Roland is becoming something of a master bread maker, and those thick golden eggs will keep on coming. But we do find ourselves disassociating from the vegetarian label, and reaching towards something more like “flexitarian.” We’d like in any given situation to be able to eat the things that are produced or procured most in harmony with a healthful environment. Which might mean abundant greens from the garden through summer, and fish when we visit Roland’s parents and celebrate our next The Groove Festival: Urban Edition in northern coastal Germany later this year. And it might mean a little meat, when those long, hard Canadian winters settle in.
A student of ours wrote recently to ask if we were still teaching, or just mucking about in the garden full time. We are, of course, still teaching, but hoping too that our teaching becomes infused with the wisdom of this land. We will continue to teach asana and share the stories and traditions passed onto us through that lineage, but we hope too that our teaching evolves to create space for broader discussion and reflection about how we might best live in this wide and complicated world.
Liz and Roland's rich teaching is rooted in their own intensive practices—profoundly spiritual, and at the same time playful. They skillfully guide students in discovering and understanding the physical body, creating a potential for mental and energetic transformation. Their teaching is infused with fierce love, joy, and laughter.
©Liz Huntly 2015