"So, where is your farm?" I am sometimes asked. "I don't have one," I reply.
At times the response is simply, "Oh." Or, "Why don't you get one yet?" Or, especially if the questioning is from relatives, "Then why did you spend all that time doing that organic farming thing?" which I translate as, why didn't you do something sensible with your time...but at least now you're back from gallivanting.
I get where the questioning comes from. But I also get it when I catch a wistful tone from those who share half-whispered dreams. Of being unsure how they got to where they are now, of feeling misplaced, of questioning their current job or city or town. Of not being 100% sure what that change would look like, but knowing there's this thing nibbling at the corners, and it isn't satisfied with crumbs.
A hunger for connection is a powerful motivating force. For me, two seasons of farming were driven by an early calling since childhood, a desire to physically practice reverence, and to learn the basics of what ancestors up until two generations ago knew how to do. It opened up new goals, while closing off other possibilities.
In my current reality, at times I feel a tension bordering on sadness. My rural soul half-hungers in this beautiful city, so alive with stories and sound yet where green life must find its way pushing up through sidewalks, on rooftops and inside planter beds.
When I am quiet enough to listen, though, lessons from the farm are still there to be harvested. And I'm using them to help through tumult - that period of necessary growth between 27-30 commonly known as Saturn's Return:
Lesson: Break Open. The tiniest seed has the potential for tremendous growth. It requires breaking the shell and leaving behind smallness. Reaching true adulthood is not the smooth journey I thought it would be, just as germination isn't the end of ever-accelerating change. The next step is to harden off and to leave the greenhouse for good. It means planting roots into the harsh reality of the field, and to endure and grow through the forces of wind, air, rain, pests, disease, and blazing sunlight.
Lesson: Plan for Harvest. Plans inevitably change and adapt, but there is no harvest without a plan. Plan well, like your hunger depends on. Feed it unrelenting care and persistence. Take stock, get real with what is and isn't possible, and wipe the slate clean of crops that didn't give a good past yield, even if they were a pretty idea at the time.
Lesson: Face the Broken Places. These past two years have surfaced the uglies and the neglected places. Its lifted the curtain on obsolete habits, on the rusted and decayed things no one else can move out. While some things can be appreciated or even repurposed, for most its time to thank them for past use...and then take them out for recycling.
Lesson: Make and Take Your Own Medicine. Plant medicine is labor intensive. It takes growing the plant, followed by multiple steps of harvesting, processing, straining, and jarring. Shortcuts fool no one and lead to a lesser product. If Saturn's Return is about taking stock of what hurts and is in need of healing, its also realizing there's no doctor, pharmacist or medicine in the house, simply yourself.
Lesson: Flock. Exposing your foundation to all the elements can be lonesome. It has to be. But there is still a need to pause for warmth and companionship, even if its not romantic partnership. I have leaned so much on others in this phase, and especially on those who have survived the arc of their Saturn's Return into stronger, surer and brighter versions of themselves.
I used to think Saturn's Return was woo-woo crap, but now that I'm in the thick of it, I can't stop talking about it. Natural cycles are the greatest teacher. There, we see constant change, see maturation, decline, and decay. We are a part of these cycles, and the small wrinkles that begin around our eyes, or the gray hairs that creep in, are only small external signs of vast, internal changes. I didn't even go into the many other farm metaphors, whether pruning (prioritizing), composting (death and transformation), or pest management (enough said).
Looking back at my first season, its no coincidence that many of the women were also between 26-31. These women weren't drifters - they came with a deep sense of purpose and questioning, some looking to make lasting change in their life trajectories, others to add on skills to heal their communities. All had put the pause on commitments - on jobs in nonprofits, as teachers, therapists, fundraisers, gardeners, in roles as partners, caregivers and mothers. Long-term relationships ended or were tested. While some are now working on farms or food justice related work, others have integrated the season in profound ways, gone on to school or to earlier work with a different reference point.
There's lots of info about Saturn's Return out there, some better than others, and so I'm not including any here. The curious can simply Google and click away. Or better yet: why not ask folks where they were in that period between 27-30?