“I believe that a revolution can begin from this one strand of straw. Seen at a glance, this rice straw may appear light and insignificant. Hardly anyone would believe that it could start a revolution. But I have come to realize the weight and power of this straw. For me, this revolution is very real.” ~Masanobu Fukuoka
When I was 23 I read a book that changed the way I thought about life. The One Straw Revolution. I wanted to meet Masanobu Fukuoka. I wanted to walk beside him, and hear him speak about “Do Nothing Farming” and “the natural pattern” I didn’t have the money to travel to Japan. I needed a plan. These wants were only going to get me so far.
What I did was take an AmeriCorps position in Westchester County, New York as a C.S.A. Assistant Manager. Which essentially translates to farm hand. The manager had a name that seemed to scream old wise farmer in the middle of no where lessons: Suehiko. The day I walked out into the field and saw the bright orange Kubota with a floppy hatted form riding; I thought I had found my Fukuoka. When he got off the tractor and turned around-I immediately realized my mistake. Suehiko was a beautiful young man of Asian and Jewish decent. I was floored. What the hell was he doing in the middle of this field? Where was my Fukuoka?
I will give Suehiko his credit. He is a very intelligent man. A wealth of knowledge, but the truth is; I had come not just to learn about growing organic, local food, but to find something about myself. I wanted a really dam old man to tell me! It was not meant to be, and in the long run I think it was for the best. I instead stood in a field for a very long summer- by myself. I quickly discovered that I hated being by myself. It made my skin crawl. I was not certain that I liked what I saw when I stopped. I cried almost every day. There was no one but me to witness my gradual breakdown in Westchester New York.
I also ate lots of ice cream. Rode a bike more than I had ever before in my life, and realized that I would never be a farmer. I began to tentatively draw and paint. I made huge meals by myself. I collected all my trash for three months just to see how much I generated. I dumpster dived all sorts of odd things-that probably went to a landfill later. I saw the world as I had never seen it before.
The idea of Fukuoka had escaped me, but perhaps a part of me followed from a distance. I left Westchester, and eventually went home to the west coast. My heart would remember that field for a long time, and the struggle that had occurred, but I would not know, until much later, how much I needed to be still. When I was finally still I would find myself-unlike anything I had ever imagined. I discovered my “natural pattern” and in doing so, some parts of me would die.
The One Straw Revolution: “when I went up to the citrus orchard to practice what I then thought was natural farming I did no pruning, and left the orchard to itself. The branches became tangled, the trees were attacked by insects and almost two acres of mandarin orange trees withered and died. From that time on the question, “What is the natural pattern?” was always in my mind. In the process of arriving at the answer, I wiped out another 400 trees. Finally I felt I could say with certainty: “This is the natural pattern.”
Last month I had many strange moments that spoke to me. They came as usual- in dreams and quiet breaths throughout the day. Each moment shifting until it felt as if every instance might be a dream. I felt drained by the end of the month. I could contain no more. I wished that everything would leave, and suddenly it was all gone, and I was left to myself. Quietly, blessedly to myself. I felt wrecked. My body did not want to move, and I felt my chest tighten. I could feel myself closing, and that it the instance that I simply stopped.
I didn’t move very much for a couple of days, and then I got up again. I wanted my refrigerator gone. I had thought about it for two months. Thoughts could only take me so far. I unplugged the refrigerator. I cooked for two days, and suddenly realized that I could not save everything. That part of this would be a failure, a mistake, an imperfection. I would not lose over 400 trees, but I would let the freezer go. I would try only to discover that the veggies had molded. The broth had gone bad. That maggots had found the bones. It had all crawled out of my control, and did it really matter? Nothing is permanent. I could give my permission to the insane desire to get upset, or simply shrug my shoulders and think: “It happens.” Death. The maggots were the polite and disgusting reminder that it would continue no matter what I thought. The “natural pattern” had found me in all my mistakes. The mold would take back those vegetables. I realized I was too tired to do anymore. I threw it away. Sick and disheartened by the things I could not bring myself to do. It didn’t really matter. It would all keep going.
Instead of practicing “Do Nothing Farming” I am practicing “Do Nothing Living.” Do nothing living is not what you might imagine it to be. Do nothing living grabs you, and sends you into action, but only the most necessary action. Everything else is suddenly dropped away. You can only expend that. Your internal fire will allow for no more-no less. This is the “natural pattern”