Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Spiritual Foundations of Homesteading

I'm reading a fascinating book (very slowly, since I've nearly no time for reading!) called At Home in Nature: Modern Homesteading and Spiritual Practice in America by Rebecca Kneale Gould. Gould looks at the history of homesteading as a spiritual practice, from Thoreau to Helen and Scott Nearing to contemporary homesteaders seeking a better life by attuning with nature. Helen Nearing is actually the Helen referred to in Krishnamurti's biography: they were young lovers. She studied theosophy. All homesteaders, Gould argues, seek deeper meaning in life through care of the home and the earth. She writes, "Whether we prefer the term spiritual or religious... we can see in the practice of homesteading a lived response to problems of meaning that are personal and cultural." (xvii) She writes about homesteaders seeking a deeper sense of self by "recentering the self amid the wonders (and resources) of the natural world." (xviii)

I am enjoying reading the history of my work, and I'm appreciating the academic discussion of things dear to me, namely nature, homesteading and spirituality. Most exciting to me is to discover the foundations of non-religious spiritual practice through gardening, raising chickens, homeschooling, and other homesteading practices. They go way back! It's a lot like when my husband, a music therapist, learned that one of his grandmothers was a music teacher, something he had not previously known. There is an historical foundation to our creative madness after all.

If you homestead at all and enjoy history and spirituality, you would likely enjoy At Home in Nature. At the very least it will bring you to explore your own motivations and practices as you prepare for another spring on the homestead.

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