As the fog of global grief clears from my mind eye - I recall some of the highs and low lessons navigating life after finishing all my learning projects around the trades, land and art. Somehow, after all the deep work I did on how I learn and whats best for me - I fell into the love bombing and habitual guilt patterns of associating capitlalism and a consistent paycheck reflecting my self worth; convincing myself I should get a 9-5. I rationalized this thinking after taking an incredible trades speciality course, hyper focusing on a delusional finish line of consistent employment that actually ended up sending me back into burnout and nearly undoing all the healthy patterns I had worked so hard to build.
In taking a job offer that promised one thing and did not deliver, I was able to lean into my land and art community (who I missed tragically) when I realized I would make myself sick if I stayed in such a toxic space. For a consistent pay check, I gave up seeing friends and chosen family consistently on land and around art, herbs, plants and at workshops and events for land justice - often coming home from a day of 9-5 work too exhausted to move, eat or barely shower or to take myself to bed. For regular deposits - I learned and performed a trades skill that had me around mostly cis-white-het-men who had no idea beyond the scope of their lives and routine to where my thoughts could infinitely expand as a queer, black, immigrant artist. For regular deposits - I cried before going to bed at night and once a week I would sit with my therapist trying to stay alert so my eyes wouldn’t roll back in my head mid-session from burnout, depression and exhaustion. For regular deposits - I showed one co-worker my dream for A Vanderful Life and decided not to tell him about Pirate Jenny because I didn’t have the energy to explain, because I knew he wouldn’t understand; I hid and shuttered myself after speaking up and being punished. During this time - I would eat outside under a picnic umbrella in the company lot, facing a chainlink fence that was covered in green volunteers because it was the closest thing to eating outside on a farm that I had gotten accustomed to. Once, I cut short my lunch break, because I saw a dead baby bird that died on the asphalt next to my picnic table. I dug a hole in the earth and carried it over and placed it gently in the ground - covering it up with respect and dignity in a cool, earthen resting place. 48 hours before I left, and not 10 minutes after I got to the job site - a truck did u-turn, crashing into the building, taking out a huge chunk of structure and downing some wires - signaling that it was certainly my time to leave.
When my moon cycle started going all over the place and my 3 month probationary period at this position was coming up - I knew I had to act on a choice or become sick again. Leaning into community can take many forms and this occurred in the most effective text I have ever sent, to date; asking my network if there were any post season harvesting jobs. Within 2 weeks I was in a new land based role and while it was short lived with it’s own social limitations; several incredible things occurred - I was on land, processing and harvesting a crop that at times felt like another worker. I maintained this new position by car sharing and staying with farm fam; commuting from urban to rural setting regularly. My participation in farm events, work days, projects, festivals and activities re-emerged and someone mentioned that the light was back in my eyes. I was back with my tribe, especially my core crew - helping on site, learning infrastructure as well as basic arborist and ancestral landscaping work. I also saw what farm community truly meant when I couldn’t bring myself to scroll through the on-ground horror’s of the Gaza Genocide and a friend was verbally passing along and explaining what was happening and in mid-sentence paused because an herbal farmer dropped off some mini-bushels of Tulsi at their doorstep. Several plant friends including Tulsi, Mugwort, Yarrow and Garlic got myself and this land art community through the end of the 2023 farming season when so much was unfolding on the global landscape. As I write, I’ve added ginger, turmeric, and sesame oil to my list of plant allies as it has made the colder months are bit warmer, especially with dashes of cayenne pepper. So many products, tinctures, teas and salves uplifted, soothed and regulated my mind, body and systems and this body would not be able to deal or cope with current events if not for these allies of care made by incredible and talented beings.
Sending that text set off a beautiful yet rigorous wave of events reminding me that I had almost let myself stop dreaming and tending my visions. While I was commuting between states and valleys and being on land, I was in community. I drove to work, worked with plant allies and their people, I drove home - co-taught a high tunnel course once a week (virtually) - and picked up/dropped off things at different farm fam for different people. I supported and socialized at farmers markets, met up and engaged at work days and events and remembered to find the space, time and people to nourish my visions. While it felt like it all came to a screeching halt when the post harvest position I had ended earlier than planned - it was hard not to look back in admiration in all that I and others had accomplished in community during the whopper of a farming season amidst so much needless grief, genocide and climate shifts. December and the beginning of January were tricky emotionally and financially - but pausing to understand my non-negotiables for land and art work helped me to focus and eventually manifest consistent and meaningful work, making me feel like I belonged in community.
Recently, it felt like home, being back on land with farm fam. Holding space for folx, cooking and listening to each other present our collective dreams and visions presented an opportunity for teach ins, advocacy and holding each other accountable in solidarity in a hybrid mix or IRL and virtual time. Those moments and that time provided strength and confirmation; giving me room to dream and fully envision life bridging land, art and the trades with A Vanderful Life. This is also the Chinese Year of the Dragon and it’s my Chinese astrological sign. One of the characteristics of this creature is luck - and while I’ve had a downright bad lot of it over the past 7 years - I have shifted and psychically feel my dragons old scales fall off and new ones start to shimmer. I can’t wait to shift into creating action with the things I have learned and experienced 7 years ago, as Pirate Jenny is celebrating 10 years. I do feel rather emboldened coming out of this harrowing 7 year uphill cycle of a battle - and am literally stretching these dragon’s crusty leathery wings and seeing where they’ll take me.
If anyone is bold enough to try it - I”m happy to show you its shiny spine.