Sunday, October 30, 2011

Will Work for Tea


Each regular day, for three hours total, the students and one of the helpers labour away around the L’Abri property. We wield our axes and maneuver around salaal plants with large lopper-of-sorts with only a few brief words of instruction to prepare us.

By the time it’s 4:30 PM, mandatory tea, we come back, more often than not, dirt-stained, paint-speckled, and ready for that promised hot cup of tea to give us the energy needed for the last hour and half of work.

These hours are not something I abhor but endear. I like getting grime under my nails. I enjoy sweating under my rain gear. I love the muck. Physical labour in the company of close friends slips right past the chore-radar and is accepted as just another activity to do. Working with the other students brings us closer and gives us a chance to let the conversations wander.

Our tasks are, for the most part, outside. We’ve cleaned chicken coops, harvested vegetables from the garden, turned compost, gathered sticks, cleared trails, hacked at hemlocks, destroyed salaal, tidied the greenhouse, painted, stained, helped build a deck, shoveled wood chips, gathered flowers from around the property, and done everything concerning fire wood - chop ‘em, sort ‘em, move ‘em, dry ‘em, stack ‘em and re-steack ‘em. Oh the luxury!

Chopping is the top task of choice for, I know, at least one of the students, Melanie. Wood is the perfect scapegoat for any bottled up frustration, anger, or emotion that best likes to come out with full on physical... violence?

This work, I know, is good for me on all sorts of different levels.

One way is with my SPD. The act of pushing, pulling, and moving provides all sorts of sensory input. The benefits make me crave this lifestyle to continue all the more.

Another way is the reward of seeing the actual results to your labour. This isn’t some task that just comes out as a piece of paper that I hand in to a professor and get a letter in return for. No sir. At the end of a task, I normally have something I can stand back and smile at - I can size up the tower of wood, taller than me, or I can walk the trail just carved into the woods. Instead of knowing I’m close to the end of an essay by word count, the shrinking size of the wood pile, decreasing in size with each shovel-full, is my indicator that my job is almost done.  Oh to have tangible results! And the knowledge that what I’m doing has a purpose in the scheme of living; the wood will keep us warm, the chickens will be happier with a clean coop and continue to give us eggs, and the food from the garden will do what food does best.

If this work is character building, I’d say that explains a lot of the character developments in our crew. We must have incredible character by now!

I’m grateful that each of the students has a brinking-on-admirable work-ethic. All of us are willing to work and do work. The workers here have told us that our group, altogether, has done more work than the past three terms combined! Once we were staining the deck, a large portion, and we finished in half a work period. At the end, Jeff pointed to a small, small portion of the deck. Apparently, it had taken a past term more than one work period to do half of what we had just done. With everyone working, that becomes the standard. It’s an encouragement to keep up with it and not lag behind. With everyone doing what they can, there’s no resentment in the uneven distribution of work to do. We all pull our own weight, and with that comes our approval.

Fifteen hours a week of work - time that bonds the group further and drives us outside. I can’t complain.

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