Saturday, August 27, 2005

Refusing to join the career club

As I dressed after swimming this afternoon I glanced at a brand emblem on the inside of my shirt collar: Career Club.

When I finished graduate school in 1977 I decided not to join the career club. Something seemed amiss with the pattern in our culture that leads us to forsake people and place to follow a career where ever it may lead.

Instead I moved to Illinois and joined a commune.

Now it's 28 years later and I'm still part of the commune. When I Sarah and I moved to Plow Creek it was was an idea, a vision, a call. Like a seed that I could hold in my hand, the idea of joining a commune was something I could play with, maybe even kiss it, or not.

But once we joined and started living at Plow Creek it was like a seed disappearing into the earth and taking on a life of its own.

Sarah had moved 21 times by the time she was 18. When her mother first visited Plow Creek, Sarah, in her middle 20's, gave her a tour and when they passed the cemetary she said to her mother, "This where I will be buried."

She was done moving.

I have spent countless hours over the years listening and praying with our farmers, supporting them through draught and flood and bountiful crops. One fall I sat in my wheelchair next to a poorly producing pumpkin patch and wrote a poem about Autuckee, the chief of the last of the Potawatmi to live on this part of the earth that is now Plow Creek:

Perhaps this year a tiny piece of America is mourning
the memory of warm footprints from the brothers and sisters
of the First Nations.

I have learned that to be part of this place is ache for the people who have gone before. To be part of a people is to be part of death and birth.

Our son was born in a room in the upstairs of the Alpha House, Plow Creek's first house. He was born during a members meeting and when someone called over to the common building with the news, David Gale, who took the call, returned to the meeting and said, "Plow Creek has another son."

Each of our children grew up knowing they were part of a place and a people.

I don't know where the Career Club shirt came from. Sarah loves to shop at used clothing stores and shirts and pants simply show up in my closet.

After 28 years in a commune I have a people, a place, and a Career Club shirt.