My new favorite band Noah and the Whale (a British Rock ‘n’ Roll quintet) play a song titled “5 Years Time.” I enjoy the tune for its honest approach to the brevity of most of our closest relationships. The song suggests that while our culture is adamant about loving hard and well, we are not so concerned with longevity. Through “5 Years Time,” Noah and the Whale highlight our ok-ness with moving from relationship to relationship, community to community. The song emphasizes our culture’s ever-on-the-move mentality where it’s hard to imagine today’s relationships withstanding five year’s time.
The culture this song describes isn’t something “out there” for me: the “close” friends I have today are not the ones I had just three years ago. A few of the friends from yesteryear moved and the miles put distance into our relationship. But others, nay, most, still live just down the street. Sure, I might be going to a different church now. They may have gotten married. Still others may have started more demanding careers. But I can’t help but remember that a mere three years ago all of us were “forever friends.” And today, well I might be lucky if I see them in the produce section of Whole Foods.
It seems, to me, the trend-words-du-jour like “community” and “authenticity” have made it all too easy for us to step into each other’s lives and build wells of connections. Conversely, our utmost preference for transience and novelty have made it even easier to fill in those wells with dirt and move on to new, not-yet-tasted springs of water.
As I read more and more books about farming, I’m touched by the necessity of being bound to the land you tend. And not bound for a season. Or a year. Or a decade. But for a lifetime. Good farming requires close study of the land, study matched equally with adaptation and persistence. In his 2004 essay titled “Renewing Husbandry,” Wendell berry calls the farmer’s study of the land husbandry. Berry writes:
“The word husbandry is the name of connection….Old usage tells us that there is a husbandry also of the land, of the soil, of the domestic plants and animals. To husband is to use with care, to keep, to save, to make last, to conserve….Husbandry is the name of all the practices that sustain life by connecting us conservingly to our places and our world; it is the art of keeping tied all the strands in the living network that sustains us.”