Feeding the body is a necessary task — and engaging the journey of feeding it right and mindfully has woven its way into many of my Down on the Farm articles. But feeding the soul is equally important in our lives.
Being in nature is a wonderful and readily accessed way to feed the soul here in the Northwoods. There’s lakes and rivers and trails, all waiting to be explored. Every morning, I take time to notice something special happening in nature during chore time, whether it’s the Great Blue Heron silently pumping its wings over the tops of the trees, the apple branches bursting forth with pale pink blossoms, or the humble toad hopping across my path.
Each morning this time of year there are new smells — chokecherries blooming, buds swelling, pollen releasing. The earth is stretching out her verdant arms towards summertime, splashing us with greens of every hue we so desperately missed all winter. On the way to Farmstead Creamery after chores, I stop to listen to the chatter of the creek that runs under our lane as it makes its way through the marshy grasses and tag alders, aiming on its long journey to the Gulf of Mexico.
Art is another wonderful way to feed the soul, whether through its creation or appreciation. With two needle felting classes this last week, the magical process of transforming raw materials like fluffy wool into adorable little birds once again brought smiles and laughter. In an age when it is so easy to buy anything we could want, allowing ourselves time to make something by hand seems near to a foreign luxury. And yet, how much more do we treasure that which was made with love and time by hands we’ve known or our own? The thoughtful, personal nature of such objects transforms a “thing” into a talisman for a whole experience and backstory that lives beyond any sense of commodity.
Having art in a space is much more than a decorative process. In Montessori training, one of the great mantras for teachers is to “prepare the environment.” And the influence of the environment has been shown to be a key player in social as well as educational situations. A cold, industrial space does not inspire or feed the soul like a warm, creatively energized space. Having been to castle ruins in England, it is no wonder at all that colorful woolen tapestries would have been hung end-to-end from floor-to-ceiling. Humans have always yearned to be surrounded by warmth and color.
Music is yet another critical pillar to feeding the soul. Crossing barriers of culture and language, music speaks to something deeper within, to parts of the brain scientists are finding even Alzheimer’s disease cannot erase. Music can awaken and music can heal — whether in the playing or the listening. It’s been an incredible few weeks for music at Farmstead Creamery, with singing and playing at our Peace Pole dedication ceremony, followed by our monthly Celtic Music Session outside in the beautifully sunny afternoon (the Celtic Session crew will return this Thursday for Open Mic, so grab your favorite instrument or tapping toes and join us).
Then this last Saturday’s episode of our Locally Grown Summer Music Series featured Michael Monroe from Grand Marais, Minnesota — weaving soulful acoustic strains of folk classics and original compositions. We worked for three years to bring Michael to Farmstead as part of the series and sharing that evening on the farm with our delightful guests, the sunset and the hummingbirds was truly magical. It is indeed just as he sang it:
“Life is a mystery, it’s a beautiful mystery”
Let us remember that being surrounded by exquisite nature and having a place in the woods to come to enjoy both the visual and performing arts doesn’t just happen by accident. We must all serve as stewards of the natural world and tend to the interrelationships from which creativity flows and flourishes. Feeding the soul doesn’t happen in a vacuum, even when we feel the need to “get away from it all.” In the end, we are still all linked together in a faceted web. Even in the depths of the woods, our choices ripple out to each other.
Sometimes I get a chuckle thinking on the old Chinese proverb: The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, but the second best time to plant a tree is now.
Eight years ago, we planted that “tree” by building Farmstead Creamery on our century farm, nestled in the Chequamegon National Forest. Now it’s become a refuge not just as a place to feed the body with wholesome, high-integrity farm-to-table foods but also as a place to feed the soul with creativity, culture and community. What better work indeed to be the warp and weft of one’s life!
May we all dedicate time this week to feeding the soul — for ourselves and for each other.
See you down on the farm sometime.
Laura Berlage is a co-owner of North Star Homestead Farms, LLC and Farmstead Creamery & Café. (715) 462-3453 www.northstarhomestead.com.