Thus far, I have largely focused on the practical facets of community working, farming, and living in Hawaii. I’ve explored the beneficial lessons learned, insights gathered, values elevated, and behaviors slowly re-conditioned. But I have yet to unpack, in a meaningful way, the sheer joy and ample benefit of doing what we do here at Gingerhill. Thus, to conclude my 3-post series of personal reflection upon my return, I will be delving into why the farm lifestyle has been so joyful and fulfilling for me.
Pleasing the Inner Extrovert
Have you ever taken the Myers Briggs personality test? If so, and if you remember your type, you have an idea of whether you are an introvert or an extrovert. Even if you haven’t, you probably have a good sense of where you may fall on a spectrum of introversion to extroversion. If you’re like me and most other people, you are neither a recluse nor a bubbling socialite. Most of us require some degree of both social connection and personal reflective time.
The farm lifestyle can be enjoyable for both introverts and extroverts alike. I have found that the farm lifestyle at Gingerhill has allowed me to nourish both my introverted and extroverted selves to protect against energy depletion. That’s something that is particularly critical for me, as I tend to fluctuate immensely between extreme introversion and exuberant extroversion.
Living in community, you are surrounded by people all of the time. You’re likely to see friendly faces in the kitchen or the parking lot, and you share two meals with the farm community every day. If you want company, it’s rare that you will be hard pressed to find it. Being surrounded by warm, intelligent individuals provides an outlet for my extroverted side while encouraging the introvert in me to relax and open up.
Nurturing the Inner Introvert
However, my inner introvert never feels overtaxed. Living in the ethereal respite of Hawaii’s delicate jungle possesses a remote charm and imbues a sense of inner quietude. When I need to, I resign to a cabin under a thick canopy of leaves and branches. Having personal space in a natural environment is calming and conducive to introspection. Even when I’m working with other people on the farm, the environment is intimate. It’s never overbearing. We have days of working together quietly, spread out through the lush grounds. Here, it’s easy to find personal space without feeling alone or isolated.
Making Meaningful Connections
We like to compare living in community to looking in a mirror. When you live with other people, you must come face to face with facets of yourself that are easy to ignore in solitude. While that can be tough, it can also allow you to make very meaningful connections.
We tend to see each other at our best and our worst. When I’m at my best, I feel proud to share that feeling. And when I’m at my worst, I find solace in knowing that my community can see the raw parts of me and still care. When others are at their worst, I realize that I’m not so alone in my low times. And when I see others at their best, I feel inspiration and share in their joy. Seeing the best and worst in each other can be hard, but it fosters genuine and powerful connections.
These meaningful connections are capable of richening and broadening both mind and spirit in unexpected ways. Through my three work trades, I have met people from all over the country and the world. I have learned about new cultures, new customs, and new ways of thinking. I have met people from vastly different backgrounds with different skills, thoughts, and ambitions. And I have received exposure to and, in turn, inspiration from the dreams of others, and learned from entrepreneur friends that a strong sense of independence is the key to success. I have also seen people who could not be any more different from one another become the best of friends. Broadly speaking, I have learned that there is no barrier to human connection other than those we impose upon ourselves through our rigid thinking and intolerance.
New Ideas and Skills
Of course, farm living means trying new things all of the time. Farm living is not just farming; we also host celebrations, share meals, collaborate on ideas, and share experiences. So even if you know a lot about farming in Hawaii, you will accumulate a host of new skills through true farm living.
Having had only a little farming experience before Gingerhill, I was excited to learn how to care for new species. I have learned new techniques for mulching and fertilizing while eliminating the need for external inputs. And I have learned new blogging skills and writing techniques, as well as some website design tools. Through my work, I have a whole new skill set that I didn’t have before I arrived here.
But what’s even more enjoyable is learning by watching other people’s skills and projects. For example, one friend taught me how to make my own kombucha, and I’ve had fun experimenting with that. Others on the farm use the dehydrator to make ulu and banana flour, turmeric powder, and fruit leather. I have friends who create aromatherapy oils, plant medicine, and natural cosmetic products using only what we have on the farm. And I’ve been inspired by the creative cooking of the chefs. I have the opportunity to practice new forms of yoga and engage in new rituals. I am receiving a constant wave of creative, sustainable, and fun side-projects to potentially experiment with in my own life.