Rancho Mastatal took me by sweet surprise. When we arrived, I can’t remember what I thought. All I knew was we’d be learning about soil and shit like that. I left high expectations behind and prepared myself for another week in the jungle.
Scott, an Ohio native with hair that made me ache for highlights (once a fake blonde always a fake blonde), was the first staff member we met. He introduced us to Jeanie’s Bunk House where we’d be sleeping for the next eleven days and laid out an orientation of sorts. I remember him saying he hoped Rancho Mastatal would be our favorite partner of Winterline, and that, if we let it, it could change our lives. I can remember feeling sort of bad for him for a second. Thinking, hmm. Ya, no.
Good to know my assumptions were not only unjustified but completely off. I’m a lot more interested in soil than I expected. Permaculture to be more specific. And, though I don’t expect to change my livelihood overnight, there’s a lot I learned here that I will take back home with me. The big picture being: caring about our earth matters. And if you allow yourself to sit back and watch people like Scott, Nic, Doro, Jacob (the list goes on) do what they do, you gain a new perspective and appreciation for the sustainability of this planet we share. And how little changes and little impacts truly matter.
Yeah, so I walk away with permaculture. But, I walk with more than that. In one week, the Rancho gave us a home. I read through three books (a love I lost along the way through life in academia, ironically) and wrote a poem that didn’t end in a massive scribble-y blob. I woke up early to milk the goats, not because I had to, but because I actually felt at peace with Fern and Agnis. I felt the difference in energy from getting a full eight hours – if not more – of sleep each night. I ate really good, really healthy food straight from the earth. I fell asleep in hammocks and walked through waterfalls and rivers. I even started to appreciate my bare and dirty feet, and I really hate my feet. I haven’t had make up on in weeks. Mountains of bug bites cover my arms and legs. My hair is always in a bun because I have no idea what else to do with it. But, I feel like myself. An unfamiliar version of myself, but myself nonetheless.
And I like to think I walk away with a friend. Someone who, a year younger than I am, seems wise beyond her years. Someone who brought a lot of experience and value to our conversations, but would genuinely listen as well. A kind of reciprocity you don’t find often. We swapped stories about the music we listen to, talked about group dynamics and living in small communities, and best of all, I thought, we talked about finding the sweet spot. And if she ever reads this she’ll know exactly what I mean. Thanks Jessy.
Nic said that if I applied for an apprenticeship at Rancho Mastatal I would be accepted; he wants me to come back. And that, as Junot Diaz puts it, made the blood do jumping jacks in my head. Because I really fell in love with this place. I would love to come back. I thought, well, what if I do? What if I spend another year outside of the U.S.? That would be incredible, right?
Then I think about my favorite café (yes this is my thought process). I have a lot of favorite cafes. I think about how I always feel a ping of curiosity when I see a “We’re Hiring” sign in the window. I should work here, I say. Why wouldn’t I want to work at my favorite café?
Because it would absolutely ruin every single reason it was your favorite café in the first place.
And part of me feels the same way about Rancho. Right now, it’s perfect just the way I see it. And maybe that’s enough. Chances are I’ll think about it. But, I’ve got a long way to go. My hope is, when I get home in May, I have a million strings pulling me in a million different directions. And, as stressful as that will be, I can choose my fate. I will have options. And that’s the best kind of confusion I could ask for.