Maya Angelou said, “I’m convinced of this: Good done anywhere is good done everywhere.” And I have to wonder. At the Yew Mountain Center we try to be intensely local, inspired by the landscape under our feet and outside the windows of our cars and homes, fed by our neighbors’ livestock, garlic from our own gardens, and apples from homesteads past. We embrace this notion that local is good. And it is. And sometimes it’s good to look beyond our own feet and windows. Sometimes we want to speak Spanish and eat a pomegranate. Sometimes we want to fix the world.
I have to wonder. Is learning to hand-tie a traditional Appalachian broom fixing the world? I have no idea. But here’s what I do know. When we all sat in the dining room, holding tension on the wet broomcorn with the weights of our bodies, we were drinking from a deep well of world-fixing energy. We sat still, but in an active, alert state of learning, questioning, doing, and supporting each other’s efforts. Then it became meditative, almost second nature to us novices—under, over, pull tight, repeat. The patterns emerge. The imperfections we were so worked up about become art. We had made something useful. We had made something beautiful.
Creating a field trip, making lunch, writing a grant, planting goldenseal, making dinner, doing the laundry, answering emails, fixing the well pump, hiring musicians…under, over, pull tight, repeat. Holding something tightly with the weight of our bodies, our ideas, and each other. We are seeing the patterns emerge in interactions with our students and our guests. We hear it when we are in gatherings of organizers and changemakers across the region. They tell us what we hope and believe to be true. We are making something useful. We are making something beautiful.
We have a neighbor who, when she comes over to visit and sees the chaos of our house, reaches for a broom and sweeps while we chat. And when she leaves, that little patch of clean floor makes me better able to handle the rest of my life. That’s what brooms and neighbors can create—little clean patches of floor and inner peace. (Is this what sweeping change looks like?)
I believe these little patches of good matter—especially when we look up from our own patches and find ways to connect them with others. Connecting the good pieces has been the best part of creating the Yew Mountain Center. Wait. Did I just I switch from the broom metaphor to a quilt metaphor in the final paragraph?! Is anything more Yew? Thank you for being a good piece.
Yours in Sweeping Change,
p.s. With deep gratitude for Brenda Harmon of Brenwood Forge and Brooms who led the broom making workshop with great patience and skill and for all of the other teachers who create a community of learning at the center.