(I separated the following post into 2 blog entries. Mostly because I hate over-long blog posts and I spent too much time on this for readers to skim.)
Friends of mine recently invited me to house and garden-sit for them. They have a lovely little cabin built behind their home, and I was looking forward to using one of my nights there to write and reflect on the meaning of Abundance and what Abundance looks like lived out, since these have been themes of the last year.
Instead of writing, though, at the last minute I decided to visit Eric and Christine, friends of the people for whom I was house-sitting. Eric is a local mechanic and an avid spear-fisherman. If you're like me and don't know much about spear-fishing, he can spend a good hour or two explaining how he free-dives with his own handmade spear, discussing the seasonality of marine life close to the Channel Islands, showing you epic underwater videos of the hundreds of Yellowtail and White Sea Bass he recently swam through off the coast of Anacapa Island where he dives, and demonstrating before your very eyes how to slice up a 30 pound sea bass (picture to come).
Christine and Eric home-school their two little girls in an alternative way, which includes helping with the fish, wild mushroom foraging, and making soap from the waste of bio-diesel. Their car runs on bio-diesel and vegetable oil, and Eric has made a small business out of producing about 55 gallons of bio-diesel a month right in their garage. One of the by-products of bio-diesel production is glycerin. Rather than consider it waste, they have rigged up a system to purify it, melt it together with beeswax ("waste" from an area bee-keeper), and are teaching their children how to make soap! The bars are a beautiful, dark brown color and feel soft and smooth. Eric estimates that each bar of soap costs him about a penny, since it's made from materials that would otherwise be thrown out in the process of fuel production.
My visit to Christine and Eric's home was not just a neighborly call, but economically motivated as well. These creative folks are savvy traders. They are thinking outside of the money system and are re-defining economic relationships in their community by exchanging car repair for fresh eggs, baby-sitting for boat rides, labor on a local organic farm for a fancy meal at that farm's restaurant, and spear-caught fish for everything from a weekly CSA box to educational conferences. I came prepared for a good swap with a bag loaded full of squash, eggplant, tomatoes, and carrots from our farm. I left with two big bags of frozen sea bass and roe, a stack of homemade soap to re-gift to friends and family, and with a spirit swelling with gratitude at their lifestyle of generosity and renewal.
Abundance is hard to define, but I know it when I see it. The way that Christine and Eric live is a testimony to God's promise of abundant provision in and for all of creation. It makes me want to stand up and shout with joy, "THIS is what Abundance looks like!"