Monday, February 12, 2007

Smallness of Scale

Turtle's House

In my last post, "Erosion Control," I mentioned Wendell Berry's Peru-farming observations. I want to discuss each observation as a way to approach life in general. Today is "smallness of scale."

As Berry looked out over the fields, he noted...

"For those fields hold their soil on those slopes, first of all, by being little. By being little they protect themselves against erosion, but their smallness also permits attention to be focused accurately and competently on the details." (p 26)

"The fields have to be the right size; to make them too big would be to destroy them....What I was thinking, then, looking down at the little fields of the Andes, was that the most interesting, crucial, difficult questions of agriculture are questions of propriety. What is the proper size for a farm for one family in a given place? What is the proper size for a field, given a particular slope, climate, soil type, and drainage?" (p.43)

How can I apply Berry's "smallness of scale" ideas to my life— to keep things intact or, better yet, to encourage abundant growth? I thought of a few ways I already do this...

• In homeschooling my kids, I keep our lessons short and sweet. Children learn quite a lot in small spaces of time.

• Buying a small house has meant we have less to clean, care for, spend money on, and pay back in mortgage cost.

• In choosing a small dinner plate, I find that I eat an appropriate amount of food.

• I developed and follow (though not slavishly) a 30-Day Meal Plan.

• In reading just a little bit of scripture each week, I eventually make it through my whole bible every so once in a while.

Some new ways I want to incorporate "smallness of scale"...

• get on-line for shorter time periods, and on fewer days (I think I'll try posting on Tues/Thurs for awhile, instead of Tues/Thurs/Fri... I'm over on Green Inventions on Wed/Fri, and my daughter's picture of the Sermon on the Mount, complete with computer on the "me, me, me" side, has made me realize I've once again slipped into too much computer time.)

• focus deeply on a few good relationships

• read only the best books (put the boring ones aside, without guilt!)

So what about you? How might you use "smallness of scale" to make life good, or just prevent erosion?

(If you do a post on "Smallness of Scale," let me know. I'll link to you. Speaking of links, check out what Craver & Son did in response to my "Blessed are The" post. Check out his comment in the original post too. Cool.)

Turtle in His Small Home. Photo by Sonia.


Smallness of Scale

Narcissus Gone Wild

Smaller Scale Meets Toy Closet

30-Day Meals

Smallness of Scale As I See It

Big Things

Caffeine Addiction

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Blogger Andrea said...

I *love* this. I think we tend to get caught up easily in the "big picture"--think we have to do the "big things"--whereas all the small momments add up to the "big picture". I'll be thinking about this myself--if I come up with some ideas I'll let you know.

9:42 PM  
Blogger Katrina @ Callapidder Days said...

Great post - lots of good things to think about.

8:01 AM  
Blogger Erin said...

When the Onceler faced off with the Lorax, he told him, "I'm figgering on biggering and biggering and BIGGERING!"
The lust of the eyes and the pride of life, right there.

It's curious to me that in America, large cars tend to cost more and seem to be preferred. In Europe, the expensive a sought-after cars are the TINY cars. The ones that get you from here to there without a lot of pomp and circumstance, and can be parked in a parallel spot on an alley that's not changed it's dimensions since 1354.
(I understand that America has a lot more land to traverse on any given outing, but I think the shape, size and efficiency differences in cars are more extreme than is warranted.)

For me, I'm going to restart my "Use Your Stash challenge" with my pantry. All those cans and boxes that I continually pass over in favor of something else. We're going to have some interesting meals around these parts in the next few weeks. ;)

9:25 AM  
Blogger Craver Vii said...

My son and I sat together, but worked independently. He go so involved in the story of what he drew, it was done without color, which was the original plan.

This means a lot to me that he sits and draws with me; I used to do that with my mom when I was a kid.

Short lessons. Good one. I’m going to work on that.

10:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Smallness of scale - I guess the way it's done in our family is to protect family time. We're not constantly running in several directions. The schedule stays "small". We don't have to do everything. It is nice. The boys actually miss the family time if we do have a busier than usual week, but that doesn't happen too often. Thanks for reminding us of what should be important in life and that it is OK to have a "smallness" to life.

11:17 AM  
Blogger Heather said...

I like this idea. I did the book thing a little bit ago: if I don't like the book, I'm allowed to put it down.
Maybe I should do this with TV. If my husband is watching a TV show that I don't like, I don't have to sit in the room with him. I can go practice piano or read a book. And vice versa.

12:58 PM  
Blogger Lara said...

When I read your post on "Erosion Control" I was cut to the quick about needing to work at preventing erosion in my relationships. So I'm glad you mentioned that here. I'd been thinking about writing a post on "Smallness of Scale" in relationships - that whole focusing on a few and making them more meaningful. But I'm still processing. We'll see what this week yields.
Lot of good thoughts here that I plan to look at closer for myself.

1:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am so glad to keep thinking on smallness. Your comment over on my blog today has prompted some good thoughts on how God has used smallness of scale in my life to refine my calling and to focus more. I'll write more about it tomorrow!

3:28 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Andrea... yes, I've especially discovered this in language learning. We do just a little bit each day, and it's adding up to something big!

Katrina... thanks!

Erin... oh, I love the Seuss perspective! I wonder if the access to "bigness" is what throws us off. (Like the overwhelming option of the buffet dinner.) I do think that purposely choosing the small spaces can have wonderful effects, whether it's saving fuel, as in your example, or coming up with a cool new recipe (as in what's going to happen at your house this week!)

Craver... yes, short is good. And, I imagine the small space makes us have to get to the real point more quickly and memorably.

For now... I agree that there are just so many options out there all the time, and we seem to just forget that we needn't take them. It's nice to hear that you and your family enjoy your self-imposed boundaries.

Heather... yeah, go! (don't tell hubbie I said so)

Amusing... it occurred to me at some point that I could plan to spend all my time with a lot of people, or just spend time over and over with a few good friends. I will delight to hear how you do this.

Charity... what I like about "smallness of scale" is that it's not limiting; it's just appropriate. Berry notes that the Peruvians start a new field where conditions change. So, it's not that the farmer is confined ever after to one small space. He learns to create a host of appropriate spaces. I can't wait to read about your small spaces (and link to you!!)

4:36 PM  
Blogger Irish Church Lady :) said...

Sounds like an excellent plan. I like it!

9:13 PM  
Blogger Ted M. Gossard said...

L.L., Such great ideas. And I'm so much in agreement that more is less, and less is more (most often).

You're light years ahead of me, though in my older age, I'm coming to know better than before. I practice what you do in my own way. Though maybe I still take too big a bites in some areas.

Thanks so much for sharing this with us!

5:24 AM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Irish Church... good, now you can hold me to them!

Ted... you take big bites, you say. I think that can be a good thing too. Personally, I'm fascinated by the difference between using smallness of scale to achieve big things and just always having a small vision. I do think there's somehow a diffference between the two.

12:12 PM  
Blogger Marcia (MeeAugraphie) said...

I am so glad you commented on my RV post, because I had visited your other blog, but missed this one! I can't wait to read more. . . in "small doses" of course. Tiny moments or gestures of love make me happy, small steps are big steps in my eyes, I love 'stolen moments'. I believe joy and love are meant to be shared as they are felt, not saved up for a holiday.

12:59 PM  
Blogger Cameron Lawrence said...

Thank you for this. Gentle prodding is always appreciated, and "smallness of scale" is a good way to frame evaluating my life.

2:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, the post is complete. Hope it adds to the discussion.

3:44 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Marcia... what an apt observation on this "love holiday"! Why save it up? If it's not given all along, people might not hang around for the big day.

Cameron... welcome to Seedlings. I find so much help from all the wonderful commenters here, in framing my life, and changing it too.

Charity... fantastic! I linked, and I hope everyone goes to read. You've been so honest and real... a writer who "gives herself away." (too bad Mark is out in snowland, and can't be here to see this great marvel!)

9:20 PM  
Blogger Ted M. Gossard said...

L.L., I linked to your post this morning. Hope it picks you up a reader or two.

5:38 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

This is definitely great. I also try for the few relationships as opposed to the many. I also do small scale housekeeping, although I'm not sure that's the best thing!

1:57 PM  

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