The Call of Community
by Qayyum Johnson
The dream of my life
Is to lie down by a slow river
And stare at the light in the trees—
To learn something by being nothing
A little while but the rich
Lens of attention.
-Mary Oliver, from “Entering the Kingdom”
Hello Friends of the Springfield Food Co-op!
My name is Qayyum Johnson and I’m a new member Director on the Board, elected in October. I am excited to join Neomi and the amazing staff of the store, as well as the longer-serving Board members right now at the cusp of such dynamic transition into a new building and location in downtown Springfield. I’m sure you are as uplifted and hopeful as I am.
A little about me, by way of introduction:
I moved to Springfield less than three years ago with my partner Suiko. We met at Green Gulch Farm Zen Center in Muir Beach, CA, just north of San Francisco. I lived as a layperson/monk at this Japanese Zen Buddhist monastery for 12 years; living communally and sharing a rigorous schedule of meditation, ceremonies and studies in Buddhist philosophy and practice. I also learned organic farming on the 108 acre coastal property and wound up managing the 7 acre farm for the last 7 years before moving to Vermont in early summer of 2018.
I have a passion for finding ways to connect with people to make the world a more equitable, regenerative and joyous experience… which is what has drawn me to the co-op community. In the co-op, I see manifest the extraordinary potential to bring people together in wholesome ways to bring about pragmatic and wonderful social transformation.
I’ve tried to thread a life-path through modern capitalist society that honored my wish to live a life of relative integrity. In so doing, I have found myself traveling unconventional paths. I thought I’d share a short list of my dubious achievements so you might get a sense of where I’m coming from.
I was born to wonderful parents who were part of the counterculture and chose to become Sufis—a mystical branch of Islam most widely known for including the poet Rumi. We lived in Sufi communities until moving out west, where I grew up in southern Arizona. Later I worked building an Earthship home in Colorado as a teenager and built theater sets in upstate New York. After that I built sandwiches and burritos in Manhattan; later I edited artists’ videos in midtown; and even much later I worked at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
I’ve also waited tables in Tucson, Arizona & bar tended in New York City, and tutored elementary school kids through Americorps in Flagstaff, Arizona. I was a substitute teacher and lived at a Tibetan Buddhist retreat center. After a brief trip to Japan, I moved to Green Gulch, where I began corresponding with incarcerated men, participated in street meditations during Occupy Wall Street, then volunteered with the Buddhadharma Sangha at San Quentin Prison, while also serving on the board of directors of the Marin Interfaith Street Chaplaincy (an interfaith ministry that served the unhoused folks of Marin County). After moving to Springfield, I began volunteering as a hospice worker and leading a meditation class at Southern State Correctional Facility (the largest state prison in Vermont, located near exit 7 on I-91).
I’m deeply interested in how folks can come together in cooperative ways to create social structures that reflect a commitment to future generations. As a farmer, citizen and activist, I share a vision of a world where everyone is fed, housed and educated without bias. I believe in a world where mutual aid and generosity are the basis of human relationships; where reverence and humility before the abundance of the natural world is the ground upon which we base our collective decisions.
Springfield Food Co-op is already a place where real human relationships flourish around healthy, local produce, meats and cheeses; sustainable products, handmade crafts and co-op-made delicacies. It’s also an example of a local business that keeps consumer dollars in the local economy, pays employees a living wage and remunerates producers with fair prices. I am devoted to the deepening and expansion of this genuine community treasure, it is an integral part of the dream of my life.
Please reach out to me with any ideas, questions or concerns about our co-op, and I’ll do my best to respond.
Thank you so much for your love and support for the bright jewel in our midst.
Wishing you a safe, healthy, joyous holiday season and bright new year to come.