NPR interview with Mary Colburn from GCCM in Michigan (US)

December 20, 2016

Why are we here? What is the meaning of life? Can we change our path through life or are we doomed to hit every obstacle head-on? When Mary Colborn decided to write her short novel, The Light Game (Sept. 2016), she used her family farm established in 1871, now the Allegan Historic Farm & Learning Center , as the backdrop. There, among the rows of flowers and vegetables, her characters take on life’s “Big Questions.”

Haley, one of the characters in the book, asks teacher-farmer Maria, “What if life is a game and there is only one rule?” That rule, Colborn writes, is to do nothing to dim the light.

“It’s a conversation between two women on an organic, regenerative farm,” Colborn says. “And I modeled it on our farm. It was kind of fun to describe the things I love most there. So one of the women is an organic farmer, and the other is a young intern.”

Reflecting on the energy produced by plants from light, Colborn’s characters discuss how human beings are actually beings of light, their life choices guided by a “contract” chosen before birth to take on whatever obstacles come their way, giving them opportunities to shine light into the dark.


“The book looks at the big questions of life through conversations about permaculture techniques and by looking at plant diversity and the reasons why we use mulch, and why we wash produce in a certain way,” Colborn says.

Part of Colborn’s story also revolves around global love letters — letters passed on anonymously that express love for the person who randomly picks them up. Colborn had done such a project as part of the ArtPrize competition in Grand Rapids, and the project reappears in her story.

“I thought, could we blanket this city with these anonymous love letters?” Colborn ponders. “I wanted people to know — it’s important that you are here, and you matter.”

The barn-size poster Colborn created for ArtPrize is now posted on her own barn. But it’s also in her book, as its characters ponder the light that love passes from person to person, even when a tragedy puts the fictional farm at risk.

Mary Colborn is certified educator, writer, community activist, and organic farmer. She’s served as a climate activist and has worked for the Global Catholic Climate Movement that mobilizes Catholics around the world to participate in climate actions. She’s passionate about regenerative agriculture as a solution to climate change.