The Word is Love (things unseen)

Yesterday morning, we were getting our bearings on hosing and irrigation hookups when a Subaru backed in the driveway and all the way down to the compost pile. A tall, thin man in a pink bicycle suit got out and walked towards me. We shared a moment of simultaneous recognition as we neared each other. It turned out to be a dude I kind of know and generally like, named Jack.

“Lee?” he squinted, uncertainly.

“Jack, what’s up man?!” I don’t know Jack too well, but he always seemed like a happy enough dude. An old hippie of sorts, Jack was apparently pretty fucking pumped to be on our farm, and revealed this through a gushing tide of dialogue. After a mere minute, I knew his work schedule, his farm work past, his weed smoking and bike riding habits, and his eating preferences. Eventually, I parsed out that he wanted to work for some veggies, and would be more than ecstatic to spend some time on our space.

Eventually, after cooling the jets a bit, I informed him of our workshare program, which is specifically designed for people who want to work for some veggies. He remained enthusiastic, basking wholeheartedly in the beauty of the place, seeming oblivious or unrattled by the dogs circling and barking at him. Oren tried to call them off from his spot by the granary. I glanced his way a couple times while Jack went on. Finally I decided it was time for an interjection.

“Well Jack, I just sent you a text; let’s connect that way. Look, I gotta get back to it man…” He took the hint, for the most part.

“We survived, man!!” He pumped his fists into my chest excitedly. “I’m 65, man! We persevered!” With that, he took his beaming May sunshine enthusiasm out of the driveway once more. He stopped on his way out to exclaim a message in the direction of Polly, Asher and Logan, who were planting beans. “The word is love!” Which is generally true, I’d say. The word is also work, so we got back to it.

Later in the day, Oren was telling Fanni the story of how he’d worked to call the dogs off Jack by name. After he’d said “Muddy” and “Chaga” a few times, Ella responded by saying “Waow Waow,” which is the Hungarian equivalent of “Woof Woof,” which is what Fanni says to Ella when we see puppies. Apparently she knows what she’s talking about, and what we are as well.

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Lately I’ve been pretty obsessively looking into and experimenting with Korean Natural Farming techniques, in which you propagate indigenous micro-organisms to inoculate your plants, fields and compost, thereby building the life structure and natural balance of the soil. It is based in the locality of the life forms most responsible for plant digestion of nutrients – fungi, mycelia, and other of the soil’s microbiota. It is structured from ancient farming techniques, and concerns itself with a system of life many layers deep, about which we often forget. Still less than novice, I find the practices fascinating, and am looking forward to some trials.

I thought about all of this life yesterday afternoon, as I ran our BCS plow up and down a stretch by the road, following my crooked row all through our E2 plot. Generally working towards a no-till or low-till system, we have made an exception this year for three of our weediest plots, two of which have yet to be plowed. Anyway, I shredded and turned 18” of overgrown soil, row by row, wondering what kind of life structures I was compromising for a clean bed of fluffy soil. The weeds will be back. It’s only a matter of time. It’s a quick fix, and possibly a good one, but I feel less and less convinced on the plowing front every time I shred another frontier of life on the interface of air and soil.

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But this life system is one I can’t see. I vaguely remember learning something about decomposers in science classes as a kid, but don’t once remember a teacher admitting to humanity’s knowledge limitations on this front. Never once a “We think this is how it is, but nobody is really sure… We don’t really know exactly how this works…” What a blasphemy, to grow up thinking humans know everything. I’m not even sure science has mechanisms for tracking soil life at the deepest, most fundamental levels.

As for Ella, I’m often taken aback by her seemingly sudden interjections of intelligence, as her communication finally brings to the surface an understanding that has likely existed silently or subtly within her for weeks or months. She knows how to dance; she knows how to nod knowingly when she babbles, and she apparently knows the names of our farm puppies, who she inherently also knows how to love wholeheartedly. I don’t know how she knows all of this exactly, how she learns, or what other development is happening that I can’t see. I do know she always exists at an intellectual level way beyond what I give her credit for.

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As for Jack, I never knew that one of the guys in a pink suit riding bicycle past our place on weekdays has been secretly inspired and had his interest piqued for months or years now. I never really know what people think when they drive, ride or walk past our place, but always imagine some rendition of, “Wow, that seems like a lot of work…” Apparently some people can feel the energy and love for and by the life, and find it worth stopping by. I’m glad he did. If he needs work and veggies, we certainly have both of those available.

As for work, I spend all of my time working so very hard on all these things that I can see, touch understand, and deem important. Sometimes, though, these small reminders of all the invisible, unnoticed, vitally important happenings going on beneath the surface can offer a nice dose of refreshment and humility. The word is love.

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