I had an imaginary conversation the other day, where someone asked me something along the lines of, “What’s it like to start farming in this way?”
The question, coming from somewhere in my subconscious, was a surprise. The answer, also from my subconscious, was nearly instantaneous, and equally surprising.
“It’s like waking up.”
And it is. It’s like waking up again to a world that somehow makes sense, though you’ll never fully understand it. Waking up to relationships of beauty and necessity. The wildflower and the honeybee, and the questions they bring forth. Why are those flowers so beautiful together? Why do they grow in this ditch? Why didn’t I notice them before? Where do they go when they go?
Waking up to calloused hands and aching joints. Muddy feet and ripped clothes. Darkened skin. Lunches and dinners shared with a family crafted from years of hard work and harder conversations.
Experiencing dawn and dusk in the same day. Not just observing, but living. The lonesome train whistle that cries out over the lonely hills when everyone else has gone home. It’s not the same in town.
Being alone with peas. The way they talk to you; slightly softer, and infinitely less sarcastically than do tomatoes.
Fucking something up and laughing it off. It was going to be a long day anyway.
Waking up to the life that doesn’t need us at all. Out away from the cultivated fields, on edges and corners and forest floors, where red raspberries grow just because they do, and you’ll get poked, pricked and stung if you venture in deep enough to make it worth it.
Waking up to utter hopelessness and powerlessness, linked inextricably with infinite hopefulness and power. Someday, our CSA will be right where we want it. Our soil is going to be so lively that growing these veggies will be effortless. When all these berries and fruits come through, we’ll really have a harvest.
Waking up to quack grass and yellow dock; the meaning and character of each, and the hilarity of it all. These carrots are fucked. The blurring line between medicine and garden; harvest and forage; life and death. The place where things transform and become real. The only place. The important questions. Why? How? Who left this goddamn shovel out here?
Waking up to who you are, as evidenced by how you are – a reality unavoidable in the confines of a long day of tireless work; or a season. Waking up to the possibility of grapes. Real, seedy, tart and ugly grapes.
My nephew Jasper comes out to the farm sometimes. He doesn’t need to wake up to all this. He’s already there. He already knows that onion weeding is boring, and the most interesting place on the farm is the wild, brushy rock wall. He already knows how to find mushrooms, suck on clover flowers, admire stones and speculate on bones.
I had forgotten all this. Lost in a world where the word “economy” somehow encompasses all aspects of life, love and spirit, I had to wake up and remember that garlic grows and honeyberries exist. That you can mix charred bones and vinegar and make something that smells cool and bubbles, if you do it right. That failure is expected, and summer is the shortest and longest season of all.