Taking advantage of the break in winter storms, Logan and I took a walk on a country road yesterday, hoping to see one of the farmers I know at Route One Farm. Neither were there, but one of the three men working on the farm invited us through the gate. For a half an hour, Logan and I walked around the farm, traversing large mud puddles which had accumulated during the big storms. Except in his case, he stepped right in the middle of one, like Epaminondus, from a childhood story my Memaw used to tell. (Are you Southern? Do you know this story? It's amazing that she told it almost identically, down to the last word, as this reader's theater version, except she said he went to visit his grandmother.)
Though most everything had been plowed under and replaced with cover crops, there were two large beds containing red chard and kale. Route One has another farm site up the coast, tucked in a valley that is perhaps a little warmer that this farm. This chard, with its ruby stems and maroon leaves, contrasted with the brilliant green fields surrounding us.
On the southern border of the farm, a row of skeletal apple trees reached their fingers up, and I appreciated their grey, gnarled wood. When children draw trees, they always have green leaves, and often, red apples showing. These winter trees were much more evocative to me: up close, the branches looked like the tangled hair of an old, old woman.
Logan and I walked along the path, and he was jubilant at being outdoors. He would skip along and break into a trot. "Nana! Me running!" and then leap in the air as a lamb would. We could see the men working on the other side of the farm, and I wondered how many times they would look up during the course of their day and see how beautiful this land is.
Seasons in California are something that it's taken me twenty years to get used to. The summer is brown—with subtle greens that I had to train myself to see. In fact, I call the unusual color of my eyes (and Logan's—though we share no DNA) "California green." They aren't a true green: they have olive and goldish-green and brownish-green in them, like the foliage on the dry hills in August, like the leaves on the live oak. And winter: winter in California is green. Brilliant green, emerald green, grass green, dark green, forest green, spring green. Everything gets watered, and the cycle between fires and mudslides begins again. We live with it.
All the greenhouses on the farm stood empty, and stacked outside one was a tall pile of trays for seedlings. In contrast to the soft lines of everything growing around us, these were as linear as could be, and resembled nothing so much as a highrise apartment building in the big city. But their linear design has a purpose: to organize the systematic care of hundreds and thousands of seedlings, the farmer must use these rows and spaces as economically as possible.
I reflected again on the soul of the farmer, who chooses this work so different from my own. It's deeply creative work, in the most elemental sense of the word: drawing food out of a seed that might be the size of one of these letters. And the farmer has to be, by nature or by force, organized by the rhythms of the seasons and the rhythms of the days. Watering and weeding, plowing and picking, day in and day out: the work must be both grueling and sometimes, mind-numbingly boring.
Reading Michael Ableman has me wondering if farming isn't a Zenlike thing: everything a farmer does in the field is about paying attention and being present. Even the work of tending a row of kale or strawberries could be likened to the practice of sitting: the mind must step outside the realm of pain to continue to see the bigger picture, and to be aware of the entire field in some regard, even if only peripherally.
We meandered back up the path to the road, and came across the big green tractor that was recently used. Mud caked onto the discs was still drying, and Logan reached out a finger to feel it, being careful of sharp edges. Being married to an archaelogist has taught me to appreciate rusty metal and weatherbeaten wood (and, as they say, the older I get, the more interested in me he becomes). The mud and metal was beautiful to me.
By the time we returned to the gate, the men had gone. Logan and I headed back up the road to our car, with him leaping and running as before. Outside, he stopped to see two big dogs. He yelled, "T'ank 'oo" to the dogs' owner, a first for my boy, who until yesterday always the ASL sign for it, accompanied by the word "nee."
Yes, thank you.
Lovely walk. Beautiful winter day. And a different kind of beauty.
. . . . . . . . . . .
Are you going through the nominees for the 2005 Food Blog Awards? I am, slowly, and today made the acquaintance of the wonderful Jam Faced, by Monkey Gland, who lives in London. His blog is one of five nominated for Best New Blog 2005. Excellent content, and great photography. Check out all the nominees here, and VOTE here.
. . . . . . . . . . .
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: "Green is good for the eyes." —Hans Christian Andersen
Thanks for visiting.