Maine, Thoughts, Travels

On Leaving

I hate this business of saying goodbye. I won’t cushion it with flowery words: I hate it. I am leaving the farm tomorrow morning and I do not want to. Just as I begin to feel at home in this place again, it runs away from me. So it goes.

I suspect that this is one of the nastier parts of “growing up”–the coming and going, the loving and leaving. The finding of home in places different from where you “are from.” Which is ultimately a wonderful, wonderful thing, to feel ownership over a place, to feel that you have a place in a community of individuals.

But at times, the pain of departing makes me wonder why we ever arrive in the first place.

There are moments when it seems fine, when I convince myself that I am separated, aloof, compact and able to control my own emotions. I try to remember that in a few weeks I will be going to college and entering a whole new community. But to be honest, I don’t want to go through it all again–the discomfort, the awkwardness; the feeling as if no one truly knows…who you are. Because though I have only been here for seven weeks this summer, at this moment, Chewonki is where I most feel me. I’m young, but not young enough not to know that that is a rare thing in this scheme of randomness.

I guess I’ve got to suck it up though. Whether we like this business of leaving or not, it happens. Especially “these days” I think. We’re more…nomadic creatures, and particularly young folks, with the way the educational system works. Always moving. The placeless-ness is almost expected–we’re expected to travel and meet new people and share ourselves with many places, which all sounds terribly romantic, and perhaps is…I can’t be sure yet. But what about settling down? What about, well, staying put? Duration, longevity, and commitment to a people and a place. These things I believe we undervalue.

Then again, I know why we arrive. Because it’s better to have love and lost than never loved. It’s better to have come and gone than never come. The pain of leaving is nominal in comparison to the joy we receive while we are in a place–and you know it, because leaving would not hurt nearly so much if it were not so.

Just some thoughts I was thinking on this rainy Sunday afternoon, while I packed my things away.

Yours, Drew

P.S. The infamous Morgan is visiting. We have been adventuring…post to come.

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Maine, the farm, vegetables

Harvesting Garlic

GARLIC. Last week we started harvesting garlic.

Ah root veggies. Literally the.best.veggies.to.harvest (in my opinion). Carrots, beets, onions, potatoes, garlic–I love them all, because they are hidden, because they are a surprise and because they are beautiful. Dirty white bulbs of garlic, freshly plucked from the ground and hung in the barn to dry, are round and beautiful. They feel wholesome to me in a way that other vegetables do not, and that makes me want to be a more wholesome person.

All for now,

Drew

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books, Maine

Reading aloud Roald Dahl

I recently became a “cabin mom” for one of the cabins at the boys’ summer camp here, which basically just means that I read to the cabin at night, before they go to sleep. They are eleven and twelve-year-olds, and so I chose James and the Giant Peach, by Roald Dahl.

I forget how, when children’s literature is really good, it is not just for children. Reading at night in the dark cabin by a flashlight, the boys lying in their beds, I am equally captivated by James and his adventures. One passage, in particular, stuck out to me–

“He looked around him, wondering what on earth it was going to be. The garden lay soft and silver in the moonlight. The grass was wet with dew and a million dewdrops were sparkling and twinkling like diamonds around his feet. And now suddenly, the whole place, the whole garden, seemed to be alive with magic.

Almost without knowing what he was doing, as though drawn by some powerful magnet, James Henry Trotter started walking slowly toward the giant peach. He climbed over the fence that surrounded it, and stood directly beneath it, staring up at its great bulging sides. He put out a hand and touched it gentle with the tip of one finger. It felt soft and warm and slightly furry, like the skin of a baby mouse. He moved a step closer and rubbed his cheek lightly against the soft skin. And then suddenly, while he was doing this, he happened to notice that right beside him and below him, close to the ground, there was a hole in the side of the peach.” (24)

The story itself is crazy–a giant peach?! Life-sized insects!? But how astonishingly creative, and how real, and how AWESOME it also is. I am not sure I ever read the book as a kid (likely it was read to me and I simply don’t remember) but reading it aloud has been a real joy. And it reminds me, too, of how boundless my imagination used to be–and I think still has the capability of being, if I let it.

–Drew

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Maine, poetry, the farm

“Touch me” by Stanley Kunitz

Summer is late, my heart.
Words plucked out of the air
some forty years ago
when I was wild with love
and torn almost in two
scatter like leaves this night
of whistling wind and rain.
It is my heart that’s late,
it is my song that’s flown.
Outdoors all afternoon
under a gunmetal sky
staking my garden down,
I kneeled to the crickets trilling
underfoot as if about
to burst from their crusty shells;
and like a child again
marveled to hear so clear
and brave a music pour
from such a small machine.
What makes the engine go?
Desire, desire, desire.
The longing for the dance
stirs in the buried life.
One season only,
and it’s done.
So let the battered old willow
thrash against the windowpanes
and the house timbers creak.
Darling, do you remember
the man you married? Touch me,
remind me who I am.

Peace, Drew

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Maine, the farm

The Animals of Salt Marsh Farm

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When folks ask about the farm, they mostly want to know about the glamorous aspects, e.g., the animals. So, for those of you who are curious, here are all the animals we have on the farm:

Fourteen sheep/lambs, one ram and his wether (Batman and Robin)

Six cows–one heifer (Clementine), one dairy (Louise), three beefers (names in dispute; I call them Cerbes because they like to clump together, with their three heads side by side; one of the cooks calls them the Beasty Boys), and one calf (Roscoe)

Two sets of laying hens, a hundred meat chicks

One work horse (Sal)

A porcupine (Woodruff) who likes to hang out on the path back to the farm at night

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Sal and the wind turbine

They are a pretty eclectic and crazy group, and contribute to much farm drama, or frama, as we call it. For example, sheep are always escaping. Batman and Robin earned their infamous names for hopping the electric netting several times and roaming around the farm, eating grass as they pleased. Just today I found Magpie, the lamb we keep in the barn (due to a wound), rooting around a pile of hay after having jail-breaked from his pen.

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 Magpie, the fugitive

The animals all more or less have their own personalities–Sal is sweet but often temperamental; Roscoe is basically a dog, eager and hungry; our dairy cow Louise is blind in one eye and can be a total grump/handful, kicking the bucket (and/or us). Since most of the animals sleep out on pasture, the barns animals–the baby chicks, Magpie and Roscoe, Batman and Robin, Sal–are their own funny gang. I love walking through the barn at night (a longer way to get home, but the other way involves walking by the compost, where raccoons often duel until the wee hours of the morning), and seeing all of them sleeping, the baby chicks’ yellow light half-illuminating them.

And of course, we can’t forget the final inhabitants of the farm, us. We live here as well (though despite what I tell campers, we don’t sleep with the animals) in a house attached to the barn.

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Our home, gatehouse

All for now,

Drew

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Maine, poetry, the farm, Travels

Some photos of Maine; “The Simple Truth”

It’s a beautiful, albeit hot, July day in Maine, and I just can’t bring myself to stay inside and write a long blog post. But here are some photos and poem, a compilation which I think sums up my experiences of late. Enjoy…

THE SIMPLE TRUTH

I bought a dollar and a half’s worth of small red potatoes,
took them home, boiled them in their jackets
and ate them for dinner with a little butter and salt.
Then I walked through the dried fields
on the edge of town. In middle June the light
hung on in the dark furrows at my feet,
and in the mountain oaks overhead the birds
were gathering for the night, the jays and mockers
squawking back and forth, the finches still darting
into the dusty light. The woman who sold me
the potatoes was from Poland; she was someone
out of my childhood in a pink spangled sweater and sunglasses
praising the perfection of all her fruits and vegetables
at the road-side stand and urging me to taste
even the pale, raw sweet corn trucked all the way,
she swore, from New Jersey. “Eat, eat” she said,
“Even if you don’t I’ll say you did.”
Some things
you know all your life. They are so simple and true
they must be said without elegance, meter and rhyme,
they must be laid on the table beside the salt shaker,
the glass of water, the absence of light gathering
in the shadows of picture frames, they must be
naked and alone, they must stand for themselves.
My friend Henri and I arrived at this together in 1965
before I went away, before he began to kill himself,
and the two of us to betray our love. Can you taste
what I’m saying? It is onions or potatoes, a pinch
of simple salt, the wealth of melting butter, it is obvious,
it stays in the back of your throat like a truth
you never uttered because the time was always wrong,
it stays there for the rest of your life, unspoken,
made of that dirt we call earth, the metal we call salt,
in a form we have no words for, and you live on it.

–Philip Levine

“Some things you know all your life.” Isn’t that brilliant?

All for now; more later. Peace, Drew

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Maine, poetry, the farm

Weeding words: occupying your mind for hours

WEEDING. We do it. A lot.

Afternoons on the farm are often spent with hands and knees in dirt, pulling up flowering galinsoga, chickweed, purslane. We weed for hours and hours, and it is repetitive, hard and hot. By the end of the day I have a “weeding stripe”–a small band of sunburned skin across the lower back where my shirt has ridden up from bending over. And yet, I don’t dislike weeding nearly as much as I should. There’s something peculiarly…pleasing about it. The monotony. My mind drifts. I think about everything and nothing simultaneously. We talk; we are quiet. And when I get terribly, terribly bored (which I inevitably do) I turn to poetry.

A bit ago I read a NYT article titled “Got Poetry?” by Jim Holt, in which he discusses the merits of memorizing poetry. Most of us think of memorizing poetry as an archaic, useless task–we feel we can just look up a poem online or in a book. But Holt recites poetry throughout the day, when he is busy or bored, while running or doing laundry. It is his internal library, a way to occupy his mind–and so it occurred to me that I too could recite poetry to occupy my mind, during the sweaty, tedious hours of weeding.

Because I’d come to memorize only three poems during my time in high school–Hamlet’s “To Be Or Not To Be” speech, Gerard Manley Hopkins “Spring and Fall,” and Ted Hoosers “Grasshoppers”–I quickly ran out of material. I’ve thus taken to writing poems on small pieces of paper and slipping them in the band of my shorts or sport bra, to peek out intermittently while working and begin to commit to memory. So far I’ve learned Robert Hayden’s “Those Winter Sundays,” and am currently in the process of memorizing Matthew Dickman’s “Slow Dance”–a smooth, beautiful poem, you can read here.

I’m on chores this weekend with my farmmate Cassie, so I’m in need of a nap. Over and out,

Drew

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