Same Land, New Landscape
Last October, when I first arrived here at Maggie’s Farm, the onions and shallots had long been harvested. The only vegetable residents of ‘Home Base,’ which is what they call the field outside my bedroom window, were a few beds of passed-over leeks. It was the tail-end of the growing season so we harvested what we could and turned the leftover crop residue back into the soil. The snows came and went and came again, while the promise of new life come springtime – both botanical and human – loomed tantalizing and mysterious.
Just this week, I walked that same field, but this time I carried our three-week old baby, Wendell. We admired the neat rows of freshly planted kale and tomatoes and stopped to frown at some flea beetle damage. It was drizzling and tiny droplets landed on Wendell’s eyelids, which fluttered at their first encounter with rain. He was still and studied both everything and nothing with equal intensity. And though my days of late have become a haze of waking and sleeping and diapers and feedings, a realization cleanly cut through in that moment in the field: we are finally here.
Our family of three landed at the farm last Sunday. We’re now living in 600-square-foot cabin/loft belonging to farm school staff who are away fly fishing in Wyoming for the summer. Walk a mile north of the farm, turn right on the gravel road that bounds a grassy meadow and tunnels through a stand of green hardwoods and you’ll emerge next to a large pond. Our house is on the right.
It’s a good thing that our new home in such a beautiful spot because we’re pretty cut off from the outside world here – no Internet, no cell phone reception and definitely no TV. I sat by the pond this afternoon contemplating our three-month phone and internet hiatus and concluded that it’s the perfect way to probe our conflict with our overly connected lives. But that’s easy for me to say – I spend my days with my fellow students on the farm. Dina, on the other hand, spends hers with an insatiable and, at times, inconsolable newborn, so I can see how our idyllic Walden experiment could feel like a padded room pretty quickly.
So far this week, I’ve floated in and out of work at the farm as to focus on getting our family settled. But this week, things have become less flexible. It’s our first big harvest week for our summer CSA and I have to be out the door at 5:30 so we can get a jump on chores.
In all honesty, working 12-hour days (now and in the future) in addition to caring for a baby feels nearly impossible. Ever since Wendell showed up and began swallowing all of our available life force, my professional ambitions have been reduced to pursuing the path of least resistance (i.e. not farming). Prior to the plunge into parenthood, I imagined strapping little Wen to my chest and heading out for the day to work in the fields. But as of yet, I’ve not successfully tied my shoes with him dangling from my neck, much less harvested a single pea.
Over and over again, our friends gave us the same worn-out warning: the first weeks with an infant are insanely tough. But as Dina accurately pointed out, it’s like standing on a dock in February and knowing that the lake you’re about to jump into is cold. Not until all the breath has been forced from your chest and every muscle simultaneously contracts do you become fully present to the reality of cold. Well, we are currently very present to the reality of exhausted and overwhelmed. But all over the world, people somehow manage to raise babies (fellow parents out there, our hats are off to you). That our struggles are in no way unique makes me somewhat embarrassed speak of our experience in such epic terms. But epic is exactly how this all feels.
Epic, but extraordinary.