On the Farm

Bird's Nest

After spending May, June, and July picking a spot and clearing the land, I now realize the appeal of building a tiny house on a trailer. And since we have to drive an hour just to get to the land, building on a trailer would have enabled us to work from our own home–where there is water, electricity, and a shady carport!

But there’s something about building the house literally from the ground up. For us, this adventure is also about reconnecting to the earth below our feet. 

What does that clichéd, abstract expression mean to me? I already care and worry about the environment, I try to practice ahimsa (nonviolence to myself and others), and believe in the healing power of naturally grown foods. But my “day job” involves a laptop, wifi, and my butt in a chair.

Maybe I’m trying to recover something I’ve lost. Though my earliest years involved going to sleep to police sirens in Little Rock, we later moved “to the country” to be closer to my grandma, who taught at a small school in the Ozarks. I first visited her “log cabin” when I was five. She had blankets tacked up for doors, a small TV on which we watched The Price is Right, and a stained glass window of a buck enshrouded in verdant woods. My brother and I spent mornings playing in a massive dirt pile, and after a lunch break of Velveeta grilled cheese sandwiches, we’d feed the chickens, collect mallard feathers, and fish in the pond.


The past always seems happier, easier, and brighter, partly because I can look back and say I survived all of the things that terrified me (the deep well, the angry guineas, howling coyotes). Building the cabin is one way to return to that time as well as follow in my grandma’s footsteps. Plus, I’m ready to see the night sky again and hear the crickets.

But until the heat index slides back below 100 degrees, we won’t be starting on the cabin. If there’s one thing I learned from being on my grandma’s farm, it’s that the seasons are bigger than we are, and we should respect that. In time, the season will change, and we’ll be ready when it does.


                                          ON THE FARM

I collected feathers once, on grandma’s farm, before the iridescence
Of mallard feathers had been reproduced over and over
From nail polishes to car finishes, when the feathers’ green patch,
Also the color of the large green flies, was still mysterious

As was the smell of the hen feed in the rusted coffee cans
In which our hands felt the corn and made a fist around the food.
A cup and release, the full and empty over and over.
Our hands became very important for the first time.

We ran to the hen house where the eggs were still warm
And held one in both hands, held it as if it were a delicate egg,
And it was an egg. Our hands

Snapped beans, sifted dirt, felt the fresh feather fuzz of a chick.
These hands, soiled and cleaned thousands of times,
These hands that remember even when I forget.

from Polishing Silver

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