I’m late posting this up because I went up to the County at the tail end of last week. While it’s clearly Spring downstate, up in the County, it’s clearly still March. I was almost satisfied when I found myself in some of the most harrowing winter driving conditions I’ve ever experienced north of Mars Hill.
As I’m wont to do, I was thinking how I would describe white knuckling my way North to my Ndjuka friends, whose primary mode of travel are river boats. My mental conversation ran something like this:
“You know how when you’re used to driving a path, you get to know how it looks in the dry season, and when the big rains come, and when the wind’s blowing? And you know where all the rocks are even when you can’t see them because you’ve seen them how many times already? You take your lessons from the path, and you know the things you can’t see, like how the water will push you when you’re climbing a fall?”
“So where I’m from, you get to know the road, how it looks in the warm hours, and how it moves in the cold hours. But you have to learn what the snow and ice do, how the path looks if it’s wet, or icy, or if the wind blows and you can’t see the path. You have to know where the path is anyway. The hard part is to know what happens if you speed up, or try to stop. ”
“And you know how the river can kill you if you don’t respect it, if you don’t have the knowledge. Up here, we have beasts, huge beasts taller than me, that if you hit them with your car, your car is broken, and you’re dead or you end up marked. So you have to learn how to see them in the dark without looking at them, you know?”
“Almost I was afraid. You know? But I’m not saying I was afraid, because we have this belief that if you fear something, you bring it come. Plus, it wasn’t that bad. You know how it is. When you’ve arrived already, you can talk about how bad it was. Taa fasi a de. No other way.”
The roads are melting off and clear already, and moving on into frost heave season. I sat for a long time in our farmhouse just looking out the window at the ever-changing light, with the big skies skudding clouds along above the treeline. You have to be in a place every year to come to know it, and there’s no end to that knowing.
Sitting on the edge of my parents’ bed, I thought what a blessing it must have been, this high holy space in the North. The noise and cacophony of five boisterous teenagers, and a yard full of farm doings, and a potato house to run, and sales trips to Boston; all of that was the tableau of our lives as they were, and exhausting to our parents, I’m sure.
But my parents got up at 4:30 every morning to sit together and drink coffee looking out the big windows in the quiet, waking up and watching the variations of the same scene everyday before discussing the day ahead. They were creating our first generation on the farm, hoping to create home, not knowing about the future.
As I got ready to come South again, I thought that now our family has added two important bookends to our life on our land. Marada’s son was born on the farm, and my father remains on the farm. Gabriel Garcia Marquez wrote of the town Death couldn’t find because no one had passed away yet; now we are known to this land. Birth and death.
Paths or places or people, there’s no end to the knowing. I could fly down rivers for eternities, learning sandbars and stones and invisible currents. I could watch the accretions and secretions of years on one piece of land. Unless we have those repetitions, what hope do we have of seeing beyond ourselves?
And so, and so, as they say in Ndjuka. No other way. So a libi de kaba. So the living is already.
Welcome to Spring in the Southlands, and Almost-April up North.
PS. Here’s Marada’s super short dispatch from last week.)
I’ll keep this one short…we have some fun new items such as the classic Red Gold potato, a limited run of parsnips (order early, they will sell out), and pita breads from Scratch Farm in Bowdoin.
Enjoy the offerings, and a longer note will be coming up for next week…