Your present, your future, your path
from one to the other.
It’s not a bad thing, really.
What more do you need
that a little skin to cover your heart,
a little heart
to cover your losses, a little loss
to hold you in this place
that may not be a place
but is the only place you stand a chance
of finding a way to live….
—Joy Ladin, from The American Poetry Review (vol. 42, no. 1, January/February 2013)
This farm blog was supposed to happen over a week ago. It was supposed to be a blog about pipe dreams, impossible things you want but can’t, at the moment, pursue. I was going to write about how farming was always my pipe dream, and that now my pipe dream is to stay in farming and in the very long term take the skills I accrue and apply them in support of peasant agriculture and food sovereignty in third world** countries, especially those in very close proximity to the US, like Haiti.
On the morning of March 1, however, I was in a car accident. There were no injuries (thank you thank you thank you), but my truck was totaled. Suddenly, pipe dreams seemed a lot less important to me than talking about gratitude and joy.
My sense of gratitude that there were no injuries in my accident was tempered, initially, by shock and sorrow and frustration. The truck had just received $600 worth of repair work; I won’t receive any money from the insurance for it, and the wreck is the latest event in a very bittersweet year. “It could be worse” is a phrase I’ve heard a lot recently, and mostly it makes me want to tear out my hair (all three acres of it), but with the initial horror worn off, I’d be happy to tap-dance up and down a staircase singing about awesome it is that it could be worse—and that it wasn’t.
Because, look, screw the truck and the money. This year, I lost my partner, lost some hope for improvement in my sister’s mental health, lost a beloved pet, lost the future I thought I wanted for myself. I kept my amazing friends and family; I gained Ben and Patricia and Elliot, a place on this farm, a degree, and a whole new slew of possibilities. I’m daily healthier, stronger, and happier than ever before. If I’ve paid dearly for this happiness, then I will be fierce in how I cling to it. I’ll rejoice in the loss of my truck, if it means I keep myself.
My first tattoo was the word froehlich, a family name which is the anglicized version of the German word for joy or lightheartedness—the root of the word frolic. When I got that tattoo, I desperately needed to be reminded of the potential for joy in my life; After the accident, I needed to reflect on that ink, to chew on this latest loss, to find the beauty in it. And here it is: I don’t deserve happiness, but I have it anyway. I don’t deserve the high-def clarity of the sun setting behind the trees, the contrast of winter bare branches against yellow and pink and purple so intense I can count every twig or the exuberance of spring’s first flowers, the love and patience Patricia gives me as I deal with the latest contact with my ex-partner. I don’t deserve the smell of dill on my hands after harvest or the friends I’ve made at market who listen to me babble about my favorite varieties of kale and turnips and are willing to try something new.
But here it is nonetheless, all this loveliness for the taking, if only I can be froehlich enough for it. If only I can frolic in it, frolic through it, take the weeds along with the soil, play my ukulele, insist that joy and sorrow and bluebirds are meaningless and yet they mean everything all the same.
**”Undeveloped” or “developing” implies to me there’s something wrong or unfinished about those places; “third world” isn’t a fair term, but at least captures the idea, I think, that those places are the homes of people who are treated as if they come last in everything. In global sociology, we often use the terms “core” and “periphery,” which try to capture more complicated interactions of economics and politics but, as a result, are unfortunately obtuse.