45 years of growing love.
The way this farm nestles into this little valley on this land I so love — it takes my breath away every time we emerge from the woods to find this place so illuminated. Sharing it today with a dear family friend made it all the more lovely.
Wendell Berry has a poem that describes it beautifully:
“Sometimes our life reminds me
of a forest in which there is a graceful clearing
and in that opening a house,
an orchard and garden,
comfortable shades, and flowers
red and yellow in the sun, a pattern
made in the light for the light to return to.
The forest is mostly dark, its ways
to be made anew day after day, the dark
richer than the light and more blessed
provided we stay brave
enough to keep on going in.”
— Wendell Berry, “The Country of Marriage,” HBJ: 1975
It looks so care free. But it wasn’t care free today. He has been struggling against napping — and today was one of those days. I ended up exhausted and unraveled by dinner time, because when he is awake it is hard to do anything except be with him. I love to be with him. But sometimes the only thing I want in the world is to complete a task without being interrupted. Maybe even to think a complete thought. And write it down.
I use my camera as therapy and try to write things down later — when everyone is in bed and the house is quiet and dark. And I should be sleeping . . . but here I am looking at photos of him.
They cut down the orchard. It wasn’t a surprise — but still a shock. This orchard is on the northern edge of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, and it could remain in agriculture as long as the owners wanted to maintain it.
Having lost interest in the orchard, the owners sold the land back to the National Park (the girls and I counted 45 rings in a tree stump: well beyond the age of most productive cherry trees) — and so now this land will revert back to wild.
It’s a gift, in a way, because no more pesticides will be sprayed on this land, and many more creatures will come to live here over time. And yet, it’s still a deep shock to see this landscape, that my siblings and I grew up with, changed so dramatically overnight.
My sweet Amie sat on a fallen tree and cried. Wallace watched her, perplexed. I stood close by, feeling swallowed up in the mist around us.
My sister-in-law, Lara, has been painting in an aging orchard this year — a series of works in different sizes and different media — following the landscape over the course of the seasons. Seasons of weather; seasons of motherhood; and seasons of political change. I admire how she has stayed with her subject, looking at it in unexpected ways and sharing both her process and her finished pieces.
Seeing the landscape through her eyes this year has renewed my own interest in the intersection between a cultivated and wild world.