Filling up on a sun-soaked day with some of our very favorite people.
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 was a hard day, but then I was writing to a dear friend and found this quote from our years dancing together in college — and sharing it made the evening brighter.
“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no woman could have dreamed would have come her way. Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.” — Goethe
(I took liberty with Goethe’s words and changed “man” to “woman” and “him” to “her” in the fourth-to-last sentence.)
Here is our “wattle” house in progress — made from poplar tree trimmings, grape vines, and bittersweet vines. Jeffrey dug holes for the poplar trunks and sunk them in the ground about a foot deep. Then we all worked together to weave branches and vines in and out between the poplars, adding more as we are inspired. Our “haus” (as Wallace calls it) has become the perfect place for reading, playing, and popcorn eating!
We’re still debating about how to finish it off. Should we bend the tips of the poplars so that they meet at the top or leave the house open to the sky?
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.