Milking this morning I saw the first hint of the mountains putting on her petticoats. The first green, after the crocus and daffodils and forsythia bloom, after the grass begins to grow, all the leaves beginning this year’s journey.
But this is also the time of year that the bones are most visible, noticeable, study-able. These mountains are old. Ancient. And they are not only my home but my genetic home. And they have bones. This time of year, with the leaf mold matted down by the snow and rain of winter, with only the trilliums and bloodroots breaking from the forest floor, all the fallen wood is visible. It is amazing, branches and whole trees nearly cover the floor in deadfall.
Below the deadfall are the rocks, sometimes forming what could be a dragon’s backbone. With the trees bare you can see small variances in the land, a little prominence there, a tiny dip over there, things that the green leaves will soon mask like a thick down comforter. The ridges. The hollers. The bottoms. Where the water flows sometimes. Where the water flows all the time.
It all means something. I don’t know exactly what it says but it speaks to me.
We have a new neighbor, new meaning he’s been there a couple of years. He’s an idiot, as are most new neighbors. It comes with it. Expect if you move anywhere at all to be a stupid new neighbor for at least awhile, and if you stay beyond that, your children might actually have a home because a sense of place is not an easy one to come by. This new neighbor overpopulated his pastures with ornaments and then underfed his hay. I expect he lives off investments whose value has been cut in half in the past year. So now he is logging his land. And not just logging it, as the land beside us was logged twenty years ago and all the trees over 16” diameter were taken, no. He’s stripping it. And it is steep. And he no doubt intends to expand his pastures. While he has them overpopulated. With pasture ornament long-horns.
And I watch. His bones are not from here and he will soon pass. When he cannot buy his life anymore, his destruction on this hollow will pass away. And this hollow will re-flesh itself. There will be some bones left to tell the tale but they will only whisper that something odd happened here while the riot of growth, cycled with rest, takes over.
Lynn Miller is editor of the Small Farmer’s Journal, and he’s written several of the most important books to have read if you are using draft horses, or horses to draft (which, frankly, after my big guy dies is the direction in which I think I will go). And with all his verbosity, he can be quite the poet. In the latest mailed issue, he wrote the following (long excerpt from much longer piece but really, it is worth it):
Then my brain goes meandering from location to person to people to these wholly predictable and largely lamentable times.
A few yesterdays ago we were set in a vulgar gaseous economy of absurd excess and biological disconnect, but it was OUR pattern. Want it or not, each of us owned some aspect. Maybe it was far distant and three times removed but it was there nonetheless. Now, as so many pieces, large and small, of our soured society and economy shrink and slough off, we are perhaps to be excused our apprehension and fear. We have been dependent on a vast, irresponsible ‘supply’ system and the presumption of unending growth. Now, where will we get this or that mechanical part? Or a gallon of milk? Or our heating oil? Or our prescriptions filled? Think I’m going too far with this? Think the system is “fundamentally” sound? Think that it will never breakdown that far? It already has.
Take as an example of our system’s collapse horses: first, artificial liquidity (borrowed money) made it possible for people to purchase lots of pet horses for their backyards. Second, fuel prices drove up the cost of feed. Then a curious mix of sentiment, political correctness and market realities did away with horse meat markets. Follow that with bank failures and the stock market crash which meant that now millions could no longer afford the yard ornament equine they owned. Now, we have a glut of unwanted horses (not speaking of our good work horses here) and no place for them to go. Out west, thousands of horses are being turned loose on public lands.
My point in this horse aside is that even here we are affected in ways few would have predicted just a couple of years ago. Where will we go with an unwanted horse? Sure, we may remind ourselves that not all horses are equal, yet in some final analysis they are all equal. Be it Seattle Slew, or old Dobbin, the beer company lead team or the three legged Shetland pony, if any of them show up at the local stockyards for sale, they will be turned away. And, then there is the likelihood they will be abandoned or neglected to their great discomfort. You can apply these sorts of concerns to a growing list of things in our lives. What is to be done with all of those over-priced super-sized vacant suburban homes? What is to be done with these millions of neighbors who are out of work? What will be facing our soldiers when they return from war zones overseas? What will become of all those unsold cars and trucks? How will folks get by when they can’t get heat and food? How will production agriculture get through a growing season without production credit? How and when will it hit those still standing?
He goes on to say that the world is in dire straights because it accepts the false premise of money as wealth, and that instead we must question and answer with what is actually worthy of our lives, work, dreams and prayers. Because of false abundance, because an entire life can be spent goofing off now, many have never really bothered taking a good measure of their values, determining what is truly worthy.
Thus the title of this post (also stolen from SFJ's cover). Visualize not world peace (because really, you are not willing to give up a single convenience for it). Not whirled peas. Imagine what it would be like to be worthy. Imagine what a life worth living would be.