> jumping into life.

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Two days of sun, finally. The fields finally dried out enough that we could get in them without mucking things up, so we spent all day hoeing yesterday, and all day today. At lunch today I noticed little baby callus nubbins growing on the ridges of my hands.

There's no denying it: I've got middle-class hands. They're soft, and not very strong. I can stick them in some mighty hot water, after so many years of steaming milk and scalding myself with espresso, but aside from that they don't take much abuse. I've been fascinated with their slow transformation.

The first day of mucking I got blisters. The second day the blisters sloughed off and left a raw patch beneath each middle finger, right where my heart-line arcs to meet my life-line, unless I've got those backwards. There are little calluses there now; those were first calluses I've had since I my dedicated monkey-bar days in elementary school, aside from the tips of my left fingers from guitar. They've since been joined by a few more, under my first and ring fingers and on my palms. All tiny baby nubbins still.

I will confess to being inordinately pleased by those calluses.

The whole body is gradually changing. Darkening, hardening. The pattern of skin lines on my fingers is etched in dirt that can't be scrubbed off. I've got a wicked farmer's tan (which should look smashing with my wedding dress). I can carry the 50 pound bag of potting soil that in April I had to drag to the greenhouse. There are muscles emerging that haven't been seen since my days of competitive swimming in high school: triceps, abs, glutes. Hunger keeps pace with me all day in the field, and no matter how much I eat it will only abate for a little while. Beneath my baseball cap I am acquiring a sunburnt squint and a sense of satisfaction. I'm beginning to look like a farmer.

You will perhaps find it interesting that this reminded me of visiting Deep Springs for reunions, and meeting the young men who've just been there for their first summer. Many middle- and upper-class, and most having had little experience with hard physical labor, they are, a couple of months in, already being transformed into ranch hands. They are scruffy, their clothes never look clean, and their sunburns are turning to deep tans. They look enviably comfortable in their tough young skins.

I laughed delightedly at the image of you in your wedding dress with a farmer's tan.

That's wonderful, Kimberly! I don't mean to romanticize what can be dehumanizing (I'm thinking of chain-gangs and poorly treated migrant or immigrant workers) but done right, it seems to me that good hard work can be a powerful stimulus to a person's sense of worth and self-assurance.

I had a fitting yesterday for my dress, and the seamstress asked if I'd be having a spa day or getting a manicure, and I just burst out laughing. I guess I ought to! I felt a little absurd with my ragged hands and hairy legs and dirty feet (I scrubbed them! I swear!) in the fancy dress in her little parlor. The tan wasn't as bad as I'd been expecting, though.

Interesting your comment about self-assurance. At a recent DS reunion, a group of the wives/partners got together to talk about what it's like living with a Deep Springer. A thread that ran through the discussion was the remarkable self-assurance that these men develop, not only intellectually (most had that before they arrived), but also physically, as a result of 2 years spent keeping an aging ranch infrastructure running. As a result of this experience, they tend to be very good at building and fixing things, even if their hands have reverted to middle-class softness.

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