> jumping into life.


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.


My heart is burning.


It woke us in the night. Far off at first, so far that only the flashing flashing flashing of the lightning came through, no thunder rumble to follow. But soon we could hear it, feel it in our chests and blood. Soon it came close.

Half awake, half blinded by the flashing flashing lightning, I half-dreamt that I saw him, tree-legged, splay-armed, stalking. I could see him in the woods above us, tangle-haired, grin-toothed, circling. Soon he came closer. The lightning herded him, goaded him, a beacon compelling him to follow, a siren light lashed tight to his heart and blood. It pulled me, too, pulled me upright in bed, naked body flashing flashing flashing when the lightning lit. I watched him in my mind, his tree-legs crashing, his endless yearning following every strike. Once he almost caught her, his footsteps so close so loud he must have been right on top of her, reaching his moss-hands, his barnacle-hands, his storm-hands out to touch her, finally, to hold that gleaming burning brightness, and I wondered why she chose just here to let him find her, just here above my half-wild head my half-wild heart where the darkness shook and shook with his running steps,

but she got away. She slipped away from him again, and then her brightness flash flash flashed far ahead of him, and he followed, he followed as he always must, she ran as she must, and soon his rumble passed out of hearing and my trembling self fell back into the pillows, fell back, finally, into the broad silence of sleep.


if you stand here you will compact the soil.
you will crush the earthworms.
you will crush the roots.
if you eat only fruit fallen freely from the bough
you steal it from the deer who starve all winter.

you steal it from the earthworms.
there is no innocence.

still -

i am hungry. this body works
for its living. it demands payment.

there is fresh sourdough bread
and dried dead potato beetle
on my hands. the bitter taste lingers.


I miss the barn. Our first farm experience was a modest disaster, but I did get to spend an hour or two a day in the barn. After dressing and brushing my teeth, I opened the coop door and let the chickens into their yard, then went back inside for breakfast. After that, time for bringing milk to the calf and hay to the yearlings, and later milk and grain to the piglets. I would turn on the radio as I came inside, and if I was on schedule, I'd be listening to the Writer's Almanac as I mucked the cow pen. After it warmed and dried some, I spent some time each morning picking the caked mud and shit off the flanks of the cows, a strangely enjoyable and relaxing activity. The rest of the place was an unceasing wave of stress - much of it having to do with the animals, in fact - but the barn itself always comforted.

I know I'm not the first to find solace in the steady work and steady bodies of animals and their care. I do not doubt for a minute that our decision to move was the right one, but I miss pressing my forehead against the calf's and breathing his warm smell. I do so miss the barn.