I must find a man who still loves the soil
Walk by his side unseen, pour in his mind
What I loved when I lived until he builds
Sows, reaps, and covers these hill pastures here
With sheep and cattle, mows the meadowland
Grafts the old orchard again, makes it bear again
Knowing that we are lost if the land does not yield.
-Jeanne Robert Foster
Up an old farm road, some ways out of town, there’s a place that grows ideas. It’s a little unconventional (thankfully), and as the woman who owns the property has always said, “If you make it up the hill, you were meant to arrive.”
I could drive it, and sometimes I do, but mostly I prefer to park at the base of the hill and trace the two-track up through the still of the forest. A few days ago made the trek on foot and met up with a deer, all the while contemplating the juxtaposition between the system and game that is played in surviving via a new set of rules, versus the simplicity of rules laid out by nature. How one system deprives us of purpose, while the other feeds it to us in abundance.
The hill is my transition in and out. A time for me to process what I have learned, or while ascending, consider all that I have learned that has lead to my return. This farm is where I got my start in permaculture. It’s the place where I was given information, shown how to grow food, how to build soil, how to live and think outside of the melancholy of the free-market system.
A biodynamic farm. What happens here is dynamic, from how we build thematrix of the food web from that which we eat, to that which eats what we eat, to the larger picture of how we relate to the plants, each other, our place within this universe. This is where I first heard the universe described as “one voice, one song.”
And that word “dynamic” – I love how it feels to say it. How it opens my throat like a yawn. How intrinsic a vocal movement meets definition is this word, dynamic.
We have been asked here to help an old friend restore her vineyard, planted 25 years earlier on a bluff over the bay. The vines are still bearing, though many other plants have joined them and there is much to learn about the ever-increasing intricacies of this now self-regulating ecosystem.
And in returning, we are visiting the ghosts of our past. Walking past echos of ideas still standing. Thoughts pending. Heartbeats rendered through the undulating landscape where milkweed, vetch, and valerian have replaced annuals in the fertile soil. This is a living memory. And to think I felt sadness when I first looked upon it! When it has so thoughtfully produced in our absence! Lifted the roof off the greenhouse, and blanketed the orchard in a cloak of yarrow and gentle green grasses.
We have been charged with more than the responsibility of salvaging a vineyard for harvest.
That is too one-dimensional and careless a thought. We have been shown a path that will lead to wisdom gleaned from the harvest or from the goal of harvest. And what better way to begin, than to learn about a vine? A vine that is so careful to root itself in depth and breadth before reaching out to others for support.
We will not be saving a vineyard; we will be saving ourselves.