We (my boyfriend at the time and I) arrived at the Wildloose property on a June day back in 2004 or 5. We got out of the car, walked across a short space of mowed lawn, went down a steep hill, made our way through a squishy swamp (where I saw a baby snapping turtle), hopscotched through a lovely sun-spanked stream, puffed up a heavily forested hill, slid down the other side, and passed through more fields until I came upon a shovel with a broken handle.
The tour convinced me that I had found the right property to buy, but it was that
shovel…it was that shovel that signed the deal, because I picked up what part of it I could, pushed it through the tufts of spring grass and into a soil that was dark, crumbly and as easy to turn as an omelet. Within two weeks I called the real estate agent and committed to the sale. Within a month or two, I sat in the loan office and signed the papers before the eyes of the bank’s officials and a bent, rumple-clothed, former owner.
The first tree I planted was an apple tree from the nearby K-mart. David and I walked into the middle of an overgrown field (that today is a full-on orchard), found a spot amidst the rising-tall teasle plants, and set it in. It is to this day my most productive and most delicious of all of the apple trees, yet I can’t for the life of me remember what kind it is. For weeks the tag blew around on the floor of my truck cabin until finally it must have blown all the way out. Since then I have been meticulous to record every plant, bulb and seed that I have ever planted here. Whoever buys the place after me won’t be mystified by what’s where; it’s all written down, but the fact that I may never know the name of that first tree is a like scratching something on the bark of a young beech tree: it cracks wider with age.
It’s been twelve years! Twelve years since I purchased the property and each year has been marked with progress: a field cleared, a hill side mowed, another row of something installed, a rock wall built, a house constructed (!), a walk way paved with stone, an iris divided, a clump of forsythia cleaved in two, a batch of chickens ordered. When I walk here, it’s more than a tour of nature and what’s growing; it’s a tour of toil, of foward momentum despite weather, nerves, money, outlook, health, and know how. This place isn’t just scenery, it’s story.
I hope you look and look for something and find it. I hope your hand is poised to do
something… touch, take, buy, or build… and you press it forward. I look back at the albums of my life and see my body floating in the waves of the Pacific (it was a vacation I took after scraping money together from some forgettable job), grasping the shoulders of people I met on a…actually I can’t remember how I met them! All those prayers and promises, back and forth, up to the sky and down again. Hot tears. Fervant hope.
It’s not those pictures that prove the meaningfulness of my life. On the contrary, they seem to argue against the case.
My defense that I mattered is here. It’s the sense that I was a part of this land, these birds, these sounds, this air, these nights, these mysteries, brief, sudden and opened to me. I touched the fence posts installed some fifty years ago by the man that toiled before me. I cemented over the cement that was patched in 1965. I cleared it, it grew back up and I walked in its midst. I looked out and all of it looked back in. I was never me, I was a part of more.