I’ve been participating this week in a Poetry and Yoga class. Because we have many people in our extended family staying with us and nearby, I have not attended every session. I’ve been mostly attending the writing sessions and avoiding the yoga ones, as I’m leery of the yoga part. (Perhaps I’ll explain that in a future blog post.)
But despite my yoga qualms, the writing is good. Like all things else in life, sometimes what we need are outside people to give us a new perspective. In addition, going away for a few hours to intentionally write- that’s a good thing, too. Jim Mihaley, our instructor, (http://www.newyogi.yoga/about-the-artists) has arranged for us to meet in beautiful, interesting places; he proposes unusual topics to give us diving boards to start swimming in words. Then, he gives us time to write. And so we do.
I’d be remiss if I did not comment particularly on yesterday’s session. We spent the afternoon on the land of J– a simple but regal woman in her 80’s. (I’ll post her full name after I gain her permission.) For 30 years she pretty much single-handedly farmed her land. And her orchard. She grazed sheep. She maintained a barn, a shed, a house. She grew flowers and vegetables and apples.
Soon after she moved in, she planted trees to establish a windbreak from the snows, and now those trees are tall. As we gathered underneath them, J– reminisced about the day she installed an electric fence around the perimeter of her large meadow. (I expected her to tell us about the days or weeks this task required, but no, she insisted, ”it was a day’s job.” The years of her hard work are evident everywhere.
Now, most of her trees are dead. A few years back she got rid of her sheep. There is a note of sadness when she says, ”I cannot do as much as I used to.” Her house and her barn are full of reminders of days when her farm was fuller, riper, busier; now her machines are rusting.
There are weeds that are overgrowing paths. Now, J– grips her cane, mentions new limitations brought on her by age. I would like to befriend her, and perhaps I will find a way to do this soon, maybe by offering to pick her currants. She would have much to teach me about growing vegetables. And growing old.
J– did not understand why writers would want to come to walk her land, to sit under trees in her garden, or look at her barn. The explanation for us was easy: ”You have made this a place of beauty,” we told her. Indeed, writing there was like coming to a feast: so much from which to choose… Do I write about the empty jars on the shelves of the original cabin, built over 100 years ago?
The guinea fowl?
The champagne colored currants?
The woman, once strong, now gripping a cane?
For the past thirty years, J– coaxed hollyhocks, planted geraniums, chose chickens that laid green eggs. J– is a person who made something good with her life. She has recently donated her farm to the Land Trust, ensuring that her land will always remain a farm. It will never be apportioned, divided, sold off. She made her land a beautiful place, and now it will stay that way.
Just like J–, her land is “past its prime.” But her land and her flowers and her vegetables and those old grape vines next to weathered grey boards were a gift to us. A life like J–‘s : well-lived with beauty left behind as a legacy: that’s a gift, too.