January 26, 2012 § 7 Comments

I have been thinking lately about how inexorably I have become connected to our land and home and how clearly it has shaped me in ways I could never have imagined. This on the heels of a short essay I wrote for an about-to-be-launched quarterly, ad-free journal that celebrates place-based living. It’s called Taproot. I’ve seen pre-production mock-ups and it looks fantastic.

Anyway. We bought this land nearly 15 years ago, and have lived here for 14 of those years; the first summer was spent in a frenzy of hammer and saw, erecting the humble cabin that has since been expanded in our pursuit of the too-large house. It sat on concrete piers, some of which, owing to the slope of the cabin site, rose a full 4-feet out of the ground. This was far beyond the design parameters of such a foundation, and on windy nights, those piers swayed back-and-forth, back-and-forth. It was like being in a cradle.

Both boys were born at home, on the same shiplap pine floor Penny and I nailed down in one frenzied October day. I can point out, within an inch or two, the precise spot where each of the boys took their first breaths. Back then, the boards were still shiny and smooth; the wood has since become dinged and tarnished with use, and to be honest, I like it better now. The pine was originally intended to serve as a subfloor; we planned to eventually install a finish floor over it. Eventually is a fairly open-ended concept, so perhaps it will still happen. But I pretty much doubt it.

Everywhere I look, I see our imprint on this land: House, barn, pond, greenhouses, blueberries, the pasture we cleared a couple years back. Not long ago, a pilot friend emailed some photos he’d taken of our land from the air and I have to say, it was a bit shocking. I’m still not sure if the pictures imbue me with a sense of accomplishment, or mild horror at the profound impact we’ve had on this piece of land. It’s a little of each, I guess.

What’s harder to see is the imprint this place has made on me, and I sometimes wonder what aspects of my life have been defined by this – and no other – piece of land. I’m not much of a second-guesser, but if I was, I suppose another way to put that would be: How might my life have ended up differently if I’d wound up somewhere else?

There’s no satisfactory answer to such a question, and I’m not really interested in an answer, anyway. I only know what I feel: That I am tied to this place, that I understand its nooks and crannies better than any other place on this earth, and that the better I understand them, the more I appreciate them. That the more I’m here, the more I want to be here. That if I am blessed enough to have my physical life come to a natural conclusion, I wish it to conclude here. That someday, I hope to be lowered into the soil upon which I’ve trod so many times, to give back just a little of what it’s given me.



§ 7 Responses to Belonging

  • Nancy Settel says:

    so beautifully said. Certainly makes you stop and think and enjoy what you have here and now.I adore the pictures you do of your sons, there is such a conection to the farm and to them. nancy settel

  • Frank says:

    Very nicely written.

    I have some of the same feelings when looking at the Google Earth images of our small farm. It is small enough that we know virtually every square foot of it. Our boys are the fourth generation walking around on this farm, unfortunately we can’t (and don’t) life on it full-time. It is a holiday and weekend pleasure.

    But even though our exposure to the farm, the land, is limited I feel there are not a lot of things that have a bigger impact in shaping me, and the boys.

  • maggiemehaffey says:

    Oh yes, exactly. We have the same sense of place about the piece of land our family has lived on for 7 generations now, with the birth of our new granddaughter last year. We recently revived farming on this land which supported a small dairy and subsistence farm for this family since the mid-1700s. When farming went out of fashion for a few decades when my husband was young, the cows were sold and most farming activities ceased here except for a very large home garden that always supplied the fresh veggies on the table and canned goods for the pantry. Four years ago, my sons and husband and I started it up again, farming now back in fashion with the local and organic movement. It has been good and we are more or less making a living…
    BTW, we met you at the Harvest New England conference in Sturbridge last winter. Really enjoyed your talk and your books…

  • Hank Bolduc says:

    Appreciated your keynote address to the AGRItunity Conference here in Bushnell, Florida. You provided alot of insight and motivation for people who want to do more for themselves. I am in the process of getting my little farm up and running and have wondered more about food preservation. I am exploring what works for our family and our locale as anyone should. Once again thanks for showing up!

  • […] in another five years, or ten. I hope that when I look back, though, I can appreciate it as much as this fantastic writer. Like this:LikeBe the first to like this post. This entry was posted in Uncategorized by Rhymes […]

  • Hello Ben,

    Thank you so much for the kind words you left at Woodbird and for guiding me here! I’ve been meaning to read your books since you visited Marlboro (last fall?)…anyway, they’ll now make it to the top of my reading list.

    As for this post, yes yes. My parents (and grandparents) are the intrepid homesteaders around here, but my husband and I built ourselves a small cabin (on piers) that somehow keeps sprouting rooms as our family grows. I had to laugh at your line about the pursuit of the too-large house…

    As for the belonging? Amen.

    Best to you, and look forward to reading more.


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