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.