Running fence for the cows the other day I was reminded somehow of the first time I ran fence. This would have been a dozen years ago now, and because I did not know what I was doing – how to space the posts, at what height to run the wire, and so on – I snuck over the hill to Melvin’s land. There I paced his lines, counting my steps and multiplying by the requisite three feet, stopping every so often to measure the height of the wire against my hip, noting how he’d looped the fencing where insulators had gone missing.
I often think about all the good and necessary knowledge that’s slowly disappearing, and not just the complicated stuff, the celebrated stuff, but also all the little things. How to run fence right, the way wood splits best when it’s below zero, what the West wind means for the sap run, to look at a balsam sawlog and know how many board feet it might yield. A person can spend a lifetime accumulating this knowledge, and still go the grave in ignorance of all the things a lifetime is not long enough to learn. Which is really for the best, I suppose, if only because it’s actually kind of nice to keep being surprised along the way.
Also: I’m a big fan of Rebecca Solnit, and I’m really enjoying this interview. I bet some of you might like it, too.