Farm Journal Excerpts from May

I’ve been writing and writing and writing, often just making numbered lists of random thoughts and questions and observations that occur to me throughout the day.  Thought I’d pick some to share with you, and you can sort of watch the evolution of me over the past month.

May 5 — Been feeling kind of overwhelmed today.  I think I’m going through some kind of hippie culture shock.  I’ve gone from my mildly urban-hippie Buffalo life to living mostly outside, eating only organic everything, and listening to discussions about Zodiac signs, drug experiences, and which herbs are good for your liver (answer: almost all of them).  People make tea by grabbing a handful of herbs from the yard and letting them sit in a jar of water in the sun.  Wegmans is now the Big Chain Grocery Store, and people prefer little health food stores that sell about five products, including a $7 bag of organic chocolate chips.  People play music, but instead of learning existing songs, they just make shit up, and it sound way better than what I play.

May 6 — Indoors and outdoors have kind of melded together here.  At first it freaked me out that you and everything else are always a little dirty, but it’s grown on me.  I mean, I’m definitely closer to the earth when it’s permanently embedded in my fingernails.

Time moves slower here, and I like that.  The hours stretch on and on and you lose track of the time on the clock, but you really feel the whole day as it passes.

Farm work is nice in that you’re always doing something different.  So far I’ve planted artichokes and onions, “potted up” seed starts (transplanted to bigger pots), spread manure, transplanted Jerusalem artichokes, seeded radishes, run the stand at the farmers market, washed greens, cleaned lots of garlic, and harvested radishes, garleeks, lettuce, arugula, and pea shoots.

May 10 — There are certain moments in life that I consider sacred, that fill me with a kind of warmth and light that I can carry with me for days or weeks or months.  I fill my metaphorical pockets with the embers of those memories and use them to warm my fingertips on cloudy days.  And it has been a damn long time since I found one as good as this.

May 19 — I am an eager and willing convert.  I want this place to change me.  I want to shed my old self.  I want to be transformed.  I want… to experience a softening, of myself, of my attitudes.  I want to let go of anger, of cynicism, of bitterness, of self-pity.  I want to open myself to the potential for spiritual healing that I think is present here.

I don’t care if my friends think I’ve been kidnapped by some new age cult.  Kidnap away.

I wonder if I’ve essentially been wasting my life up until this point.  Up until now, I’ve basically done everything by the books, with the possible exceptions of JVC (which wasn’t nearly this far off the beaten path) and dropping out of grad school.  As a kid I was always a good student, got good grades, participated in extracurriculars, etc.  When I graduated from high school, I went to college.  Then there was a brief intermission for JVC and grad school, and ever since then I’ve been a working stiff: full-time job, salary, benefits, paying off student loans, paying the rent, buying gas and groceries, being a good little consumer and a cog in the capitalist machine, becoming ever more disillusioned with life, frequently finding myself bitter and angry in a directionless way, aware that I wasn’t living a life of my choice, that I wasn’t living up to my true potential, but feeling trapped by my circumstances and unsure what to do about it.  This farming stint has been just what I needed to break that inertia.

May 20 — I FINALLY got to jump in the lake.  It got up to 85 degrees here today, and I talked the new intern, A, into it; then L, J, and T agreed to come too.  I rode down in the back of a pickup truck, hanging onto the open window, ducking under tree branches, grinning like an idiot.  Then we parked the truck and climbed down a steep, wet, wooded hill to the lake.  I rand down the dock and just jumped in, fully clothed.  And it was COLD!  And I laughed and sputtered and swam to shore.  And then I dried off and did it again.  HOORAY FOR THE LAKE!  It is the best thing ever.

I was just waylaid by the sky on my way back from brushing my teeth.  There was a firework show of heat lightning dancing along the horizon to the north, and the southern sky above the white house held a waxing gibbous moon (God, where did I pull that term out of) with clouds racing over it, shifting the quality of light spilling across the lawn.  And the night was filled with a symphony of crickets and frogs and other things I can’t identify.  This place is incredibly beautiful.  How crazy is it that people live in cities, surrounded by concrete, boxed in by buildings, when THIS exists?

And it struck me that it’s a little strange how quickly I’ve given myself over to this experience.  How did I go from being so rooted in Buffalo, and so sad to leave my life there, to being so fully HERE?  I honestly don’t even miss it—which isn’t to say that I’m happy all the time, but that I’m really present.  How did I go from being such a missingful person, a skeptical cityful person, an office-working, Internet-O.D.ing, spare-time researching, errand-running, clean clothes-wearing, busy-all-the-time person, to this person who wears muddy grass-stained things, drinks out of hoses, rides in the back of pickups, drinks tinctures and flower essences, spends inordinate amounts of time staring at trees and making lists of thoughts, and who is generally content to be right where she is, in the middle of nowhere (although sometimes wishes she were maybe a few feet to the left, but it’s pretty close), in such a short amount of time?

May 21 — Sunburns, callouses, blisters, cuts, scrapes, bruises, and bug bites: the farm is changing my topography, my physical landscape.  Do you think it can change the metaphysical, too?

How does one become a different person?  Do we get to choose who we are?

May 23 — I was really feeling the music thing today and played a lot of piano and guitar.  I climbed up into the barn loft with my guitar, just under the roof, and rocked that whole fucking building.  I was afraid I’d break a string.  It kicked ass.

May 24 — “Sliver of hope” is an apt expression.  They’re like the slivers of wood that stab the skin under my fingernails in the greenhouse, except pointier, shinier, more metallic.  And they hurt more, eventually, always.

May 27 — My hair smells like wonderful.  It must be a combination of Biolage, whatever Mom’s conditioner is, and campfire smoke.

In my previous life, I was pretty even-keeled.  As soon as I moved here, I became moody as hell.  I have no excuse; it’s not hormones.  I think it’s probably a combination of being single for the first time in three-and-a-half years, going through a breakup, being surrounded by new people, and having some kind of quarterlife crisis.

I drove to my hometown Saturday night and drove back out here again Sunday because my family wanted me to come home for my brother’s birthday.  It felt all different for some reason.  I didn’t expect that.  It was weird driving in from the other side of the 90, not being as familiar with the roads.  And then, my childhood home felt more like home than usual.  My apartment in Buffalo has been Home for the past few years, and going to see my parents was like a weekend getaway.  But this life is so new, and I am so new here [in two senses: (a) new to the area, and (b) a new person now that I am here] that my parents’ house has become a sort of home to me again.

May 28 — How honest should I be with other people?  How honest would I like other people to be with me?  This is a long-standing life question for me.  I tend to be less honest with other people than I’d like them to be with me.  It takes courage to really trust people.  I’d like to get better at that.  I generally think that I’d like people to be honest with me about everything, but there are exceptions.  I’d rather not know if everyone secretly hates me or thinks my face is ugly, for instance—confidence-crushing types of things.  Shame can also be dangerous, when people confess the darkest parts of themselves that they’re most… ashamed of (I can’t think of a synonym), because you really have to be prepared to handle it.  There are certainly things I haven’t told anyone.  But I am intrigued by such a radical kind of trust.  What are we all here for if not to learn from each other?

“If you wait for the opportune moment, the opportune moment will pass you by.”  I believe I got this quote from a fortune cookie on a PostSecret.  Do you think it’s true?  Sometimes I am torn between waiting for the opportune moment and acting impulsively.  It often seems like acting on impulse is the best way to get things done.  Either it works or I crash and burn.  The problem is that my ideas lose momentum quickly, and I overthink things and get myself all worked up about it, and then it can’t just happen naturally.  So I guess that today, at least, I agree with the fortune cookie.

May 30 — There is a line somewhere, and I have a tendency to dance across it.  There is a way each moment is supposed to be, and I have a tendency to push it too far, to try to make it something it’s not, to force it to be what I want it to be instead of enjoying it for what it is.  Today, I think I did a good job of edging right up to the line without going over.

Is it possible to keep from treating people as a means to an end?  Is there ever a truly selfless act?  Even when I try to help other people, I’m often/always doing it for the sense of connection and for the personal satisfaction that bringing them happiness will bring me.  I think that’s normal and human, but I also think I need to keep it in check and make sure I remain more focused on the person I’m helping than whatever good feelings I get out of it.

May 30 was hella awesome and I am way too lazy to type it out.