Posted on May 6th, 2020
In the past, I’ve never published the Farmer General sober.
I’m turning 39 in another week and a half, and shortly after that, it will be a year and six months since I quit drinking. I haven’t touched another human being in two and a half months. Last night, in a field, one of the two men I’m working on a farm with told me that he has suddenly grown a whole inch in the past two years and at 42, is now six ft. one.
The numbers that divide days are a funny thing right now–the numbers that rule our selfhood and wholeness, our ability to allow or disallow certain behaviors, what we do to carve light and space into arcs and into drawers. Who has value, and where, and how, and how much. I worked 41 days straight, when this started. I’ve eaten seven cans of tuna in this time, for different lunches. Gone on over 200 miles of bike rides. Stack stack stack. I’ve lost track of the cups of coffee. Let’s call it one hundred and fifty.
And numbers are cruel and blank, too. They are the dead, swept into corners. They are the dead before this time, that we chose to be less concerned about. There is the wave of unconcern once again rolling out in a predictable heavy tide, now that it seems that those who are dying the most are those same people we paid no mind to, before this time. Plagues aren’t equalizers–they are refining mirrors. This isn’t a new fire, it’s just one that has, at last, wandered on over onto the grounds of the estate. The numbers are the blades of grass we imagine replaceable, once this ‘all goes back to normal’. ‘Out of many, one’, it waves across the dollars. ‘Out of their bones, wealth’, is what it means.
We’re surveying land for a second hoop house. Mark says that he loves to watch the full expressive swoop of a bird’s path across the meadow, and I think about an Annie Dillard essay about birds and the curvature of the earth. Keith says it reminds him of Newton, alone and pushing a knitting needle into the space between eyeball and socket, mapping a curve. I love language in this way, for being so specific and unspecific to a place and a person, and how it is not numbers. How it reveals us to one another here, our masked faces at dusk surrounded by birds, under a rising ripening moon. We’ve been marking numbers that tell us where the land dips and rises. Our words have been marking presence. When I tell a different friend that our only work here, our only real job, is to love one another, and to support one another on our paths, I think this is what I mean. One of my favorite poets, Charles Wright, says our lives can’t be lived like saints’ hearts, seared between heaven and earth, and my dirt-laced arms with their infinite webs of thorn traced cuts, know what he means.
The ask of this time is to be present with what is. To not look away, from anything. To not reduce or refine or distract or shy away or dissemble or dissolve. To acknowledge that there is no ‘over’. And there was no ‘before’. There has only ever been what is. We have been monstrous. If we choose it, however, we can also be more.