Archive for July 19th, 2010

Trending Towards Home

Sharon July 19th, 2010

We were away for 28 hours, and it was enough.  I feel strange writing this because one of the things Eric and I used to love best was travelling - for years our favorite thing to do was to plot where we might go next, and, ideally, go there.  We’ve visited 7 other countries together, and had long dreams of other ones, of somedays, of the day we would be free to join the Peace Corps together, or go and live far away from our current place. 

But having children changes things, at least for us.  When I was first pregnant we were absolute that this would not stop us from travelling (this was before energy awareness fully hit me) - that we’d either take the baby with us across time zones, or as soon as he was old enough (we assumed 2ish), we’d leave him with grandparents and go away for stretches - not more than a week or so.

How funny that seems to me now.  What I didn’t know about parenthood was that I wouldn’t want to leave my two year old for a week - indeed, I’d feel vaguely panicked about leaving him overnight, although eventually we did that, and eventually, the panicky feeling would go away.  I also failed to realize how my newfound consciousness of the future that I was bringing Eli into would affect my feeling about casual plane trips just to see other countries. 

And by the time Eli was two we had Simon, newborn and nursing - I was tandem nursing both of them, actually.  I had assumed, before I was a mother, that the ties that drew parents and children together were burdensome, that one put a good face on it, but basically was chomping at the bit to get away.  Instead, I found that I had changed more radically than I’d ever expected - it wasn’t them keeping me, although that was part of it, it was me wanting them. 

And then we acquired a farm.  The thing about a farm is that a good one is like Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tree - it needs us.  When we begged my mother for pets as children, my mother used to roll her eyes and say “I don’t need any more needy things, I’ve got children.”  My husband and I filled our farm with needy creatures, and the farm itself was filled with need - it blossomed under our love and showed quite clearly when and where we neglected it.  It got harder to go away, although due to the kindness of good friends and good neighbors, we were able to continue with family visits, and even the occasional escape.

Eric and I took one of those escapes this year (thank you Mom and Grandma Nancy!!!!!) - it had been two years since we’d been away without the children, and while we thoroughly enjoyed our trip to visit several local farmers and their farms, and our night in a B and B near Cooperstown, one of the things that was the strangest was that almost everything we wanted to do could have been accomplished as a day trip.  We made a circle, up through friends in Montgomery, Herkimer and Otsego counties, and ended up less than 45 minutes from our house in the late afternoon sunshine.  We laughed when we realized that we could technically have snuck back into our house late, spent the night for free, and snuck out again without anyone knowing, rather than paid for a room.

Over the years we’ve revisited the shared city of our grad school days, travelled to Maine to meet a friend and a new dog, taught in the Catskills, tasted wine in the wine regions.  We’ve had five of these trips all told, since Eli was born.  But what we’ve found as the children get older and it becomes more viable for them to go away, is that we don’t long for it anymore.  We enjoyed our trip, enjoy an occasional day of solitude, but we found ourselves, early in the morning on the day we were to return home, thinking and talking of the kids and the farm. and pushing ourselves to stay away (since the Grandmothers had told us they wouldn’t be back until 2 or so anyway).  We missed the boys - and the animals, and the garden.

That seems strange to me too - I’d only been gone for a day, remember.  It seems odd to miss something so present in your life.  And everything was being cared for gloriously - the children were far less likely to be suffering from our absence than wishing that we stay away longer, so that they could be further indulged by adoring Grandmothers.  Our farm was being cared for by Phil, who does the chores conscientiously and thoroughly - more than we do some days.

But it is only me who knows precisely when the container plants need water, only Eric who watches the does carefully enough to tell whether that tiny hesitation in Mina’s step is a sign her hoofs need further trimming, a natural consequence of her vast pregnancy, or the sign of an emerging limp.  When the rain came through in Herkimer County on the first afternoon of our trip, I found myself wondering if it was raining yet at home, and how much - we need it so badly.  I was enjoying myself, but something in that rain began the process of turning me internally towards home.

And we turned physically as well - we thought we might go further west than Little Falls, but instead we went south and then east again, without fully admitting we were circling back,  not feeling any need to burn gas or travel further just to see.  We’d learned what we wanted - visited people raising fiber goats that interest us, stopped to visit a small community near us with a rapidly growing Amish population, to wach the emergence of the localized, horse-scale economy in a town that previously had been scaled to the car.  We had a lovely dinner, playing the parlor game of guessing the stories of everyone else in the restaurant, stopped at the farmer’s market, and we were ready for home.

Eric asked me if I thought it was lame that he didn’t mind not going away, that he didn’t passionately feel any need to get away from the children and the farm.  Before we had kids, we would have looked with mute incomprehension at anyone who told us we wouldn’t want to leave.  And we would have thought it was strange.  And maybe it is. 

But the things to know about home seem almost infinite to me.  I’ve been trying to establish blackberries here for several years now - and haven’t been able to find a variety that can handle our heavy winters.  And then Phil, who went wandering in the woods with his girlfriend, came back announcing that there were blackberries in our woods.  How did I miss them?  I still can’t find them - he’ll have to show me.  But if I could miss the blackberries, all these years, all this time wandering in our woods, there are other things I could miss, plenty of deep and hidden things to discover and learn in just this one small place.   

This was the first year we had tree swallows - or was it the first year I saw them?  Even though I attend, even though I watch, I still miss things.  I planted motherwort and blue vervain here in my herb garden and as part of native plant restorations in the latter case.  In the last few months I have realized that I have a stand of each growing wild, that I simply did not see before.  After nine years of looking, I’m still making new discoveries.  The children, of course, are full of these discoveries - and we see new things seen through them as well.

It isn’t that I don’t like to travel - I do.  But what always interested me most about travelling was the time spent getting to know people’s everyday lives, and that takes time and distance, and as a parent and a farmer, right now, time and distance aren’t possible for me.  So I concentrate on knowing my place - and every year ?I find new things to know.  It isn’t obvious to me that deep knowledge of one place is in any way inferior to wide knowledge of many places - and since the realities of energy depletion mean most of us may not have the option of travelling as often or as freely or at all, I think there’s something to the idea of the vacation taken at home, making new discoveries.

We got home before the boys and the grandmothers, and despite the heat, wen straight to the garden, Eric with his scythe, me to the weeding.  It felt right to get back into the rhythym of the place.  And when the peace of his barely-audible scythe swishes and my silent pulling were broken by shreiks of enthusiasm, from boys anxious to tell us all that had occurred while we were gone, we knew we were all the way home and content to stay.