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Archive for November 20th, 2007

My friend, Evan, has commented that I may be obsessed with tractors, and I’m not saying he’s entirely wrong…he knows me too well.  He’s seen me go through some crazy things in the past ten years or so, and he knows I can get a bit fixated sometimes. 

Which made me consider whether or not I actually am obsessed with tractors, and I can honestly say I’m not.  I like them, sure. I like being able to drive one and work the soil, but it’s not the tractors that fascinate me, it’s what they can do. It’s what I can do with them, how they have influenced my family, and what they represent for me.

A few years ago, I became fascinated with sailing ships of the past, galleons and brigs and frigates, Jack Aubrey, Horatio Hornblower, and pirates of the oceans blue.  I even took a few sailing classes before I realized that I was a bit too clumsy for sailing.  But although I learned as much as I could about ships and rigging, sailing and fighting, I don’t think it would be fair to say that I was obsessed with ships. 

I was obsessed with escape.  Escape from my problems, escape from my hopelessness, escape from my pain.  And for that period in time, ships and sailing represented freedom for me, the ability to leave my life behind and never leave a trail.  I wanted to visit brave new lands, live carelessly and free, anonymously, unattached, unfettered, and unafraid.

I’ve changed, and my “vehicle of choice” has  apparently changed, as well.  Instead of looking for mental escape on the ocean roads, I seek to plant seeds of stability and put down roots in the Earth.  I’ve stopped trying to run away, and have invested myself in cultivating relationships and planting seeds for my future.   The hours I spend on the tractor and in the garden have yeilded a harvest, not only of food, but of memories, traditions, wisdom and closeness with my family that I’ve never allowed myself before.  The tractor, the ability to drive it, to work it, to till the land, and raise harvest with my own hands, ties me to my family, my heritage, my grandfather.  It is a bond between where I come from, and who I am.

I’ve come to realize that, if my dreams for the foundation and for the land come to fruition, I will, in essence, be “grounded”, rooted to that place and to that work, and strangely, I welcome it.  I long to leave a legacy for future generations, to leave a mark of my passing through in the same way that the tiller leaves a path in the soil from which a plentiful harvest can grow.  I want to stay in one place, for the first time in my life, and cultivate a life of growth. 

My running with the wind days are over, it seems.  My setting down roots has begun.

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A brief apology…

Dear favorite red and black flannel shirt,

I am so sorry that I wore you with a slightly magenta-colored shirt today!  Can you ever forgive me? I really, really tried to match the reds.  I stood in my closet for a good 5 or 6 minutes before picking that shirt.  I didn’t know it would be rosy in the daylight!

I’ll try to make it up to you.  I’ll wear you with a really nice black sweater, next time, and I promise to never, ever again try to match reds inside the closet, early in the morning.

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There’s no doubt about it, Georgia is in the grips of a devastating drought.  When you see it on the news, and translated into inches-below-average rainfall measurements, it can seem rather distant and unimpressive.  But on a human level, we’ve seen job loss on an individual basis, well-established nursery businesses filing bankruptcy, property values decline, and dramatic impacts on everyday lifestyles. 

In Georgia, there’s a sense of there being two states, urban and rural, or as is eluded to, Atlanta and everywhere else.  But this time around, the drought is affecting all of us.  Agriculture has suffered on a scale that, hopefully, we’ll never become accustomed to, and cattlemen are culling their herds due to a shortage of available hayin the Southeast.  Meanwhile, in the urban and suburban areas, water restrictions are the tightest they’ve ever been, with carefully-designed landscaping dying and drying in the sunshine.  Grim predictions of a dire shortage of drinking water persist, with rumors circulating about the prospect of rationing.  Grocery stores are seeing a run on bottled water in the same way that they experience shortages of bread and milk before a winter storm. In all, the lack of rain has come home to Atlanta.

So how could a drought like this bring anything other than misery? 

Just look at the trees……..we’ve never had a fall this colorful, this beautiful for this long.  Even the old folks, picking greens in the garden, can’t help but pause and comment.  Our normal pattern in the fall is, just as the trees start to turn colors, the windy thunderstorms strike and denude the trees of their leaves with nary a glimpse of fall color.  We’re used to verdant summer cascading in a torrent  into the grey nakedness of winter; you can hear it in the way we wistfully talk about driving north to “see the trees” as if we didn’t have trees in our area.  What we mean, of course, is that we long to go north see the trees that still have their fall foliage, to breathe in crisp autumn air, and experience for an afternoon or, luxuriently, a whole weekend, the passage of the seasons.

Not so this year.  October and November ushered in no torrents of rain to wash away the color, and even driving into work along Sandy Creek road, I can inhale deeply and savor the collage of brilliant oranges, yellows and golds set against a perfect, blue, cloudless the sky.  A canopy of old oaks and maples lines the road and drapes me in autumn splendor.  White fences shine brightly in the sunlight and stand in contrast to the array of colors, framing fields and gardens in a raucus display of seasons.

I can’t help but feel thankful for the gift of this fall, and maybe that makes me duplicitous.  I pray for rain, for great waterfalls of rain that will heal the parched land around me, and yet every morning I allow myself the guilty pleasure of being thankful for the beautiful fall this year.  For the cool dry nights, for  the bright sunny days, for the brilliant array of colors, and for being allowed to drive down a country road on my way to and from the city.  And if I am duplicitous in my enjoyment of the beauty that this tragic drought has brought us, how much more duplicitous is the drought, for making a landscape so dry, and so breathtakingly beautiful?

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