Archive for January 2nd, 2008

Art runs in the family

I almost included this in my previous post, but then decided that it merited a post of it’s own. 

While I was out and about at the farm yesterday, wandering around with my camera on a cold, blustery day, I came across this:

Vine wreathThis, gentle readers, is a wreath made of the wild grape vines that have taken over the homesite of my great-grandparents. Notice the vine twining up the trunk of the tree?  It’s just everywhere. But there, resting on the branch of that small sapling, was this wreath. It was coiled by my grandfather, and probably placed here without much forethought….just a place to put it.

I like this photo for several reasons.  First, of course, because it seems so seasonal, like a Christmas celebration in nature.  But I also like it because it captures a simple human impact on a beloved site that has been reclaimed by the wildness of nature. It doesn’t undo the wildness, but rather seems to say, “Yes, Nature, you will always win out in the end, but let me just mark this spot with a sign of my passing.”

And of course, I love it because it’s the work of my grandpa.  His brother was always considered to be the artistic member of the family, working in the traditional mediums of paint and photographs.  He was the sensitive one, the musical one, the cultured one.  Grandpa, as the younger brother, seemed to live in his shadow, and took on the role of the quiet one, the strong one, the practical one, the hard-working one, the earthy one.

But as I’ve come to learn this year, he has an innate artistic talent in harmony with nature, an unpracticed and unintentional artistic mien that will never be appreciated in a gallery, hung on a wall, or lauded by the delicate tastes of the cultured crowd. 

He hung this wreath, made by his own hands, in a place where it would never be seen, for an audience that no one knows, and with his own private intentions that need no explanation.  It has no practical purpose.  It cannot be bought or sold.

It may be the truest form of art for art’s sake that I’ve ever seen.

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New Year’s Day After

Well, I went to the farm yesterday, and had a splendid time freezing my turnips off.  ;- )

Grandpa was feeling a bit lowly, so he stayed indoors, and I had the run of the garden all to myself during which time I accomplished my primary gardening task of the day: weeding the carrots.

Gardening allows for a lot of opportunities for reflection; weeding, even more so.  In fact, my weeding experiences usually start off with some bucolic reflection on the harmony of man and nature, the role of agricultural cultivation in the development of American identity, and consideration for future improvements on my gardening techniques and cultivars.  Yesterday, however, I found my thoughts grinding along on a much less philosophical path.  Typical thoughts were “Brr, my hands are cold….Damn this wild verbena…If I could find a marketable purpose for wild verbena, I’d be a millionaire…Maybe it would be faster if I pulled up the carrots and planted them somewhere else….Maybe I shouldn’t plant carrots next year....”

Like I said, not very philosophical…

TurnipsBut once I finished with the carrots, I [stood up straight] and then went to pick turnips and greens.

Turnips, anyone?  These will be so tasty tonight, mashed with butter.

If you are not from the South, let me explain a bit about the Southern love affair with turnip greens.  Every year, on New Year’s Day, Southerners and those with a Southern heritage gather together to eat a symbolic, and tasty, meal that usually includes such standards as black-eyed peas and greens.  As my great-grandmother explained to me, the peas represented your coin-money, and your greens represented your folding-money.  The more you ate of these at New Year’s Day dinner, the more prosperous your year would be! 

People who don’t eat greens the rest of the year will gladly tuck into an extra large serving of the leafy goodness on this one special day, hoping for the promise of an extra large serving of financial prosperity. 

And while almost everyone eats them because they represent folding money, for my grandfather, they are folding money in the ground, as people come to pick and pick again, trading folding bills for fresh greens.

And I feel very fortunate to not only eat the greens, but also to be a part of their planting, growing and picking.  In a way, I feel like I’m doing a small part of continuing our traditions as well as bringing healthy, organic food to the tables of our family and neighbors. 

Turnip greensBut I wouldn’t want to leave the rest of you out of the prosperity plan!  So here’s an entire field of turnip greens to wish my friends everywhere a healthy, and prosperous year! 

I picked about two pounds of greens yesterday, and if I get around to it this evening, I will post a series of pictures on how to cook fresh greens.  Mmmm mmmm!

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