Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Old Time Love Story

I've been visiting my Aunt in Palm Springs the last few days. We've been having a wonderful time going through letters my Grandmother and Grandfather exchanged prior to being married. Their correspondence reads like a novel - full of big dreams, loneliness, humor and yearning.

It was in a Arkansas melon patch that Alpha first laid eyes on Lloyd. She caught him eating the melons with his bare hands, and years later was fond of telling her grandchildren, "he was the ugliest man I'd ever laid eyes on!" At 17 years old, they parted when Lloyd's family moved to Oklahoma, and thus began the written correspondence. The first letter was from my Grandfather: 42 short poems. Check out these gems:

I love you little, I love you lots
my love for you would fill ten pots
nine tin buckets
eight tin cans
seven wash kettles
and six dishpans.

Long may you live
happy may you be
loved by all others
but mostly by me.

The sea is wide, the sea is deep
in your arms I long to sleep.

Long is the road with many a crook,
I hope someday to be your cook.

Grandpa, that is such false advertising! She always cooked for you!

Even though they loved each other from the beginning, they didn't drop everything to be together. He struggled to finish his (8th grade) education, then tried to join the Civilian Conservation Corps (there was a long wait list - this was during the great depression, mind you), and considered joining the army. She continued her education while working as a housekeeper and eventually became a schoolteacher. They rarely visited each other, relying on letters for communication. My Grandfather felt like he must make something of himself before he could be with Grandma, so he moved to California to make his fortune. The fortune wouldn't be made until much later, with the assistance of Alpha, but he made enough and experienced all sorts of difficult and interesting jobs and characters. Finally, in their letters, you can see how the "blues" of not being together became too great to bear, and they were married. The letters stop.

It strikes me how long they remained apart, despite their longings for each other. For 4 years they followed their difficult, separate paths. Of course the struggle didn't end with marriage. I think being apart actually prepared them to be together. They were married 61 years.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Learning to Live Again

It's been over 2 years since I've convened with my notebook in a meaningful way. I had forgot what a powerful tool it is; a place for self-examination, personal therapy, random thoughts, random-er doodles, incubating ideas, creative freedom, and non-judgement. It feels good to resume this relationship, notebook and I. Who knows what will come of it?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

University of Life

Tomorrow, after nearly 5 months on the farm, I'm finally headed home. Yet as my departure nears, I find myself doubting: is Austin really home? After all, it's no accident I've spent almost half a year in rural Oregon. To me, popular culture has never seemed so foreign, and I suspect I'm in for a shock and something resembling depression upon returning to the city. We all learn to acclimate to the situations we find ourselves in, and it probably won't be long until I'm once again comfortable in the concrete jungle; content with movie theaters, art museums, and rock shows. But there's no denying: the farm beckons me. It's in my heart and it won't let go.

This summer, Farmer Steve was laid up with gout for a month, completely out of commission. The other day he apologized that he was unable to teach me skills during this time, to which I replied, "Don't worry about it. I've learned more here than in a hundred classrooms." And it's absolutely true. Perhaps unbeknownst to him, the farm skills I've learned are the least of it. The things I've learned most are less tangible, but perhaps more important. Things like: generosity, how to get along with others, patience, work ethic. When I see Steve pick up someone's slack without complaint, or offer to clean dishes that aren't his - I greatly admire him, and find myself emulating that behavior. Here, at a little farm in southern Oregon, I feel like I'm becoming the man I want to be, and that is very satisfying.

I find myself loving Deb and Steve like family, and the feeling must be mutual, because they've offered to contribute resources and expertise to help me build my very own cabin down by the goat barn. Fifty yard walk to the river. Spectacular view of Hope Mountain. The opportunity to become a self-sufficient human with a variety of skills, immersed in an amazing community of like-minded individuals. Hard to say no.

The other night, I camped down with the goats, in a golden grassy field adjacent their pen. Under the stars, warmed by fire, I made a long list of reasons to stay. Tomorrow they will become reasons to return.

The Goat Barn