Monday, October 8, 2012

farm equipment in the grass

Well, I'm 36.  The morning started cold.  A hard frost sat on the grass.  Lasted till about ten.  I took my computer onto the terrace around 8:00 to read some birthday e-mails.  I bundled up.  I sat on my hands while I read.  My hot coffee turned cold in about a minute.  Rose Mary called to me, Jono, can you please come inside.  This was around 8:30.  Her tone of voice made me wonder, for one split second, if I'd done something very wrong.  Oh right, I thought, It's my birthday.  Stan and Rose Mary were in the kitchen.  My week's pay was on the table.  Cash.  So were a couple small birthday presents, wrapped in tissue paper.  The granola and yogurt were also on the table.  They're always on the table in the morning.  It would be like the place had been nuked if they were not there.  I opened my presents: a miniature head lamp and a compass.  To help you navigate the labyrinths of middle age, Stan said.  So that's what you were doing in R.E.I., I said.  I remembered that they'd excused themselves from our stand at the market in Santa Fe last Saturday to walk to R.E.I., which is near the market.  But am I really middle aged?  And is middle age really full of labyrinths?  My 36th birthday started on frost, but by noon I was in shorts.  

One of the things that I really love about this place is all the farm equipment that is laying around in the grass.  Most of it is near the chicken coop.  Some of it looks like it doesn't get used all that often, but I couldn't really say for sure.  I don't live here year round, so I don't know which pieces of equipment are used when or for what.  They are colorful pieces of metal that don't need to serve any purpose to cheer me up.  Though I was not in a bad mood today at all.  I was in a great mood.  I was cooking butternut squash soup.  I had the day off from farming.  We all had the day off from farming.  I could walk around the fields and look at them with an eye detached from labor.  I took a break from my birthday dinner preparations and wandered into the fields with my camera.  This farm equipment sitting in the grass is detached from labor too.  

These things are tractor attachments.  I know that.  The blue one looks important.  It looks like something gets fed into the top of it.  Come to think of it, both of these attachments look important.  They're not buried as heavily under weeds as some of the other attachments are.  It's a lot of fun to look at a tractor attachment at rest and wonder what it does.  It's great to enjoy a tractor attachment in the grass for no more than what it looks like.  I've been responding to a lot of e-mails since I've been here, and one comes to mind.  About farming I wrote that one needs to remember that the country is a very nice office.  Instead of fax machines and phones, you hear birds thrumming their wings in the bushes; instead of toner from the copy machine, you get dirt on your hands and underneath your nails; and on cold mornings you can pluck a cold, ripe apple from the tree.  The apple tree is the farmer's break room.  Cool mornings are his mini fridge.  For the aesthete, and for those of us who really love to be in tune with our senses, farming is rich work.  Even the bits of machinery in repose offer their rewards.

I never did go and touch some of this metal, but I'm sure that it would have been cold despite the sun.  The sun is so far away—I don't know how far away it is, but it's far, and I've traveled around the sun 36 times now.  No matter where you are, it's something to celebrate your birthday away from home.  I like to navel gaze sometimes—have you heard?—and since it's my birthday I'm gonna do it.  When one is five or six, he doesn't think that he'll be writing about cold farm equipment in repose some thirty years down the line.  He probably doesn't think about much.  I have a few memories from those early years, but I certainly don't know much about what I thought.  I know a little.  On my 5th birthday, a neighbor asked me how I felt now that I was five.  I told her that I felt exactly as I did the day before.  She wasn't thrilled with my answer.  Birthdays are powerful and insignificant markers.  Growing up, I would never have guessed that I'd be here now.  My parents wouldn't have guessed it either.  But here I am.  A writer, I suppose, working on the farm of an older writer, two thousand miles away from home.  Strange?  Beautiful?  Inconsequential?  Who cares?

This equipment, I think, is done for.  I'm not sure if it's broken, but it's certainly trapped underneath a fallen tree.  If I could invent stories about all this equipment and not be beholden to any truth, or rather, if I could happen upon this farm and its equipment in the grass as a kind of visitor from another place and epoch, I could have so much fun and so many dreamy hours putting the story together.  I could ask, What happened here? And what was all this colorful metal used for?  There is a rusted out shovel that hangs on the living room wall here.  It's just the shovel, no handle.  It's bent and the metal is torn.  I asked Stan if that was the shovel he used in his tenure as Mayor Domo, and he said no.  He said that he'd found it in the river some years ago.  He said that he'd written a piece about it, a piece that wondered about its life and about who used it.  The story of a tool in repose.  We all are backward-looking sometimes, but we don't all write about it.  Thank goodness for those who write about it and write about it well.  On my 36th birthday, I am glad to be living with someone who writes about it really well, who has been writing about it really well for longer than I've been alive. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Happy birthday, Jono. I'm 36 too. I love your writing so much.