When I take my headphones to the garden, my music is mellow. Unless I’m in a very specific mood, I don’t want pounding rhythms or blaring guitars—that’s for walking or running… or maybe chasing hogs. For garden work, think Nora Jones, Eva Cassidy, or maybe Frou Frou.
This morning, with the wind wafting through the shade and my hoe keeping rhythm, Alison Krauss came across the Pandora station dedicated to my gardening habit. The lyrics to “Gravity” always bring my younger self to mind. The song is about a girl who leaves town to explore the highways. When her loved ones ask her when she’ll come home, her answer is, “quite frankly, when they stop building roads, and all God needs is gravity to hold me down.”
I was always restless. I finished college early, ready for the next big adventure. I hit the road with an Anthropology degree and worked as an archaeological technician for both colleges and businesses. I “shovelbummed” on major excavations and minor surveys that crossed miles and miles of territory in multiple states. I lived out of my car and in hotels paid for by the companies that hired me. I once worked for the Parks Service in Northern California, taking a truck and a really big radio by myself into the wilds of the Modoc Plateau every day, where all you could hear for a hundred miles were the winds in the trees. I loved it.
I wrote post-adolescent road poetry that compared the roadways to the bloodstream of the country. For me, driving was therapy. Crossing the landscape like that—fast enough to make time, slow enough to see every shack and tree and signpost—let me see the bones of this beautiful country, laid bare.
I think my best piece of road poetry came out of me when I was still a kid in my own hometown, before I left for college. I loved home—the Carolina mountains have a beauty like no other place on the planet, and I love going back to visit my family and my lake and my mountain (as I privately dub them). But I was ready to see more. The big landscape out there stretching west was all so very heady and new and vast.
In those early days I wrote the last lines of a poem I called one of my teenage masterpieces:
I’ll go on the road, America, and look for the one I love among smoke stacks and pine trees,
I’ll breathe the same winds on separate seductive shores…
But it’s you I’ll find waiting—always surprised, never satisfied—you I’ll kiss deep and free in the grey paper dawn of a strange new street-angel millennium.
It took me nearly a decade, but I found the one I love. I tied myself to Athens, GA for all the wrong reasons, but it was the rightest thing I’ve ever done.
I went back to school for a Ph.D., believing I still needed someone to teach me how to learn, to show me how to think. I linked into an invisible body of ephemeral, ever-changing ideas and opinions—all castles in the air, no foundations. I was in one place, but I had no roots. I was a hot air balloon tied to the ground, still fighting gravity.
But I found the man I loved in that dusty old building on Jackson Street, and I’ve never looked back. Ted and I met in a graduate student meeting—then again a year later at the graduate student’s start-of-year picnic. The rest is history. When I married him I married this big, historic farmstead and his big, historic dreams.
… And I found they suited me.
Now, I was never the girl to change my life for a man. I once said, “A husband can always leave you. A Ph.D. never can.” And yet I still have the husband, and not the Ph.D.
Life is funny that way. Maybe the education is still in my future—I don’t pretend to see the road ahead. But I’ve stopped feeling like I need someone else to teach me how to be an expert at my own life. I’m spending my time learning by doing, not learning in order to maybe someday do.
In my garden this morning, it wasn’t just the plants whose roots I was tending. I was watering my own roots, sinking them deeper into the fertile soils of a beloved old landscape. I have been here for nearly four years—that’s longer than I stayed put in college, and a year shy of the time I spent in Athens. We plan on spending many, many more years together under the sheltering roof of this big old house on the hill.
We’ve planted fruits that are just beginning to mature—apples and quinces, blueberries and raspberries.
We’ve built a 1-acre garden and claimed a back pasture for corn, hay, and garlic.
We’ve surrounded the house with flowers and herbs.
We’ve rebuilt fences, shored up the dottering pole barn, reclaimed the chicken house… and now we’re restoring the sweet old cottage that used to be a part of our 1832 farmhouse.
We’re building a life here. For the right reasons, and with the right kinds of work. Our blood, sweat, and tears have begun to sink into the ground on this ancient hill—and there will be more of all three to follow, I’m sure.
We couldn’t do it without the people who support us, who buy our CSA shares and our hog shares, who donate to the cause of saving this antebellum property for future generations to appreciate. Thanks to all of you who are making this dream possible. This place has given me real, lasting, grown-up roots.
It’s good to be at peace with gravity.
As always… Peace, Love, and Veggies,