Taking Care of Each Other

I looked out the window of the apartment where we were staying in Brooklyn and thought, What have we done?

This is the kind of view people pay for in the city.  A view of Manhattan.   Just having as many windows as this apartment did made it special.  From another window you could even see the river.

But I couldn’t see the beauty in it.  As much as I can enjoy the city, the skyline has never been something that moved me.  And when I looked out the windows in the apartment, I couldn’t help but wonder how the rain gets past all the steel, glass and cement to touch the earth.

Maybe it’s because I just finished reading  Annie Proulx’s latest novel Barkskins, about the deforestation of the United States and Canada by Europeans, beginning in the late 1600’s.  The book was relentless.  Over 700 pages of the same story over and over again.  Europeans clear cutting the old growth forests, destroying the lives of the native people and animals whose home it was.  Depleting the soil with their crops then moving on across the continent.

I actually stopped reading the book with about 100 pages still to go.  By then I knew the story well enough.

I grew up visiting Manhattan.  Going to Central Park, Madison Square Garden and Museum of Natural History.  As a teenager I would take the train there with friends, finding the streets and neighborhoods that made me feel like I belonged.

I’ve looked at a map of Manhattan so many times.  The green that marks the parks, among the grids and straight lines of the streets, standing out like beacons.

But it never hit me as hard as it did these past few days.  How the soil is held prisoner by the cement that surrounds it.  From a small patch of earth where a tree heroically grows in front of someone’s apartment building, to a space as big as Central Park.  It’s nature contained.

And my heart aches thinking about it.

So many people love the city.  Wouldn’t even consider living anywhere else.  I can appreciate that, but I can’t imagine choosing it.

So much of life there is spent indoors, often  high above the earth.  You don’t even have to go outside to take out the garbage.  How does one stay grounded on the 21st floor?

It hadn’t been snowing for long when we got home.  We unpacked the car and I immediately went out to see the animals.  I hugged Chloe, Fanny and Lulu. I mucked out the barn.  My body rejoiced at  lifting the heavy shovel loads (three days worth) of manure and  dumping it on the growing pile to compost.  My feet slid on the ice under the thin layer of snow when we walked out to the back pasture.  I looked hungrily at the woods and rolling hills around me.

They too were once covered in giant trees hundreds of years old.  As were the pastures where our animals graze.  We heat out house with wood that’s locally harvested.

Living in the country, getting to know the trees in the woods around me,  understanding the importance of healthy soil has made me appreciate the earth in a way I never did before.  For years I’ve sent my membership dues to organizations like The Nature Conservancy.  But suddenly it all feels more personal.

My feeling for the land  is more visceral than it’s ever been.  And seeing what we’ve already done and continue to do the earth, it often feels hopeless to me.

But I believe in each individual doing what she can.  I don’t know how this will manifest, but I’m thinking I want to try to take care of this small patch of earth we call Bedlam Farm, in the same way she takes care of me.

15 thoughts on “Taking Care of Each Other

  1. The first thought than ran through my mind when I saw this skyline photo was ‘oppression’. Perhaps it helps explain the state of discord our planet is currently in.
    Surrounded by trees and living things is the only conceivable option for me. I never take it for granted.

  2. Hello Maria,
    I really relate to your comments about city life/ country life. I live in south-west England in a beautiful county called Devon. Occasionally my sister and I spend time together in London for a few days. Our chosen hotel is walking distance from Hyde Park and although we enjoy the ‘buzz’ of London for a few days we regularly escape for a long walk in the park to retain our sanity. She lives in another beautiful county called Worcestershire.
    PS My husband and I really enjoyed meeting you both and seeing Bedlam Farm last Fall. Your blg and Jon’s mean so much more to us now.

  3. I feel the same way as you and I want country around me. I am not comfortable in a city. I live in a small town but around me are open lots and in 2 minutes there are open fields and woods. I was born in Joliet which is close to Chicago and I don’t mind going back to visit but I don’t want to live there. I want to touch a tree and feel the coolness of the bark and I want to take off my shoes and feel the energy coming thru the earth. No big cities for me.

  4. This struck right to the heart of me. Much tree worship in my Lithuanisn ancestry and I have managed never to live anywhere where I cannot walk barefoot upon the earth. Humanity’s coverings of buildings and endless Tarmac feel so unkind and alien to me in my dark moments. I have planted trees also, and this gives a lovely lift to the heart.

  5. Thank you, Maria, this was very moving and went right to the heart of our Zeitgeist: what have we done? Right now contemplating leaving our 10 acre farm to go somewhere else, to find our ‘forever’ home, the hardest thing will be to leave the woods and the wild animals we’ve been feeding for the past 10 years…I wonder if experiencing nature/animals on a regular basis couldn’t fix most of our society’s ailments (drug abuse, violence, etc.)…

  6. Maria — your small country patch offers up tales of its land culture over time. Your land relationship is real — not something from a printed page. Stripped of its stories your land would fall mute. You occupy terrain that is in sync with wildness — your terrain, the rocks, trees, animals large and small, and much more. Suggest reading “Scatterlings” by Martin Shaw.

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