Don’t blame the river that nothing happened quickly.
About fifteen years ago, I started taking a keen interest in a plot of land near our house that had once served as the county fairgrounds. It had fallen into disuse and disrepair over the years, and ping-ponged from owner to owner, each one as convinced as the last that some profit could be wrung from the land by their hands, even though the jokers before them hadn’t cracked that nut.
It’s a quirky spot. It’s called “hundred year floodplain,” but I’ve seen it like this at least three times in my life. There are days when I feel like I am three hundred years old, but I know that I am not. That’s not a lake, by the way. That’s the parking lot.
It’s land, to my eyes, that resists profit-making of the traditional variety. Actively, by retreating under water periodically. Its historical use as the home of the agricultural fair rings pretty loudly. So does the fact that agriculture has drifted from the center of community life to such a degree that we no longer can support an ag fair.
Attempts to buy the land over the last decade-plus have been stonewalled. MUST. MAKE. PROFIT. That was the opinion of the several owners before now. But about a year ago, the wind seemed to shift, and my husband threw himself into the enterprise with me, and lo and behold.
We bought the farm!
Turning a derelict fairgrounds into a beautiful refuge for nature, community and agriculture seems like a kind of daunting task.
But last week, my oldest child invited me to a lecture, the last event in the series she needed to attend for a course on Agro-Ecology that she has been taking. What’s it about? I asked. It’s always something about food, she said vaguely, not being in close contact with the syllabus, and you like food.
It was about the end of food, as it turned out, among other endings–clean water, clean air, civilization as we know it. It wasn’t anything I hadn’t heard before, but as starkly put as it was that evening, it called up a dark and deep despair in me the likes of which took me back to being my daughter’s age and fearing for the imminent nuclear annihilation of the earth. “Is there a moment in history,” I asked the speaker, “where humanity has faced a comparable threat, and something has shifted before catastrophe struck?” Comparable moment in history? he said–well, the Ice Age. To a room full of teenagers. He did mention the Transition Town movement, which was thoughtful of him, among other small efforts being made to shift this giant boulder of doom.
It’s easy to leave a lecture like that with the feeling that you are totally powerless, a feeling I am more susceptible to than ever. I can’t even get the laundry done already, and now this project! On top of illness and woe! Plus the world ending! And other stuff!
As my friend Andrea explained to me recently, you can go down with the ship, or you can grab a bucket with the others who have their eyes on that rising water and bail, baby, bail. Small efforts are how the Boulders of Doom get shifted, and furthermore, what else will you do with your time?
Carrying water takes energy. Did you come here today looking for food? I have none of my own to offer, but one of the blogs I follow, Dash & Bella, recently posted with the happy news that her recipe for gremolata had been featured on Food52. It’s tasty stuff and I recommend it, but buried in the recipe you’ll find a link to her genius brussels sprouts. I hardly need another recipe for brussels sprouts. But these are well worth adding to the list.
*Thanks to Jennifer Currie for bringing this poem (“At The River Clarion”) to light for me.