Monday, March 12, 2012

And on the 11th day …

by Zinta Aistars

At last, I am down to counting days, no longer months or even weeks. Eleven days remain. Even now, these are not lax and lazy days of anticipation. All the things that must be done prior to moving a household!

It’s been an early spring—so early, in fact, that I find it worrisome. Hardly into the second week of March, and we have already experienced 70s Fahrenheit. Next week, even higher. When I drive by the new property—and I do so frequently, for a soothing stroll across the wooded acres and the cornfield out back, or dipping into the cool grove of evergreens and pines—I am already witnessing the change of seasons.

I had first seen the property at the beginning of December 2011. It was love at first sight, no question. On the night I finally resolved to make the offer, meeting my real estate agent Ingrid there and sitting down at the kitchen table, it was January 2012, and outside the snow fell soft and silent on a lavender evening. Now, in March, ticking down the days to closing, I see spring flowers coming up everywhere, everywhere, in mad profusion. Along the house, along the stairway down from the drive, throughout the woods, alongside the pond, in random bunches in random places, a promise of flowering beauty very soon.

I am thrilled not to miss it, even as I worry about such a change in seasons. Our winter was anemic, a couple of lacy snows, quickly melted away. Now this premature spring, and I see the gray buckets hanging in rows along the maples that line the dirt road that leads to my Z Acres. Sap drips ever so slowly into the buckets.

I meet the farmer, one of my future neighbors, on my most recent visit to Z Acres. He is standing in the road, watching the buckets. I stop as I drive by, he waves at me, and I roll down my window to introduce myself. He brightens when I tell him I will very soon be living in the old red farmhouse, there on the bend in the road, just a glimpse if that through the trees.

“Name’s Steve,” he grins and extends a large hand.

I let his hand, rough and warm, enfold mine in a firm grip. “Zinta.” I can feel the years of hard work in such a hand.

“You let me know if you ever need a hand over there, hear?”

Those are his buckets, and every spring he taps the trees for maple syrup, he says. Sure, yes, he sells it, just stop on by in later weeks. He expresses his concern at these unseasonable temperatures; we should be seeing 40s, not 70s. Lack of frost weakens the sap, less sugar, and we can expect the maple syrup to be much more expensive and hard to find this year.

I wonder about all the many other negative effects this early spring will have on the land, on animals, on plants, on farming. On us. Now that I will be something of a farmer myself, hoping to achieve an organic and sustainable lifestyle on my ten acres, such concerns touch me on a deeper level of awareness.

That’s why I am moving here. To feel the earth, to renew my connection to it. Living in suburbia as I have for the past decades, with only the occasional gleeful vacation out to the wilderness to camp and hike, I have been as out of touch as most—and I don’t like that. It feels wrong if not downright dangerous.

I want to feel the pulse of the planet, join my lifeblood to the lifeblood of these pines and evergreens, these gentle slopes of the land covered with still bare-limbed trees. I am at least a little horrified but how little I know about Nature, even while I mouth the words that I love it. How can one love what one does not know? And know intimately?

For I am standing on the threshold of perhaps one of the greatest love affairs of my life. This is the Home of which I have dreamed since girlhood. Not polished, not pretty, not rich and fancy, but an old house in the woods, the spirit of ages worn and seeped into its walls, and surrounded by an expanse of land, the eye drawn out and out toward the distant horizon, uninterrupted by any sign of civilization.

When I stood out in the cornfield this past Saturday, the stalks now dry and yellowed, bent and broken, and gazed up at the blue sky—two immense hawks circled overhead. I held my breath to see their wingspan, watched their easy dip on the high wind. The night I came here to make another decision, negotiations spinning between me and the seller, I looked at this same patch of sky and looked for answers. The hawks brought them to me. Seeing them wheel in easy circles against the cloudless sky made my heart sing. They felt like a welcome wave home.

Eleven days and the eleventh one near over. Soon, I will come home to this place every day. I will see stars pop out in this great sky that I haven’t seen since I've been far north, now faded away behind the orange glow of a suburban sky. I will see a moon hung up in the tree tops, blazing white or honey golden. I will see the night grow dark, deep and dark, the roads unlit by street lights anywhere. Here, the nights are true, and the animals hidden in the woods, those mysterious rustlings and tweetings and scurryings and leafy scramblings I have already noted on evening visits, will become my expected night music.

I will come to know them. I will learn every day and every night what this place is, how it breathes, how it moves, how it quiets and heaves again. I will come to recognize each tree, learn its name, and whisper my own to each one in coming years. I will work the earth, sink my hands into rich dirt, and learn how to coax both beauty and sustenance from it.

I will make mistakes and silly blunders, I will get tired and worn, I will scrape my knees and scratch bug bites. I will toss stones into the pond and watch for the rise of fish. I will sweat and gasp with the many tasks, because love costs, it always does, but I will pay that price gladly.

I have so much to learn here. A woman with white hair, I will be a babe in these woods, baffled and eager to know and understand its ways. Bit by bit, I will form that connection, tie myself to this earth, those invisible threads through which flow the electric currents of life.

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