Only after dinner

About once a day I sit down to write a post about how we could work together and across friendships and neighborhoods and families create our own food systems to potentially feed, house, and employ us all endlessly when the moment inevitably comes that we need.

I’ve farmed long enough to know we could dent the grocery bills of hundreds just making use of our backyards and right of ways and waste space. Hell, we’re already burning gas to keep down the grass. Crops or ruminants may actually be cheaper maintenance.

If we had that sort of back-pocket resource, we’d all be so much more free to pursue our dreams and personal agendas. If we knew we were fed, employed by a few hours of chores and housed, kept, even if no one wanted to take a chance on hiring us or God forbid the economy does what it always does, by design, every decade, recedes. (Considering America has never reached full employment, even at its best, hasn’t our economy been in prolonged depression from initiation?)

I want to write this post, but I know the reply, I know almost no one hears farm and thinks freedom. But I’m telling you, rice and milk was the great epiphany of Buddha, and Christ filled his career with food production and economic analogies and culminated it gathered around a dinner table, where equality is implied, reflexive, no longer good or right, where loving your neighbor is as simple as passing the plate. Equal share. You ever notice this? If you ever make it to the dinner table with a person, how the inequalities and social divides and economic distinctions disappear. No one divvys out portions based on anyone’s net worth.

Maybe I’m crazy. Maybe the answer waits at the end of all these earmarked budgets and policy debates and legalese liturgy. But I don’t feel crazy. And I’ve heard society sputtering ever since I came of age out of it into the world we left out of it. The real world. Universal, base need. Hunger. Thirst. Need for shelter. Starving for the culture that surrounds these things.

So, to sum up, every day I want to write this post that ends in dinner. That dinner becomes our primary goal. Food, the greater movement. All conversations, talks, arguments over divides and distinctions, only after dinner.

Toys

When people don’t think on timelines they think combines are a more practical way to harvest wheat. One farmer can go out and clean up a hundred acres without breaking a sweat. Until one of the blades break. Or some component deep down in the blocky engine. A tire retires on the early side of evening from a nice rusty screw stuck in its hide.

A sharp sickle at the end of a stick, what breaks first on it? Makes a human like a tree with a strong trunk and wide shade casting shoulders. Some of the most hardworking people I’ve ever known were afraid of shovels. Afraid of going slower. Garden hoes and self propelled push mowers.

Lovers of gadgets and vinyl seats and hands vibrated so long everything you touch for an hour afterward feels feather soft, or hands numbed altogether, blood shaken out from muscle clamped veins like clay spits out rain.

Toys. Tools.

This job would be easier if we had a skid steer. We should wait on the Bobcat. Hey man, if you let me bring over my gas powered stump parter we could stack this whole mess up faster. Until that rubber fuel line with the imperceptible cracks and spaces decides to come apart altogether. What about when you don’t slip your hand out quick enough, and you lose the most costly game of rock paper scissors ever. Just so we’re clear, we are always the paper.

Engines are the ugliest, dirtiest, rankest form of immortality ever engineered by mortal hands. The inspiration behind them seems the thinking of toddlers, banging blocks together, and having the realization one could turn wheels and tend flowers, if we could only trap and harness continuous revolutions of banging blocks.

I’ve always had bad luck with having people work with me, because they almost always go straight for my toys. Chainsaw. Weedeater. Tractor hovered over a finish belly mower. I’ve seen them break. There are thousands of dollars in contingencies associated with almost every single one of them that are invisible to anyone who has not paid for it.

This is why thinking on a timeline is so important. There is a point where the horse and steer surpass the tractor and combine and no till seed drilled planting and acres of insect and non-soybean armageddon. What we might call old technology, is a more redemptive, tried and tested form of immortality, with recognition of limitation and need built in. No moment of anger or surprise when the shovel handle breaks off right at the neck. No matter how slow I chop, or weak my grip, or strength in back, or numb my feet and fingers become, I have the means to repair all of them, or an ability to self-repair is built in to them.

If you can’t see why economy loves gas powered and oil blooded technology replacing wood handled and everlasting iron tipped tools, I don’t have the time or space here to teach it.

It is clear. It is comparing 10W-40 to water. Without a combine, how many people would be needed to tend those hundred acres. Just what is this half a million dollar machine intended to replace, a bunch of time and energy and stress, because in that regard, it is very much hit or miss. But consistently, regularly, dependably, it replaces what used to be an entire community of employment, housing, and opportunity surrounding agriculture. A massive, ever-expanding, predominately cashless economy built on trade, interdependency on land management and food production, cheap simple machinery and lots and lots of animals and people pursuing common ends.

A true example of something that fulfills all the expectations of the word sacrifice is impossible if not thinking on a timeline. A lasting farmer, in charge of an operation that will foreseeably still be running in two, or three hundred years, supporting a family, and a community, and a nation of communities, is impossible without making sacrifices today for that eventual tomorrow.

For all the modern conveniences, the bells and whistles of high tech agriculture, the returns and prices and community interest in farming is lower now than it ever was back when our great grandparents were chasing mules and lugging buckets of water up from the creek bottom.

What’s different is the prioritization they placed on timelines. Our ancestors sacrificed comfort, ease, access, because what they were building toward was greater than anything they could imagine within their lifetimes.

Whereas in stark contradiction, today, we buy gadgets, tools, air conditioned cab tractors so that one farmer can comfortably do the work of hundreds, and pay thousands and go into debt to repair their great giant community substitute. And to think I hear awestruck and wonderment from farmers about how little people understand what they do, or seem to care at all about the source of their food. And I know why. Because whenever you talk to a farmer, the first thing they tell you about is their toys.

My Ecosystem

Coffee. Water. Beer.
Sweet and salty breakfast bar.
Day starts with overeasy sunrise and sticky fingers.

Must destroy something in a way that fulfills it.
Must express something that will never be more pleasant than in its expression.

Enough fabric I don’t feel naked.
Hard enough boots my feet stay soft.

Then.

I move menial amounts of earth and machinery
until I can rationalize something a little more than trivial was accomplished.

So when my shoulders and back ache I can say what for.
Pretend I really know. And do it again. Tomorrow.

Coffee.
Water.
Beer.

Splinters

Little board sliver slithers soft forked maple fangs into the palm of my hand.
It bit me. This thing I am ripping. Stripping.
Nibbling no more than an eighth an inch a pass.
Snake maple.
Spider poplar.
Rabid dog mahogany.
Cherry red in the tooth.
Knotty walnut.
Creamy peanut butter pine
with rotten streaks of jelly.

The Stage – New Paint

Each scuff on the stage is some poor character’s misstep.
Clunky unfamiliar shoes. Heavy heeled.
Scarred the thick black matte some poor soul was paid to paint.
So many scuffs in the same space seem to create a scar.
A gouge. A place gone bare.
Where now the plywood can be seen.
Winking.
Like a relative.
Like a minister of some kind closing only one eye with a headnod.

A family made up solely of the unfamiliar.
Strangers. Who share blood. When we squeeze the egg.
Globs of it left out glistening on the floor.

So many scars and you start to see real damage.
Splintered fibrous tissue torn up through the paint.
Same missteps.
Sudden stops.
Wide eyed wonder and anchor jawed acknowledgment.
Brakes struck down through the boots now officially digging into the structure.
The lumber-boned and lead-skinned body of our theater. Footsteps.
Stumbles. Outright tumbles. Foot falls. Close calls.

Memory.

So many misdirected footsteps wearing unfamiliar shoes.

Then new paint.

What is new paint put up against the past.
Scuffed. Broken. Peeled up.

But if we didn’t paint it every year
there’d be no stage left.

Little Red Tractor

Chiggers infest my shoulders. Poison ivy bumps lie dormant like volcanoes
threatening to burst-break open lava fields of radiant rash. Bruise-dents
in knuckles from slipping off wrenches. Been putting work in.

And like writing. My hands show it.

Callused fingers grip lovingly around a sharp liquid filled pen.
Cage of blue bars with letters hooked like fingers
through the chain-link notebook of time.
Yellowed paper. Burping up banana and water and beer.
Acrid washed pallet.
Me breathing through my nose.

We turned locked bolts I disbelieved would budge.
Stretched taught rubber bands beyond the point of breaking
against thin grooved rust red tracts fit centered
on the seven spoked PTO pulley wheel.

Mowed paths all over one hundred and thirty dirty overgrown acres.
Offered up this heavy blade spinning prayer. And saw it answered.

A baby cottontail bounded headlong terrified just in front of tri-grooved
fourteen inch diameter unpowered steering thin black tires. There was a time

I didn’t thank God for cutting things down

like they were made for it.
Smiled over it.
Like I had somehow reclaimed it.
Or made it clean.

I didn’t. I just cut it short. Laid it down.

Edited it.

Marked up land with a little red tractor
like a professor
tears into a paper with a red ink pen.

The Plate

Here folks is my confession. I am the memories of lots of things I’ll never have the courage to tell you about. I love you all the same. With an honestness, and an innocence, that I don’t doubt could hold ten thousand pounds. I have hated myself. I have hated you. I love you all the same.

I struggle, on a daily basis, doing simple things, like smiling at sullen faced strangers and forgiving my neighbor’s dog as I would my own. I’ve put peanut butter clean through the bread on innumerable occasions. My fault for liking crunchy. When I’m looking hard at something that needs to be done, thinking hard, moving, working hard, I find I start to talk hard to the people I love, like you were a stubborn piece of wide white oak or dried on oatmeal left in a coffee mug for a day. I use the scratchy metal brush on you.

I scrape the fine China of other people’s porcelain feelings.

But I leave them clean. And the white oak planed and routed.
And I eat just plain ugly peanut butter sandwiches with the doughy battered up bread.
And I still lick the spoon.

Clean.

My confession.

Bleach and soapy water.

I am a bad person.

The way a dish is dirty. Like laundry. I am ruined. By my very purpose.
I talk hard. I’m way too sensitive and serious. Unforgiving. Made wretched by the wrenching of only all my own devices. I’m biased. And wrong. About a great many things. Yet eloquent. And convincing. I am a talker. And all talkers are sensitive
about being told they’re all talk.

I confess I’m not immune to that.
So I do more than I thought I ever could to stay a step ahead of my greatest fear about myself.

All talk.

Yet. That is what it means to confess. Not to do. Not to offer. Just to speak out loud.
Memories. Thoughts. Worries. Daydreams. Candy kisses and spellbound wishes.
Saying them changes them. Changes everything. Just saying it.

A good confession. No.
It is not your next hot meal.

But it might be the plate it gets served on.

A Thousand Thoughts – Freelance Writer

Writing is not an easy trade. If you’ve ever read anything I’ve written that had any kind of impact, interesting, moving, even annoying or dissonant, it’s because I have practiced at this every day since I was young. I’m continuing my education pursuing a graduate degree in creative writing. And I’m not afraid to say it, I’m good. Frayed around the edges. Diamond self-banished to the rough. But diamond all the same.

Reach out to me, let’s have a conversation,
I might be able to help, whatever the issue.

For all my faults, I have formed at least a thousand thoughts.

I have more than enough to share.

Want – A poem mistitled Love.

I want love the way a single breeze makes all of summer bearable. Dryly washes warm from minds. Heat off shoulders. Tickled sunlight into nibbling instead of gnawing. I want love. Outward. Give. The way I want to live. Kind of already caught up in it and maintaining a status quo before I even know what it really is I really have to live for. Three. Two. One way I love is by biting my tongue. Quetitude. Silace. I brood. Like I just bit a lemon. Clearly thinking all about how I feel about it. But it isn’t citrus, is it? Love. Four letters. Three forms. Two directions. And one great big excuse to crowd out all other excuses. You’re never let off over-easy again. Hard time. Still not hard. Like boiled eggs. Soft as hell. Still stiffer than calcium cradled saliva clear and sunlight yellow centered. Hard time. Beneath a salt shaker. For bites. Three’s the leftovers. Too left over. One rotten stomach. I want to love the way Pepto-Bismol coats the throat and pink lines the gut like in those commercials. I want to be sick. Just so I can take medicine for it.

Labeled love.