The dirt in our garden is amazing: black, moist, deep. The old 1800s-era Jessaman homesite is nearby – in fact, our garden borders the old cellar hole and wraps around the now-filled-in well hole. We imagine that where we now grow our sustenance, the Jessaman’s, too, raised their crops, or perhaps their animals. It’s the best explanation we have for this extraordinary pocket of fertile soil.
This spring, I’ve expanded the garden by a few additional beds with the goal of growing more potatoes. The chosen area served as the “landing zone” for our cabin construction last year, and has spent recent seasons covered with brambles, wild strawberry, and virgin’s bower. Despite this, the weeding was fairly easy, a testament to the dirt beneath.
I graciously accepted this good fortune. Garden fork in hand, and bucket of weeds by my side, I was pleased to be running my fingers through dirt – and no bugs yet to buzz about my head! With a steady breeze and clouds racing overhead, it was with much contentment that my fingers searched out the roots that my eyes couldn’t see. The weeds seemed to give way willingly to this new growing space. Potatoes will do well here with ample depth to plunge their tubers. I’m hopeful – this will be an important winter crop.
As I go along, I pull out pebbles occasionally, but only one large stone. Time and time again, however, my hands pry free the remnants of bricks. As late afternoon turns to early evening and my work for the day is nearing completion, a collection of the ruddy-colored artifacts is stacked to one side. The sight of them calls up something nostalgic in me, broken bits suggesting a history that is largely lost.
As I methodically weed my way to an additional garden bed, my hands are engaged in the work of the present while my mind flits over designs and dreams for the future. Imagining plans for the season, the year, the decade…my hands grasp another brick, and re-focus my thoughts from the future to the present, and from the present to the past. Which dreams were these bricks a part of? How were they buried in this rich, dark dirt, the legacy of an unknown history from which we now benefit?
The reality of time’s passage is easy to witness with a glance about me – the old cellar beginning to fall in, the overgrown well filled with rocks, the wall of the old saw mill balancing delicately along the river bank, the scars from a logging operation prior to our moving onto the land, the clearing where we once lived in the yurt. As my fingers stumble upon another brick, I see Ryan and I in a chain of history, of dreams, of sweat – and perhaps, of potatoes - unfolding within this nook of a landscape.
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