From the roost, the chickens inaugurate the Memorial Day Weekend. The weekend is about remembering the men and women who have given their lives in our wars, and I will do that. For me, it also means taking some time to remember the parts of my life that I have lost, changed or wish to remember. I do not value nostalgia, and once I learned that everyone in the world is as frightened of things as I was and sometimes am, I have stopped telling my pity and struggle stories, or tried, and also learned to say goodbye to those parts of me that slept through life, and shrank and diminished my existence. I will remember those things this weekend also.
Sometimes, I get to witness something that is much larger than what it appears to be. The burned-out hulk of the historic Bedlam Corners General Store – it inspired the name of my farm – has been sitting at the center of town for two years, falling apart, inhabited by pigeons, rotted by rain, snow and wind, exposed to the world, an open sore at the heart of a community. This is literally a festering sore. The store has been the center of the community forever, and the center of the community is now an ugly 150 year-old heartbreak.
In this town, as in many rural towns, government is rarely seen or heard, and doesn’t do much. The store just seemed to be falling apart a bit more each day. The local culture seems to prize being left alone as much as anything else. Thom and Linda Janidlo passed by the store the same as the rest of us, but they couldn’t sit idle any longer and organized an impromptu meeting last week. I thought they were naive, ridiculous, really. The damage was so great, the community so disconnected from it, it just seemed impossible.
But it did not seem that way today. More than a score of people showed up, bringing drills, shovels, tools, food. They shoveled dirt, pigeon droppings, debris. They hauled away a half dozen dumpster loads of trash, boarded up open windows, pried open doors. They worked for hours, quietly, without a moment’s complaint or difficulty. Everyone seemed to know what to do, shared the work, divided responsibility, wanted to do more. Did more.
These were quiet people, not used to being photographed, not interested in talking much or taking credit. They just worked for hours in the hot and sticky sun. I spent much of the day with them, and was touched and moved. Watching them haul things around while I took photos, I felt guilty, as I sometimes do. But when I saw the photos, I was glad it was recorded. I was doing my own work. The meaning of grass roots, I think, a reminder of the great American notion: see what the individual can do. Congratulations, Thom and Linda. You did more than you know. Album going up on Facebook.
Come for a minute, into my world, a sea of flowers, Irises as they fall into my trap. Lying on the edge of the garden, watching the sun drop, I am like a fox in the woods, waiting and watching, still and patient. And then, at 5:02, accompanied by bugs, ants, bees and hummingbirds, the sun pops out of the gathering clouds, and lights up the Irises light a Broadway spotlight. I was ready.
I came across this very contented couple fishing near the Battenkill in Salem,N.Y. I pulled over and asked if I could take their photo. They said sure, as people do around here, not yet as suspicious as our urban and suburban counterparts. They said they were fishing for trout, and then throwing them back. It’s the sitting here together that we love, they both said. A perfect way to spend any part of a holiday. Might join them over the weekend.
This is one of the loveliest farms in Washington County, one of my favorite farms, in Shushan, one of my favorite places. It seems almost timeless to me.