Back to the land
Post #1421 • November 20, 2009, 12:50 PM • 33 Comments
In the comment thread on the watercolor of my cat, I quoted a Gene Logsdon line about preferring cows to people, and it prompted me to go look up what he's up to these days. Towards the end of graduate school and for a few years thereafter, I read a lot of literature associated with the back-to-the-land movement - Thoreau, the Nearings, Wendell Berry, and Logsdon. It's a little hard to explain why a person who had spent his entire existence in cities felt any draw to rural living, or believed that he could have made a reasonable attempt at doing so with a non-existent set of germane skills. Neverthless that reading made a lasting mark on me. I continue to adore Thoreau - we've only been awaiting the right circumstances for a trip to Walden, not even an hour from here. We had my mother read from a Wendell Berry poem at our wedding. And I remember ideas from Logsdon's The Contrary Farmer a decade after I read it.
Logsdon, it turns out, is blogging. This surprised me a bit to discover, as Berry, for one, loathes technology, and has expressed a desire to not see his work reproduced in electronic mediums. Logsdon has a more pragmatic approach - he would like to see more people discover the joy of rural living, and understands that certain technologies may help make that happen, as long as they don't become financial burdens, or worse, ways of thinking in their own right. He touched upon art in a recent post:
It is no surprise that gardening and farming inspire art. The partnership between nature and humans in the act of producing food can't help but produce beauty too. A shelf full of home-canned vegetables means food security, but the real reason we delight in them is that the food just looks so pretty sitting there in rows in the cellar. The act of laying by food is its own reward even before we eat the stuff.
The whole post is worth your time. I've written about Logsdon before in regard to his book Wyeth People, and I see that I've alluded to my flirtations with rural life there as well. I did build that computer, and I'm typing on it as we speak. (When the power supply died, a friend of mine and I were able to diagnose the problem and fix it for $40. Doing things yourself has lasting benefits.) Supergirl has expressed an interest in raising some chickens one day. Art has been a consistently urban phenomenon for six centuries, but it has never before had the Web. We may find ourselves out in the country yet. Rural land in New England continues to be as cheap as, well, dirt, and I've figured out that one of the secrets to a long-term career in art is keeping a low overhead. Now that John has put the Bavinger House in my head, a nacreous surface has begun to form around a similar project.
But then, we just took the dog for a walk in the Boston Common, dodging the rain showers, admiring the leaves on the grass, paying our respects to Robert McCloskey, and I wondered how we could live anywhere else. So it isn't time. Not yet.