Crossing to Safety

Bean & Bantam: One day's harvest from the garden, from six or eight plants.

We have this patch of garden, these apple trees, and those woods, to hold onto while we choose.  Sometimes, I think, that is taken for granted.

We have this place we call our own, to garden, to plant fruit trees and raise children and chickens, and we haven’t ventured here from all that far away.  We haven’t sailed across oceans, migrating as my Dutch ancestors did in the seventeenth century to America.   We haven’t traveled here from another home, driven by war. My grandparents did, my grandmother a woman traveling alone with her children, my mother and uncles, traveling through Europe by train during World War II, my grandfather away, in the thick of it.  I heard war stories as a child that would make your hair stand on end, but I haven’t gone through it myself.  I can only imagine the journey, and remember the stories about the attempt to cross the perilous and enter into safety, to shelter from bomb blasts under piles of suitcases tumbled into and out of a targeted train, picking a way through bomb craters, swims through icy rivers and long roads.  The risk, the danger, the war stories that, as a child I grew impatient hearing over and over from one particular grandparent, trying to settle in  for the long story, not being able to quite resign oneself to hearing it again.  Many of those, I’ve mainly forgotten, but I do remember some, mainly the ones from those that rarely spoke of it.  I’m lucky to be here.

With the recent news coverage of refugees in my mind, I’ve felt mixed about posting pictures of baskets overflowing with tomatoes and apples, about posting pictures of the extraordinary abundance this year.  Those that do not have a place to call their own, those even who are fleeing from war, their stories recall memories of stories long ago.  I feel just one or two steps removed, filled with empathy, unable to help in any real way, thankful for what I have, and a sense of horror for what others have lost, or risk losing, in their attempt to cross to safety.  A small boy in a red tee shirt and blue shorts, the same age as my son, indelibly etched in my memory from the news this week.   And, Matthew Price of the BBC tweeting about a walk from Budapest, for eight hours or more, with a Syrian mother, pushing her two year old in a stroller, her four year old beside her, holding her hand (and Mr. Price’s kindness in lifting him up onto his shoulders and walking the rest of the way with them, in the dark by the side of the road with other refugees).

As the seasons move forward, as the months and years go by, as we make our way through life, this land is ours for a bit, and to have that, to know where we will sleep and what we will next eat, we are fortunate, more than we may realize.

Bean & Bantam: Apples and plums from our own trees

In the garden, September is a leg of the garden journey, the month we travel into fall’s rush of leaves and eventual stark branches, and then on to winter and long nights lit by candles. September in the garden is a month of departures and slow good byes.  The lush garden season comes to an end this month; we do not extend the season with sheets or cold frames, or hoop houses (yet).  It’s been hot, and dry for the past two weeks.  The cucumber leaves crisped, then the pumpkin leaves.  So dry, that the sunflower leaves wilted, as did the morning glory vines I planted to climb up them.  I hauled the hose over, and watered what I wanted to keep: the sunflowers, the morning glories, the rainbow Swiss chard and the kale.  The beans are too far gone.  The potatoes need to be dug, the plants long ago withered.  I pulled ripe jalapenos into a basket, and a final harvest of tomatoes.  I went through the pumpkins, and cut them from the vine, leaving a generous stem end to cure and dry.  The tomato plants were blighted, the leaves entirely brown, so once the tomatoes had been picked, the plants were uprooted and piled into the wheelbarrow, the wire tomato cages and stakes pulled and stacked.  Next year, we need tomato supports made of  2×4’s, if we grow this variety again (Big Beef).  I am not joking, I need serious tomato supports.  A lone cherry tomato is left, ‘Supersweet 100’ an indeterminate sprawling plant, the leaves still lush.  The corn plants cut, or pulled.  Last year, we left the corn to stand through October, a spooky seasonal end to the garden, but this year I want them gone, to better reveal the row of sunflowers with morning glories climbing.

I was driving home the other night, and a car pulled to a stop in the other lane, full of teenagers, their heads craned to the lane far in front of me.  I slowed, and stopped, unsure as to what the problem might be.  A back door opened, and a teenager in a red shirt, basketball-tall and gangly, stepped out and looked at the road, looked uncertainly at me.  I made a “go ahead, be my guest” gesture with my hand, waving him into my lane, in front of my  car, where he picked up a turtle that I could barely even see, and brought it all the way across the road.  I smiled and drove on once the road was clear.  People can be so kind when they choose to.

If only it were so easy the world over, and among human beings, as complex as they are.   If only we could make consideration, or mercy, mandatory. We must all reach up, reach down, and reach across to others. We are lucky to be here.  We are all, in our own way, crossing to safety, some on much more perilous journeys.

Wishing safe travels for all, and that all may cross to safety.  Fall abundance in VermontBean & Bantam: dehydrating apples

Bean & Bantam: Sun dappled shade, dappled chicken
Sun dappled shade, dappled chicken

#1000Speak for Compassion

We don’t have to engage in grand, heroic actions to participate in the process of change. Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world….” 

“The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.”  Howard Zinn

Today, February 20, is World Day of Social Justice as declared by the General Assembly of the United Nations.  “The General Assembly Recognizes that social development and social justice are indispensable for the achievement and maintenance of peace and security within and among nations and that, in turn, social development and social justice cannot be attained in the absence of peace and security or in the absence of respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms.”  Each year, different aspects of social justice are addressed. beginning in 2009 with poverty and hunger.

On a more individual level, today, February 20 is also the day that the group known as 1000Speak are posting on the topic of compassion. The idea of 1000Speak is to have a thousand people (or more!) writing on compassion, sharing their stories, their thoughts, and their acts of compassion with the idea of creating a ripple effect.  The idea was formed in January, and in less than two weeks over a thousand writers signed up.

I wrote a post on compassion that focused on how I struggle to negotiate the fine line between fear and action, in helping others and acting but at the same time not taking on more than I can reasonably handle. This line has to be negotiated each time the opportunity to act is recognized, sometimes lightning fast.  It’s a calculation on risk and the short and long term implications, even if just for that split-second before a choice is made. We have to each navigate our own way towards the world we want to live in, hopefully with compassion, honesty, and consideration for others.

I think that is where the possibilities in life are: in the negotiation we do each day, on the edge of action and on that precipice of hope and fear.  And so long as I can negotiate that line and take some sort of action, however small, then I feel I’m on the right track.  img_1140

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