I was in love with the work, too, despite its overabundance. The world had always seemed disturbingly chaotic to me, my choices too bewildering. I was fundamentally happier, I found, with my focus on the ground. For the first time, I could clearly see the connection between my actions and their consequences. I knew why I was doing what I was doing, and I believed in it. I felt the gap between who I thought I was and how I behaved begin to close, growing closer to authentic. — Kristin Kimball
It was 12:20 last night when my eyelids finally fluttered closed for so long that I had to put the book down and sleep. I suspect this happens – this awake far longer than intended situation – most often to people when they read great novels. . . but for me, at least at this point in my life, it’s farming books, specifically farming memoirs, that have this effect.
I picked up a copy of Kristin Kimball’s The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food and Love while I was in Vermont, at this little bookstore in Montpelier that had a whole section on farming and homesteading. It took immense amounts of willpower for me to walk out with just this book and not a selection on timberframing, raising chickens, organic vegetables, and other farm-related tomes. (This bookstore also had a turtle named Veruca in the backroom; I really appreciate this change on the “bookstore cat” concept.)
Because we were camping and I don’t really like holding a flashlight while I read (and because, if I’m honest, Angry Birds had a hold on me, even in a tent), I didn’t start reading this book until I got back to Virginia. But then, as soon as I started, I was hooked by this story of a New York City woman who falls in love with a Pennsylvania farmer, of how they decided to marry and start their own farm in the Adirondacks (very close to where K and I camped), of the trials of raising cattle and learning to harness work horses. All of it, I was wrapped in entirely.
Now, I’m not going to farm this way. I won’t be slaughtering animals or raising CSA shares. But this life of authenticity, where my focus is on things that have immediate and direct consequences, that’s what I want. I live so much in my head where I am simply imagining what will happen or trying to figure out problems that don’t have a physical shape that even now, as Dad and I talk about fencing and pole barns, I feel myself opening up and living more into my whole self, not just my mind. It’s really glorious.
Kimball’s book is also beautifully written. She describes a friend helping them get up hay like this:
Neal, the largest of the Owenses, could pick up a fifty-pound bale by its strings with his thick fingers and fling it in a graceful arc to its place on the wagon. He made the action look effortless, even delicate, like a girl tossing rose petals. The afternoon light turned the fields golden, and everyone’s skin looked tawny.
Isn’t that lovely? Can’t you just see that? Don’t you just want to be there?
One of the themes of this book is the circle of gift, a concept I’ve thought a lot about over the past few years, as I wish for, long for, work for an economics in my life that is built around trade rather than cash. Over and over in this story, Kimball and her fiance are given things – plows and livestock and food – and it is these gifts that, in a very real way, enable them to live the life they dream.
So today, I have a gift for one of you. A few weeks ago, Hippocampus Magazine did a giveaway on Twitter, and I won a book of my choice. I chose The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball, and then promptly forgot about the choice and bought the book for myself (an affirmation of my desire most definitely). Yesterday, my copy from Hippocampus arrived, and I decided to give it away to one of you.
If you’d like to receive a brand new copy of Kimball’s memoir, please leave a comment here explaining what makes you feel most authentic or a gift that you have received that gave you just what you needed at just the right time. If you’d like additional chances to win, you can tweet, blog, or Facebook this giveaway – just let me know you’ve done so in the comments. I’ll draw the winner this Wednesday, July 11th and announce it here on the blog.
This book, much like Jenna Woginrich’s Barnheart, reminds me who I am – a writer, a farmer, a dreamer. I’d like to share it with you.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to tend my chickens.