It's not a perfect metaphor.

Friday, July 30, 2010


Eyes open. Early morning embraces me, an indiscriminate lover of anyone willing to meet it. I don't know what I will find here.

Suddenly I am happy. My arms are sore soon enough but they are compulsive in and of themselves. They move quicker than my mind but never quick enough, I think. My understanding is sacrificed to the necessity of swift work. How did that pile of crops disappear so fast? Because they had to, the Knowing Voice answers, and because you are more than you think you are.

Pick it up, he says, and points to the trowel on the ground. Dig. I lean down, my knees pushing into the dusty path and creating space for me there. My arms reach out but what they grab is kohlrabi. I tug until I hear the satisfying sound of roots leaving the dirt. One vegetable drops from my hand and I must stretch across the bed to retrieve it. Tomato plants and their branches sag over my back and head, blocking the light and sky from my view. The aroma down here, in my army crawl position, is like too much incense in a small room. I am dizzy but I keep wriggling forward, tearing weeds from in front of me as I go. Finally I can't take the beautiful stench anymore and stand up, blinking. The weight of dozens of turnips pulls at my arms. The bag over my shoulder is destined for the cooler and as I walk into it, my eyes look for an empty corner. The darkness makes me think any one of them is eligible, but I know better. I reach around, trying to feel out a solution, and something grabs my hand. It starts to sting and I stop picking beans for a moment, just a moment, and sit back in the field under the bright sun to stare at the spider bite that is becoming a red lump. I rub my finger over it, curious, and plunge the stricken limb into some cold water. Out of the sink comes a bunch of carrots, and then beets, and then radishes. Each must be categorised by size and beauty, and then strangled with elastic. The flicking and snapping hurts my hands and my ears and finally I turn to place them on the table. The wood is filthy so I wipe down the surface before I place a steaming hot saucepan on it. I need pepper, and salt, and water, and what should I do about a salad? They'll all be coming soon. Hurry, hurry, cutlery and glasses. I run to the door; I need to harvest herbs for this dish. Out into the sunlight I go, and scoop up baby. He is escaping again, off to the gravel driveway or the hammock or the tubs of water used to rinse dirty kale and swiss chard. Round and around we go, swinging and laughing and sometimes biting when we're not being well behaved. He wants to stay outside so we do flips on the hammock and run around the porch in a fragmented game of hide and seek. When I run back to meet him at the back door, I find my dirty hat on the ground. Face cast downward, I place it back onto my head. In front of me is a small hole with potatoes scattered inside it. I rummage about in the soil for more and then crawl onto the next place. The thump of the potatoes tossed over my shoulder into a basket is satisfying enough to merit more scrounging. And then the call to come in to lunch is sounded and I ask "what did I do all morning?"

There are foods in front of me that I would never have assumed were for my mouth or my stomach. People are leaning forward over the table, watching me. Eat them, they push, and I do. Relief rubs my shoulders and strokes my hair as I nod in agreement.

I awake, now, and rub my eyes. My hands are comprised of only dirty skin, cuts and callouses. When I cry the tears of someone still drunk on sleep, they are infused with specks of soil. I smile and reach for my hat. The tent glows with the promise of the day outside and I have another chance to meet it. The dream is waiting for me.

Can I burn the mazes I grow?

There are a lot of things I shy away from on this blog. Talking about the rough times, for one, is something I tend to lean towards even when I'm trying my hardest to be honest. But I want to read this back one day and know that it is somehow a true depiction of the person I am now, even edited the way it is, and so this entry is necessary for the purpose. It may, however, seem like something of a non-sequiter.

This trip was meant to be about growing (metaphorically, that is, although I understand that all the vegetable farming might point you toward the literal). I have some issues that need big time sorting out and I wondered if coming across the world might be able to help me with that. It seems that, with at least one of them, it has.

I suck with men. I mean that. I am gawd awful, utterly and hopelessly inept. The only close, long term relationship I have had with any man without a single massive blunder on my part is with my father. That fellow is one of the brightest lights in my world and I think between us we've managed a fairly healthy interaction for over nineteen years now. Any other man I've had consistent contact with for any length of time has ended up being hurt by me in some way. Or, if not that, I've managed to royally piss him off at some point. I can't get along with gents and it's really difficult for me to tell you why. Mostly 'cause I ain't sure myself.

These "issues" or projections or whatever the hell it is that makes me verbally abusive or emotionally manipulative toward the unfairer sex came to a head recently. Or, at least, they came up in my head in a way that made me examine and contemplate them. I think I mentioned Monsieur Astrophysicist in a previous entry? He worked with me on one of the farms? Well, the night that I got relatively sloshed I forced him to tell me his real opinion of me. And one of the things that came out was that he thinks I have issues with men that need resolving so I can, well, be healthy, happy and a decent human being. I know it sounds like an obvious statement but while it's always been a glaring omission when I list the important people in my life and next to no masculine names apply, I'd never really made myself think about my apparent hatred for men before. I guess it's something people back home accept about me and thus I never really tried to work through it.

I laughed about it, really, because truthfully I didn't think that there was a single man in this world that could make me reconsider my admittedly stubborn and ignorant point of view that sweet, smart, considerate people could only be female or homosexual or both. If this wasn't the case, I maintained, there was something strange about the individual I was forced to like and respect.

And then I met someone new.

How ironic that I met this person the day after I was told my greatest character flaw was my lack of love for men? But that's what happened. He was so perfectly imperfect, so captivating and- ultimately- kind, clever and unique, that I thought the universe was playing a joke on me. Wasn't this what I was warned about? This charming man? The one to make me re-evaluate all that I'd thought before, everything I thought I knew about "guys"? Alas, he was human. He was my friend, too, but so very human. I discovered unpleasant things about this individual almost as soon as I'd decided I could handle any weaknesses he revealed. I was crushed but somehow relieved. Did this make me right the first time around?

No, I don't think it did. The love I had for this man, for the fresh start he represented to me in the way I could see half of the human population, didn't just evaporate. Nor did my hope. I came out here to learn more about myself. And as much as it hurts to do so, I've unearthed some ugly aspects of my personality and now I need to examine them. These two men in my life recently, the first with his kind cruelty and the second with just his presence, have made me assess what I think about men and in what capacity I can see them in my future. Can I appreciate them as they are? See them as complete, and therefore completely damaged, as I am? And love them just the same?

One man, I think, has earnt that love, whole and entire. Not either of the ones I spoke of above. The one I betrayed at home before I left. I see that action now as one symptom of my fixation on male inadequacies, a shameful and ridiculous attempt at remaining distant. His forgiveness, though, and subsequent support, is maybe the most important part of what I've realised recently. I will forever feel that he gave me peace when I thought this could only be worked out in turmoil. It may be the first time I've said this properly to a man but thank you. Your presence in my life was essential to this one happiness, and, I think, many more.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Look up, look up, the sky is falling.

I've told you about this farm already, haven't? The splendiferousness of it? Well, I'm at week two and I guess I've found more to say.

I've fallen in love with several things here. Some people, with kind eyes and sweet smiles, and some... actions? I walk around covered in dirt basically all the time and I love it. My hands are perpetually smudged with soil, insect bites and small cuts; same goes for my arms and legs in general. I went to market like this on Thursday, my overalls folded down and filthy and my bare feet sizzling slightly on the pavement as I told customers the price of green beans.

I go barefoot more. I take off my glasses and brush my hair out of my eyes. I go swimming in my clothes. I throw unripe tomatoes at the boys I like when they fall off the plant I'm weeding. I trampoline. I talk to people first rather than waiting for them to approach me. I wonder where the day has gone because I was busy the whole time. I try to learn the asalatos. I relish the opportunity to dig potatoes and pick green beans. I play with the kittens that live on the deck. I say yes to basically everything asked of me (except gardening topless... I declined). I make fun of my accent and Canadians at the same time. I run through the field whenever I get the opportunity because it feels good to do it while I'm laughing.

There are some great things happening. I think I'ma go back to the first farm I was on on Monday. I miss them terribly and I'll be excited to see how the plants and the people have grown. Tomorrow I may be going to Niagara Falls. And I met this awesome girl who is moving to Australia around the end of the year to stay for a few years so yay! A travelling friend I will actually see again soon after going home. And a trip to NYC may be looming. But everything changes with me from day to day right now, so we'll see.

I can't say this was all a result of where I am. Some of it has been a long time coming, I think.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Down the rabbit hole.

Where was I? I was a week ago, I was unhappy, I was in this exact place. And yet I'm somewhere new, too.

The farm I am on is a wonderland and I am learning to acknowledge that. To describe what I can, briefly; there is a big house with many rooms and secrets and books. As with most good households, the kitchen is large and the centre of all action. We live there but we sleep somewhere else. There is a large outdoor eating area with picnic tables and chairs on a deck covered in kittens and people's belongings set down sometime, maybe after work or before breakfast on the way into the house, that may never be collected now. The main field is large and colourful (though most of those colours are, thankfully, shades of green) and there are archways or walls of vines breaking up what might otherwise be an endless monotony of rows and paths. There are hoofed animals in paddocks and there is an old greenhouse that has been re-designed as an aviary housing chickens, turkeys, peacocks, rabbits... There is a trampoline and a pool; these seem simultaneously seldom and oft used considering the fluctuation of both the farm's weather and population. All of these things surround the original house, but if you follow the road down the property a little way you can see more.

One of the inhabitants of the farm stays in a tipi which you will see by the forest. It is beautiful and its owner will let you look inside if you ask, which you really should. Nearby is one of the trailers where workers can stay and if you walk past that, into the trees, you will find another trailer and a couple of tents. The people who sleep in the woods do so by choice; they say the sound of the leaves and the breeze in the morning is rewarding and sleeping on Nature's floor allows a more peaceful slumber. But back on the road; there is an old barn that has been converted into a grand looking house and beside that, one last trailer. I sleep here, in the front room, with the windows open and a curtain for a door. My room was once a kitchen so I have many cupboards and a sink that doesn't work. I have only one roommate right now, in the room next to our bathroom. She is quiet and kind and I enjoy her company. Behind this trailer are two small wooden houses, single rooms in themselves, and these are the last dwellings on the property. Many people bike out to their bedrooms and back to the house to save time but I walk. Especially in the morning, I think it is something to be savoured. Dotted near the road are several other growing patches, and behind the converted barn are four or five greenhouses, in addition to many fruit trees. The sun in the sky during many mornings is already bright and hot by 6am, when I am walking. I watch the dew on the grass, knowing it will gone by only a couple of hours into work time, as will any memory I have of it being cool.

I did not want to like where I am at first. I don't know why that was. I have been shown kindness by the farm though; the field gives me satisfaction, the people give me many different kinds of gifts. The kitchen is always full of food and friends, the day is full of purpose. There is a woman here with her daughter who is very wise and kind and took us to a nearby Conservation area one day after work. We swam in the lake and sat on the grass and I felt warm all the time. Yesterday, the first day of our weekend off, she took us and another worker on a day trip. We book shopped and wandered a market and discovered another lake. On Friday night my roommate and I experienced our first art crawl together in the local town and got our fill of store-bought treats for the first time in a week. And now it is Sunday morning and already I have been taught how to make bread, good bread, by my hostess and the very same wise mother who has given me so much already.

I can't describe everything I wish to and that frustrates me more than I can say sometimes. But here I am, trying to show you with words what I have difficulty seeing with my eyes. My life here, right now, is good. Even I can feel that. I hope one day I can be more articulate about everything I experience. Clarity is what I desire, in life as well as my description of it.

That's not so unusual, is it?

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Farming in flip-flops.

Once again I write from a new farm about the previous one. I know; I suck.

It's funny how your impressions of people change when you live and work with them even for a short period of time. People appear so different when you first appraise them; by the time I left the last farm I had a totally different opinion of everyone from when I met them. Still positive, but more realistic and complete. I had been watching chick flicks with a successful 35-year-old astrophysicist and getting liquored up with my hostess and trailer-mates so whatever respect was had on both sides was totally gone. There are things I never could have thought of before that happened on that farm. Laying fence posts (badly...), whining (as in the dance, not that other thing), being tricked into eating pork (my hostess was mistaken about the nature of the dish, I guess), watching fireworks for Canada day at a small town park, being shocked repeatedly by an electric fence while scrubbing out a pig trough, trying Tim Hortons coffee and donuts etc. We had a laugh, it was crazy how quickly the barriers came down and all of us let go of pretense. Unfortunately we left getting trashed together until my last night so the next morning I hugged my hostess goodbye while she was in a significant amount of pain and I had to attempt, while travelling for a few hours, not to fall asleep or throw up on public transport (mission accomplished, in case you were wondering).

It's strange how your life works when you're WWOOFing; I didn't comprehend before that it's almost like being in the Big Brother house. Your whole world becomes the people you're staying and working with and you quickly forget that there's an outside world. Trips into town or elsewhere feel sort of alien in comparison to the easygoing and simple nature of what you're doing the rest of the time. An entire week goes by and all you've done is chat to people, worked on the farm a little, gone swimming, read a book, walked some and eaten a lot. But in that week you learn so much about people in general, about the intensive way you can get to know someone when you're around them so much after never knowing them before. I never could have imagined half the things I learned and that can only be a good thing, I think. We did some really fun stuff. There was an impromptu falafel night where we stood around and cooked and ate for hours in the kitchen. Mr. Astrophysicist had also WWOOFed in Africa and actually had coffee beans from the region in Ethiopia where coffee originates; we roasted them and tried it and it truly was good. I did more than my fair share of baking; it was just so nice to have a kitchen and there is an inherently satisfying feeling that occurs when you serve dessert and then tell people the delicacy they're eating is called "Chocolate Mug Pudding". We made trips into town and chatted the day away when we should have been weeding or digging or building fences (but talk is just so much more productive). I stopped doing my hardcore farm outfit act and relaxed (as everyone else was) to the point where I would wear leggings and flip-flops to feed the chickens. My hostess was so laidback she'd drive the tractor in Capri pants and flip-flops and go out to run errands and come back with Tim Hortons for us to have when we hadn't even made a dent in our WWOOFer hours yet. I was somewhat over-indulged at that farm, I think, which became evident yesterday morning after our bonfire night antics.

Now I'm somewhere new that was described to me by a few people as heaven, and though it is definitely a beautiful sight to behold I will have to reserve my judgement until I have been here at least 24 hours. It was a rocky start; in addition to being hungover I called the farm from the train station when I arrived and could not get an answer and thus waited an hour and a half and made good friends with a friendly, helpful taxi driver that I must owe a batch of cookies or something for how patient he was with me while I explained my predicament. Eventually though, my ride arrived and brought me here and everyone's been really lovely so far. I feel guilty for not remembering anyone's names but I'll get there, as always, and for now I'm just going to try to continue to recover, I think. I'm toying with the idea of where to go next, I was thinking Quebec somewhere but I dunno. My French is somewhat rusty (can things get rusty when they don't exist?) so that could prove interesting but I'll try. We'll see how I go here for now.

Au revoir (ha!)


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