Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Somewhere in Time

Happens we were somewhere else for two weeks in late October.  Visiting people we love who live on 40 acres in the woods, in a great straw-bale house they built, where they grow much of their own food, home-school their children, and take in rescue cats, horses and ponies.  By choice, they live simply, without Internet or television.  Although I did sneak out to a Starbuck's a few miles away to drink coffee and send and
receive emails and columns, our lives there largely involved cats, baseball, walks, and a couple of excursions to buy blueberry bushes from a wonderful old man who was selling them cheap.   There was also lots of laughter, apples to be picked nearby, a few long talks, and extensive discussion (among the females in the house, anyway) running up to the daughter's first professional haircut, which went swimmingly according to all the reports I received.

Meanwhile, the New England foliage was putting on its annual show.
The View from Home
Leaf cluster above the Batting Cage

Foliage near the Pond

Soft Landing


Their 12-year-old son is obsessed by baseball.  No matter the weather, the big field out front, sloping and uneven and littered with horse dung as it may be, serves as a practice field and the site of a variety of games -- wiffle-ball, something like what we used to call one-a-cat, and a game called "two-ball" I'd never heard of before.   Just to the far end of the house was a battery-operated electronic batting cage the boy had purchased from money made selling food at a small stand by the road, self-made slingshots at crafts fairs, and what-not.  At 12 he's so capable and so diligent that he had enough money to lend his older sister part of the money she needed to buy her first car.  His father works well with his hands, and the boy's
accomplishments are legend: given a drawing of a horse, he turned it into a wooden sculpture that took "Best of Show" at a regional 4-H gathering.  On another occasion, when his mother and sister were going outside to paint, he retreated indoors and quickly fashioned an easel for them.

He's also addicted to baseball.   Saturday mornings we froze our tails off attending Fall League
double-headers.  Some evenings we ended up at practices at a huge indoor athletic facility in a nearby town.  But while we were there his stats from his previous league came in, and he'd hit .750 or something.

The Saturday morning games featured more walks than they should have, and a rather uneven level of talent, but lots of energy, paid coaches, and the familiar feel
of baseball in autumn with fans' encouraging patter and the between-games memories and tall-tales exchanged by men who'd played baseball here in their own youths, and now watched their sons play.   This fellow had been drafted by the Yankees, this one had once stood on that mound and thrown the ball over the center-field fence, etc.  I thought of Don, the boy's grandfather, who had played in the Cape Cod League -- a mark of excellence here -- and been drafted in his turn, but now lives in Osaka, watching Japanese baseball.

It was like stepping back in time, because I too was so obsessed with baseball many years ago, but also because my life has drifted away from baseball, from any community remotely like the one we visited, and from New England autumns.

Mandy's New World
Too, the life we lived for two weeks was from another time: although of course there was power (solar-power backed by a generator when necessary), much of the household went to bed earlier than most 21st Century human beings do.

The kids -- mostly the boy -- made breakfast every morning.  At 12 I probably could have boiled water for coffee, and maybe could have fried a couple of egg if for some reason I'd had to, but he's starting to bake pies.  And they do all this on an old wooden stove, the sort that folks their grandparents' age have seen only in old photographs.

The adults, both capable, bright, college-educated folks, chose this life and live it.  They could have professional jobs elsewhere; but he fixes and
occasionally builds houses, working hard, and she coaches athletic teams (like her father), teaches art, helps a jewelry craftsman sell his work at fairs, and plows the snow in the winder.  And they sell firewood.  And educate the kids.

Besides their little road-side vegetable stand, the kids were busy making money by parking cars for a barn dance we went to, and the girl babysat a couple of kids a few miles away a couple of nights a week.   My own interest was in capturing what I could of autumn in New England in images.

"Ain't I picturesque?"

Maybe Tomorrow

The New Arrival

I kind of fell in love with the old folks we bought the blueberry bushes from.  Bare-root things in a nursery cost a bundle.  These were mature bushes, mostly taller than I am, of various species, in excellent condition -- at $30 apiece.

We went over to the farm one afternoon in the family pickup.  The farmer, 81, was an interesting man.  He knew blueberries, and had had great long rows of them, but was committed to getting rid of them all.  He needed to care for his wife, and
they were going to have to move soon.  He said selling the blueberry bushes gave him something to do; and I like to think he wanted to find good homes for them, too.   His wife, he told us, had baked a wonderful apple pie the previous day.  Then, this morning, she had come in with an apple and mentioned baking a pie.  He hadn't had the heart to remind her she'd baked one the previous day, and just told her the apple looked so very beautiful that maybe they should just enjoy it the way nature brought it to them.  She agreed.

He takes care of her -- and she of him.
There was a sweetness to them.  I respect folks who've maintained a long and caring marriage, which seems an important accomplishment in a time when concentration and consistency seem as rare as truly fresh air and pure water.  I respect 81-year-old guys who are still clambering around on uneven ground, explaining the different bush varieties, and driving a Kubota around to dig up the bushes and drop them with great precision into the truck-bed or trailer.

I guess I'm also grateful to them for these images:

Leaving the Farm

Once the blueberry bushes have been loaded, he takes her hand and they walk back to the house, holding hands, with their beloved corgie happily accompanying them.

At any rate, I wanted to post this so that our photographer friend Hanz can show it to the kids next time they're over there visiting him.  A few quick images from a great couple of weeks.


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