Monday, September 12, 2011


I wish for a claw footed tub the way some people used to desire indoor plumbing, a vintage bike the way some people pined for a Model T to replace their horse-drawn wagon. Something inside me yearns for a simpler time and so I try to surround myself with old-fashioned devices. I long for ones that feel sturdy to the touch like tin cookie cutters passed down from a grandmother to her beloved progeny. These are the treasures that move through the generations, hand to hand to hand.

Feeling that heavy weight in my own palm instills me with a calmness that flimsy plastic just can’t conjure. There’s a trust there, as if something that has worked for so long will always be dependable. In some circles the word heavy may mean difficult or burdensome, in others the meaning may be substantial, durable and enduring. For always.

Yet even the biggest and strongest anything is not guaranteed to last. A plane can topple a skyscraper, a flood can leave houses in ruins. What you thought would always be, is suddenly no more.

Even after the worst catastrophes there are survivors, certain items that remain. Somehow they become even stronger for having lasted. These are the items we pass down with reverence. The ones that are of use--like teapots and juicers--become desired by future generations, not the silly rings and things that have been locked up in a box. Of course they will survive. But day in day out, the items we use have a story connected to them. It gives them a luster, a particular history that deepens the patina. They glimmer and glow with a shine not seen by everyone. If you are at a flea market or antique shop, look for it. When you see it, you’ll know.

In this day and age it seems silly to be in love with typewriters, fountain pens, rotary fans and hand mixers, yet these are the things that give me pleasure. Each is so much heavier than their modern day counterparts, which is reason enough for people to shy away from using them. But these items bring with them a story, each were created in a time when craftsmanship mattered. In today’s world lightweight is becoming synonymous with disposable. Use it for a short time, throw it away, end of story.

Even so our lives cannot be filled with heavy things, sometimes a little levity is needed. Bubbles, dandelion puffs, pink clouds floating and a long list of others lift my spirits when I need them most. Holding on to a cluster of balloons and flying high above it all sounds magical. In the midst of the noise and swirling chaos the tap of a typewriter key centers me, the click of a shutter helps me focus. They remind me to keep my two feet grounded, my two wheels touching the earth below.

To reference a quote held dear by our friends “We love the things we love for what they are.” These words written by Frost so long ago speak to me of those things that have survived, that become special because we love them. They become imbued with our memories which can only give them a heavier weight, a gravitas that will help them endure. For now and for always.

Yesterday, Sunday, September 11, we harvested potatoes. I planted these potatoes in the rain last spring, in tall grain bags that I weighted with dirt and a quarter of potato. I planted a few in the horse paddock, small hills of dark dirt. I added more dirt, and more as the summer went on and the potato quarters sprouted into bushy green plants. A month or so ago the plants all died and I thought the Great Potato Blight had recurred in smaller form. I shrugged off the disappointment. Yes, planting those things and tending them, even at a minimal rate, was a lot of work. But we could go to the Co-op and restock. We'd still have potato soup, roasted potatoes, potato salad, mashed potatoes. We would not starve. We would not die.

But still. It stung, just a bit. A gardening slap in the face.

Saturday night I came back downstairs after putting a child or two in bed. In the sink: four potatoes. Dinner was long over and preparation for the next meal wasn't scheduled to start for another ten hours. The potatoes did not belong. Except, maybe...

“One of the horses dug up some potatoes,” M reported from the porch, a gentleman farmer in black rubber boots and a headlamp. We went back out to investigate. M dumped one of the potato bags and five more Yukon golds rolled up to the surface of the dirt. What I had mistaken for disaster was only the natural process of growing potatoes. And now we have a harvest.

On Sunday I was good for a few bags, but the weight was too great and I let M take the job of lifting and dumping all that used dirt onto the ground. B and I sifted through the muck with our hands. It was sunny, warm but not hot. Blue sky after the fog burned off. Not quite the brilliance we had ten years ago, but close.

For dinner we ate roasted potatoes, red beans and rice, salad and apple crisp made from the apples we'd picked earlier at the local orchard. We sat at the picnic table with friends and family. We shivered a bit in the coming cold. We were happy to be together, with potatoes.

Next week's word: Thirsty

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