The Process of Progress
In college I spent a month one summer in southern France enrolled in a course to study the physical anthropology of early man through cave paintings and other artifacts. Initially, I was only excited about the trip because, well, southern France, so I was shocked to discover a sincere fascination in the course topic, was in awe of the tangible evolution that’s been discovered deep in the earth; primitive art and community evident in the extensive tools scattered, the ochre paintings splashed across dark walls. That summer I learned that early man’s evolution is traceable through these buried artifacts. The earliest known cave paintings on walls are images that depict animal hunts, usually in no particular order, just pictures scattered without chronology. More recent paintings demonstrate the evolution of human thought, perhaps something that occurred in parallel with the development of human speech. Images that previously made no sense began to appear on cave walls in order, the same way people tell stories today. They began to represent linear thought patterns: a beginning, a middle, an end. Furthermore, artists or “storytellers” began to leave a signature of sorts, in the form of a hand print. They would place their hand on the cave wall and blow paint onto the hand, leaving an outline of their fingers and palm. Whoever started telling “stories” on those walls started caring about ownership. They wanted to leave their own mark.
This weekend I finally, finally met my sisterfromanothermother, Rachael from The Farmstead. She’s a chick slugging her way through all this nonsense alongside me, albeit on the other side of the country. We’ve exchanged countless virtual high fives and back pats. We’ve hugged it out a lot the best way you can through the interwebs and google chat. And, although this wasn’t intended to be a love letter to you, girl (oops), it’s refreshing as hell to meet the person who says loud and proud, in her own words: “Dairy is scary.” Preach it, sister.
I introduced her to my farm, apologized for all the fences that nearly broke us to build six years ago – that are now broken themselves, cut to pieces to accommodate skid steers and concrete trucks. I kicked rocks shamefully and explained the piles of detritus I (not so secretly) hope the brambles will overtake and cover since who knows when we’ll get around to hauling them off the farm. I had a story or excuse for everything broken, everything breaking, everything tattered, everything torn, but all she saw was a great big work in progress. And so it was a timely and excellent reminder to me at a time when my stories aren’t straight and my thoughts aren’t linear that the process of progress is messy. Taking one step forward means taking steps back and around before moving ahead. The fences we broke will be repaired, and their breaking made way for a dairy building; a blank slate of opportunity, if you really think about it. And I really think about it a lot.
I’ve written and deleted words here many times over the last few weeks. Sometimes it’s because I’m pulled away by a phone call, a delivery, a scream from one of the pastures. But more often it’s simply because the thoughts don’t line up into cohesive sentences anymore. Recently a friend was here visiting and remarked at the high pitched squealing of the always-vocal-always-hungry pigs, and it occurred to me: that’s sort of what the inside of my head sound likes. Doggie paddling against the current in this way, I am forced to consider and re-consider some of my choices. What was the original motivation, exactly, to jump into the deep end? Was it purely a desire to live with and from the products of very happy animals, whose names I know, who’s lives I care for? Yes, partially. But it’s also something entirely other, the same primal instinct and curiosity that led early man out into the wilderness of experience, to record it on a wall, to leave his signature alongside the story. I’m starting from the very beginning, at a time when maybe the logic doesn’t align and the stories seem out of sequence. But no matter how it’s told, I’m damn proud to put my hand print at the very end.