what the possum and the owl already know


we farmers try so hard, we want to be
a thing of virtue, proud and free
we grow our food and make compost
of self-sufficiency we boast
but when the season comes to close
a panic starts, and worry grows
“it’s fall,” we exclaim, “i need to know
just what and why and where to go”
“the winter’s coming, the days grow short,
i feel the urge to sail from port
my friends go south to catch the sun
they climb and surf and just have fun
carefree and young they jet around
i watch with envy from the ground.
no kids, no mortgage is this my chance
to go to baja, thailand, france?”

but then i take a deep breath, and re-remember
vacation is more than bali’s beaches in december
it can be the stoking of the woodstove’s fire
making sculptures out of wire
hunkering under blankets warm,
listening to thunderstorms.
mornings of yoga, drinking tea
scaling mountains, climbing trees
rainy walks along the ditch
mending clothing stitch by stitch
fixing fences, building shelves
tiling the bathroom all by ourselves

the day to day is beautiful, i need to worry not
of adventures not yet taken, or the perfect snorkeling spot
inside myself is where i need to be
to find the truest sense of free
where mind is still as fallen snow
constriction eases, i can let go
be more like the bear that settles down
a fox whose den is close to town
the little frog that croaks and sings
whose happy with the simple things
the truth of living they seem to know
while my discovery was slow
just find a hole, a stump, a pond –
location’s insignificant
cause all the world – inside and out –
is perfectly magnificent.
love, maisie


the buddha knows too.


freeze-dried fruit: a blessing and a miracle

this past week i was in the sierras, backpacking with my sweetheart and a handful of dear friends in the mountains just north of yosemite. we hiked way further then we initially had intended, but it was well worth it. shooting stars, quiet lakes, sunsets from the tops of peaks, thunderstorms, camp fires, and always a barely palatable freeze-dried dinner to top off the evening. julius had his own backpack, a source of unending pleasure for me. i pretty much can just stare at him all day anyways, but with a doggie backpack on? completely mesmerizing. 

i swear i didn’t plan for us to be matching ($20 on amazon btw, i’m not extravagant with my dog. just mildly obsessed).

i swear i didn’t plan for us to be matching (backpack was $20 on amazon btw, i’m not extravagant with my dog. just mildly obsessed).

i have to admit, coming back home, i miss the mountains. i miss that feeling of having everything you need in one small pack, the freedom of not having to be anywhere or be anything other than an animal, walking through meadows and resting by lakes and eating snacks. i like not thinking about what i’m going to wear, because there is only one option. i like not having mirrors around. i like that cell phones don’t exist, and there is not even the chance that the chirping of a bird can be mistaken for the phantom ring of the phone. i like the simplicity of backpacking. nothing superfluous: just water, food, bedding, hiking shoes, and a backpack for your dog. obviously we had more things than that, but it’s the feeling of simplicity of which i speak. there is not a ton of choice. you look at the map with your friends, come to a consensus of where to hike, then hike. you talk some, but mostly you watch the grass and granite pass under your feet at a slow and steady pace, you hear your breath, slightly more labored at 9,000 feet, and you watch your dog try to pass the person in front only to get thwarted by the unfamiliar berth of his backpack knocking into trees and rocks. it’s a feeling of truly living, as if this were indeed the culmination of the evolutionary mechanisms designed to develop the human mind: to finally stop fretting over the bills, the kids, the relationship, and drop into meditative bliss. take a load off. except, in this case, put a 50 lb load on.

"what do we wish?--to be whole. to be complete. wilderness reminds us what it means to be human, what we are connected to rather than what we are separated from." - terry tempest williams

“what do we wish?–to be whole. to be complete. wilderness reminds us what it means to be human, what we are connected to rather than what we are separated from.” – terry tempest williams

now i’m back to the land of skittle-colored flowers, weeds going to seed, and dirty knees. which, don’t get me wrong, i am incredibly happy about. my first night home i stopped by my friend’s, and also my next door neighbors, for dinner. a collection of my favorite farmers were there, sharing in a just-roasted chicken from one of the many we’d raised together as a group this summer, corn on the cob with lobs of butter, baked potatoes with sour cream (and more butter), cucumber-tomato-basil salad, and fresh strawberries with cream. this was basically the opposite of what we ate on our trip, and i was unapologetically pleased.

so how is it that i can wax poetic about farm fresh food when a minute ago i was praising the austere beauty of being in the mountains, sleeping under the stars, and eating the grossest, not-quite-reconstituted pad thai of my life? 

it’s because, from instant oatmeal to the fresh cucumbers and everything in between, there is a lot to be grateful for. there are terrible things happening in the world right now, and here i am lucky enough to be able to eat, to walk, to do work that i love, and to turn on my faucet and have clean clear potable water come flowing out. i even have the luxury to go into the mountains, wave a magic pen in my nalgene, and have clean water appear there too. this is why the world is full of poetry. it is generous and it is good. sad things and painful things happen and we suffer. but in nature especially, peace is as accessible as we open ourselves up to seeing that it is all around us.

i’ll admit that this post was mainly an excuse to put my dog and his backpack on our website (since this has almost nothing to do with flowers). but i’m also writing to remember, and to remind myself, that whatever happens in a day – whether it storms and the night before you slept on pinecones and then this morning you mistakenly ate part of a pot-cookie and proceeding to trip your brains out for 8 hours (just a random, totally impersonal example) – that even if things seem uncomfortable or stressful, there is still the opportunity to affirm what is good. i could complain about my back or the food or the fact that i forgot my toothbrush. or i could close my eyes and listen to the wind going thru the trees and smile and say thanks for what nature gives us so freely. cold mountain lakes and luscious dahlias, black bears and preying mantises, purple carrots and golden beets, and of course, snickers bars and doggie backpacks.

julius in the lead

julius in the lead

sunset from the top of something tall

"climb the mountains and get their good tidings. nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. the winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms energies, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves." - john muir

“climb the mountains and get their good tidings. nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. the winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms energies, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.” – john muir

love, maisie

Oh the Places We Will Swim



right now there is a baby who is very much resisting entering this world. she/he is comfortable where she/he is, being carried around in a floating belly-world, hearing the faint sounds of goats bleating and farmers talking and doggies barking. and yet it’s time, and we here on the farm are all pins and needles to meet this little person. to love it and give it popsicles in the summer and explain why dragonflies swarm. to read it stories by the pond and hold it’s hand and laugh at the funny things it says. to learn it’s special kid-wisdom and to give it the best bites of the pie and to forget what we were so busy doing and join it to look up at the shapes of the clouds.

little one, i am so excited to meet you. you’ve already hooked me and we’ve never really met. so please go easy on your momma today and get your head oriented right and get yourself out here so we can see you and welcome you proper. i will bring you marigolds to admire and eat. i will make my doggie howl so that you can giggle. i will walk you around in the evening and tell you about the trees and all the silly things we did when we were young and all the silly things we are still doing now. and when you are older i will play cards with you way past when i would prefer to stop, just so we can hang out a bit more. blessings on your birthday, this day of your birth. you are so loved already, safe and speedy arrival little one! love, m

...and here!

…and here!

a succulent sunday

a succulent sunday

a succulent sunday


the thunderclouds are building today
the madrone trees dropping their
crackling leaves
so that it feels like fall and not summer
rain drops wake my dog
his speckled paws outstretched
he looks up, looks at me, briefly
lays his head back upon the boards.

wind scatters the canopy
falling needles, leaves, droplets
i can hear a tractor but it is sunday,
there is no appeal for me,
and anyways, my aspirations lean more
towards the ambitions of the border collie
than those of the one who wears the carhartts.

wild raspberries,
a green branch that arcs
over the bathtub –
what caused it’s peak, it’s descent back to the earth?
why not climb upwards and always more up?

the madrone is slick and red
with bark that peels from ash to green.
and i am in love, here on this blue earth.

i am in love with a man who holds me like a precious thing.
and kind words, and kind touch, our currency.
i am in love with this afternoon, humid air and nervous birds,
time to write, to draw a little sketch of succulents in their pot.

the tractor strains.
julius flicks his paw. an ant maybe. or leaf falling.
the madrone sends me one too
a gift, yellow with a splatter of blood still left in it’s veins.

now he is running in his sleep
after storm clouds. after sheep.
after fish in the river who glint and dart and nibble,
always out of reach.

i take his cue
and curl up in bed
to sleep and dream
of my love, who comes to me as a deer
who went climbing in the mountains
and returns to these hills at night,
unafraid to lie down in the dry leaves.

– maisie

Can You Smell the Sweet Peas on Your Computer?

a typical day on the farm for julius.

a typical day on the farm for julius.

i have this distinct memory from years ago when my little sister was super little, maybe four or five. we were poking around in the woods, picking blackberries, and i was telling her about this thing called “backpacking.” how you get to go hike up beautiful peaks, into remote deserts, through ancient forests, and sleep under a million stars at night – all with just a pack on your back, with everything you’d ever need inside. she was like, “can i go backpacking with you?” and i was like, “for sure, you just have to get a little older and bigger so you can carry a pack.” and she was like, “someday i’m going to be big and carry a backpack.” and i was like, “yeah, it’s going to be awesome.”

now my sister is old enough. but instead of being old enough to backpack, she’s old enough to be a consumer. she’s old enough to get an i-phone and to stare at it and check it for messages about twenty times a minute. she’s old enough to have a solid grasp on the latest youtube videos gone viral. and she’s old enough to have eighteen years of advertising floating around in her brain. and this isn’t just your run-of-the-mill advertising we had growing up – commercial breaks and some lame magazines – this is 24-7, words and images to the side of every email, every web search, every freeway telling her to buy this, fix that (your body), and go here (or there) and you will be happy.

i must have somehow managed to retain enough memories from a childhood spent climbing trees and camping with my mom, exploring the redwoods and building forts by the creek, writing poems about stone’s and seagulls and baby squirrels (for reals, i just found them), that i can barely, and only just barely, resist the call of the cyber-lords. buying things just doesn’t make me happy. it certainly gives me a rush, especially if it is something i can really use (a hot water heater for example), or something that i think looks cute (on my butt). but its not a sustaining high like that of diving into the yuba river on a hot day after work. or baking a cake for a friend’s birthday and licking clean the entire bowl of chocolate frosting. or lazing in a hammock with my sweetheart and making each other laugh like little kids.

and i know that i am only speaking personally, because i currently live in a glorified fort in the woods, i am going camping this weekend, and i still write poems about baby animals. i obviously chose to keep my own particular type of happiness going. and i guess anyone could argue that tracking justin beiber on facebook makes them happy too. but it makes me sad. i guess that’s why i’m writing about this, because i feel concerned by how easily the internet makes me feel slightly unsettled. how easily it sucks me in with it’s youtube videos and how surprised i am to find myself still searching past a farmer’s decent bedtime. even with my upbringing being relatively nature-based, and even with the lifestyle of a rural farmer, i still struggle to just be happy with the elemental things of the world – the sun, the breeze, my feet in the dirt. or i can feel a moment of peace, but there is always the beep of the text to snap me back into a world that part of me craves and part of me resists. i am sad that with things getting more and more virtual and artificial, too many people, especially the younger ones, don’t have those memories to draw them back into what is essential and tactile.

i acknowledge the irony of my typing this on a computer. but it’s not exactly irony, because i’m not making a call to abolish technology or the internet. i love writing, and i love how i am growing up in an age where writing is so accessible, and where this thing i love – the discovery of what is sacred through the ordering of words – has become communal in new and broader ways.

but i’m scared of it too, and it feels healthy to be, especially on days like today when everything on the farm is just so freaking beautiful. the smell of sweet peas is in the air, the red winged blackbird is making it’s sound like water dropping in a bucket, and the swallowtail butterflies are fluttering around the sweet william. this is the kind of happiness i want. it’s not some intense superbowl wedding proposal, or beyoncés latest dress, or a video of an eagle picking up a child. it’s just a day on the farm. and i’m going to cherish it. and go backpacking. and come home at the end of the day and make dinner and smell the bouquet of sweet peas i made instead of opening up my computer just because it’s there. just like julius, who is my model for most things, i’m going to do the only thing that seems reasonable at a time like this: turn off the phone, unplug the computer, and take a nap in the salad mix.

the simple life

the simple life

love, maisie

The Buddha’s Real Sport

me belaying ollie on donner summit - photo by josh horniak

climbing on donner summit – photo by josh horniak

i’ve been climbing a lot lately. rock climbing that is. which is strange, given that the months of april thru october don’t really provide farmers with a lot of disposable time. and with most of my monday thru friday taken up on the farm, my weekend hours have become these precious little morsels of freedom – freedom from worrying, weeding, planning, and planting – that i must protect at all odds. so driving in a car to some windy summit, then donning a funny-looking harness and uber-tight shoes, has got to be pretty darn appealing if it’s going to take up my whole saturday. but i guess it is, because i find myself heading up there most weekends.

a couple of years ago i went on one of those 10-day meditation retreats. ten days of silence. ten days of deliberate walking, slow-motion in front of the meditation hall, and ten days of sitting, for hours, in the attempt to empty the mind. on the outside, everything looked calm. but my mind was racing. i made up elaborate plots to movies. i had mock arguments with my then-boyfriend. i fell asleep sitting up. i thought about how many minutes, and then how many seconds, until lunch. i thought about all manner of superficial and inconsequential topics. sometimes i thought about nothing, which was nice. i had insights into my habitual patterns of thought, and was able to shift some behaviors that were no longer serving me. that was also nice. and sometimes i felt a deep sense of peace and joy from just being alive enough to watch a deer move slowly through the woods, to hear the creek down below the meditation hall, to sleep deeply and soundly all night, even though it seemed as if i’d done nothing all day.

but i am convinced that rock climbing would have been the buddha’s preferred activity.

i’m surprised it’s not mentioned in the ancient texts. because nowhere else, doing nothing else, do i feel that sort of release from suffering that the buddha talked about. on the rock i am alone. just me and the breeze. my mind empties of thoughts, the farm becomes a distant memory, and all that is in front of me is all that matters. the rock. where to place my foot. the next bolt. the rope. the wind. my own breath.

(it looks like this)

(it looks like this)

but i’ve got to give the buddha some props. and i don’t mean a rope and a harness, i mean respect. as meditative as it is, i know i can’t be rock climbing all the time, and it’s not realistic to rely exclusively on climbing remote crags in order to get my zen-on. there’s just too much real life that happens off the wall. there are bills to pay, orders to fill, flowers to plant, dinner to make, birthday cards to write, plumbing to fix, pets to pet – all the activities and projects in between those calm, quiet moments where i must remember to breathe. and let go. and relaaaax. i can’t trail around a rope on my waist and expect it to catch me when i fall. i have to have other safety measures. i need to learn to go with the flow as i hoe the never-ending aisles of amaranth. i need to breathe as i plant the salad mix, practice walking deliberately on the farm, and train in the art of trance-like meditative states in order to survive a trip to the local co-op store (the single most socially overwhelming place in our town, second only to the annual county fair).

it’s just that the act of climbing brings a sort of equanimity that feels so rare. but i recognize that it is also one practice among many that makes peace possible. or a little more possible. so does sitting quietly for a few minutes after lunch, watching the western tanagers flashing yellow through the trees. or taking an outdoor bath after work, in the woods, listening to the goats shout and the mosquitos hum and the bumblebees pollinate the wild raspberries. or just drinking a cup of tea in the morning without checking email or watching a youtube video. basically doing anything that inserts a moment of sanity into the insanity of a day.

it is told that the buddha sat under the bodhi tree and attained enlightenment. what the ancient texts must have left out, is that after sitting under this tree, and after his remarkable transformation, the buddha climbed it. he wrapped his hands around those smooth branches and hoisted himself up in the the boughs. he looked at the leaves moving in the breeze, the tigers passing underneath, the ants marching single file up the trunk. he climbed and he meditated and he felt great peace. but he also climbed down. he stepped back into the fray of people and things, and he traveled and taught what he had learned. i’m not sure the buddha had to meditate much after his enlightenment. but i do expect that every few days, or at the very least on his weekends, he’d go for a climb.

rare footage of the buddha climbing

a rare photograph of the buddha climbing

love, maisie

Joie de Vivre

i haven’t been writing lately. i have the regular surplus of seasonal excuses – the greenhouse is full, the irrigation needs to be set up, the salad mix is overdue for a weeding. i come home tired. i wake up groggy. i work all day in between. it’s not as if i am feeling overly stressed, my life feels manageable enough. but i am lacking that creative joie de vivre that only comes for me when i allow myself the space to turn down the static of my life, dip into the depths of my imagination, and write.

this evening i stopped by tim’s barn to hang out with the goats. the late evening sun cut bands of light through the holes in the barn, illuminating swirls of flies and straw-dust, the flick of long ears, the mumble of moms, the constant grinding and chomping of teeth, the little spastic hops of the kids. i’m glad i stopped. to be alone is a beautiful thing, in a barn, the creek running down below, the light filtered just so. to be alone is something i sometimes avoid, for fear of loneliness, for fear of being left out, for fear of suddenly dying, beneath the hooves of seemingly gentle goats, with no one there to hear my last words pronouncing to whom i bequeath julius.

there’s some saying, about how we are never really alone. there are the stars, the bees, spiders spinning webs in the corners of our houses, and bluebirds who throw themselves against our windows. the deer pass by and stare at us with those unblinking eyes. even the wind shares company with us, and the trees too, standing stoic, watching over it all. but it is the lack of human company that can be so upsetting. or depending on the context, very appealing. to not have to talk. to not have to negotiate who’s going to make dinner, who’s going to do the dishes, who’s going to pick up the dog from band practice. to read a book, to write a letter, to make soufflé without worrying that it will sink, because only i am there to watch it rise. there are, in fact, good things that go along with the territory of being alone.

but the difference for me, between an evening alone and a lonely evening, lies in how much i am willing to just be with myself, with whatever feelings arise, whatever thoughts come. so mostly i feel lonely when i am scared to do something bold, something vulnerable, or something creative. any sort of action that requires a premeditated presentation of an aspect of myself, in the artistic sense. write a blog post for example? i’d would much rather have someone entertain me. because then i remain safe, emotions tucked up inside, nary a story of inadequacy nor a tick mark added to my sense of self-worth. “make me happy,” a part of me is saying, “show me something interesting, and poignant, and illuminating about me and everyone i know, about the human condition, about life and death and so on and so forth.” i am resisting looking at these things for myself and by myself. i am turning up the static of my life rather then drop into the unknown waters of the present moment.

so guess what? i’m writing a blog post. maybe you noticed. and it has vaguely to do with goats, but it mostly has to do with allowing myself to write something, anything, and how good it feels to stop the mind’s chatter, the body’s constant need to work the farm, and just say something out loud. you may love it, you may, hate it, but i’m not too worried because i have also added pictures of baby goats.

and everyone loves a baby goat.

and everyone loves a baby goat.

love, maisie

A Bluebird in Love

hey there good lookin'

hey there good lookin’

there is a unique bird at the farm. it’s spring, as we all know, and it being spring this is the time for courtship and mating, showing off and chirping, displays of friskiness and feather fluffing, prowess and plumage (i’m still talking about birds here). but this fellow, a brilliant little bluebird, is different than all the rest.

he seems to be in love with himself. his own reflection to be exact. instead of flitting after the females, he hops about in front of the window of the barn, courting himself. he is gorgeous, i’ll give him that, but his antics are a bit bizarre and if he’s not careful, may trigger some unpleasant and unintended evolutionary mechanisms. not that he cares much. because the sun is out and the frogs are singing and life is good. the worms are abundant, there are some foolish farmer chicks who keep planting succulent things for him to eat, and his beloved is always waiting by the window, to dance and mirror back affections for him at all hours of the day.

speaking of love, last night i had a great conversation with a friend on the phone. he’s currently in new york. he’s also currently falling head-over-heels in love. he’s three weeks into it, this love affair, and last night he hit his first snag. and by snag i don’t mean a blackberry thicket, i mean tiny tiny blade of grass. all that had happened, by my estimation, is that in the dreamy-eyed bliss of the honeymoon, he’d momentarily lost track of taking care of himself. even when he sensed that he needed some time alone, he just kept throwing himself back into party. his attachments increased, his neediness soared, and his insecurities trickled in. that’s the moment, i gently told him (as i often have to tell myself), that no matter how much you want to fold yourself into the body of someone else, you’ve got to stop what you are doing and take a frickin’ walk. or write. or call a friend. or do anything but let yourself be sucked back into the love vortex. just take a break. do something for yourself and with yourself. the vortex will be there tomorrow morning when you see your love again.

willow and i made fun of the bluebird today, but upon telling his story i now feel i owe him and apology. i don’t think i had flushed out our feathered friend’s complete narrative. perhaps he’d just got back from an long weekend of being with his love, across the field on the telephone line. slightly worn out and still a little intoxicated from so much flirtation, he just needed a little time to check in with himself. so maybe instead of demonstrating his level of derangement, he was teaching us a lesson in self-love. we spend so much energy, us wing-less beings, on either putting ourselves down when no one’s looking, or pumping ourselves up for the sake of others’ attention, affection, and/or approval. but what if sometimes we brought ourselves the best worms? what if instead of waiting for someone to take us on a date, we took ourselves on a date? what if every time we looked in the mirror, instead of chastising ourselves, comparing, or assessing what we think we lack, we were just like, “damn girl (or guy. or bird), you look awesome today, way to be you, way to rock it.” and then you hopped around in order to get the good view of every angle of your gorgeous body?

i only saw the bluebird today for a few minutes. willow and i were potting up the some seedlings by the greenhouse when he began his dance by the window. but eventually he disappeared. upon deeper reflection, i’m pretty sure that what we witnessed was a very healthy self-love practice. afterwards he probably went off to get himself some breakfast. alone, singing a little tune, and fundamentally happy in his own feathers.

love, maisie



An Almost April Update

spring is in the air, and the farm is back up and running. the seedlings in the greenhouse look amazing. vibrant, fast-growing, green – a definite improvement over lasts years struggles. in the ground we’ve already got carrots, beets, snap peas, and two rounds of salad mix up and weeded. the resident hawk is back, dive-bombing for gophers. the less stealthy geese are back as well, the pair of them, and they honk over our field daily, en route to our neighbor’s pond. one of them seems to have arthritis in it’s wings. it creaks when it flies. is that a thing? google comes up with no results when pairing geese with the dreaded disorder of joint inflammation. but it does pin their lifespan at 10-24 years, which would seem plenty of time to get a little squeaky in the bones.

the rain has returned, and the cover crop is all shiny and tall. the handful of super expensive peony plants we bought last fall are sprouting up strong. the stinging nettle is back with a vengeance, and i cook it with my greens for a medicinal boost. i mowed the paths around the fields last week, so everything feels clean, abstractly straight, like a perfect soccer pitch. something about the way the field looks post-mowing makes me inordinately happy. so all in all, the farm is looking good. i’d say that the only casualty of this winter were the dahlias.

duh duh…duuuuuh…

the dahlia debacle

a heavy freeze in december decimated our dahlias
driven to decay, definitely debilitated,
oh what a deplorable decision that delivered our dahlias to such a dismal death!
desperately we dial-up the dahlia directory,
demanding our desired dimensions of up-dated dahlias.
days develop into days
we dream of dependable delivery,
devoted we are,
to the distinguished dahlia.

Not Dead. Yet.

A Dahlia. Not Dead. Yet.

anyways. we have put about a half dozen crates of the least damaged of the lot in the greenhouse, and each day we attempt to water their half-decaying bodies back to life. yesterday i saw the first little sprouts of life on one of the roots. its a miracle! never mind the irony, that upon peeling back the little home-made label, we found out that this lone surviver is a member of our hands-down least favorite variety. but it’s ok. we just ordered a whole bunch of new ones, with names like “seduction,” “soulmate,” “blackberry ripple,” and “tahitian sunrise.” it was a blow to our inventory to lose so many, but i’m excited for some of the new varieties were likely to see this year. as long as we have my favored “moonrise kingdom,” (see above – not it’s official name) everything will be ok.

because, in case we forget, death and decay are part and parcel of farming. thing grow, things die. those dead things we put in piles, or leave to rot in the fields, and they become the soil of new life. even when things live, growing up into beautiful flowers, we pluck them at their most tenderest zenith, make arrangements out of them, and admire them on our kitchen tables. until they too, die, and decay, and un-tended to, turn the water in the vase into a liquid creature onto itself. we then plug our noses, and dump the whole lot, soggy stems and putrid water, onto the compost pile.

wah la. magic. death is magic and little sprouts arising from almost dead dahlias are magic. so thank you god, biology, worms, and willow for making it all possible.

love, maisie


A Slight Change of Perspective

Can you read those labels?

Can you read those labels?

i just recently picked up my first pair of prescription glasses. turns out i have pretty terrible vision in one eye, and with the other compensating, i hadn’t ever noticed. the way it was explained to me, in the optometrist’s office, was that my right eye’s cornea is shaped like a football and the left one like a basketball. good vision requires two basketballs, side by side. so as of yesterday, i’ve been put on Team Glasses. which also means i’m finally committing to one varsity sport, even though i haven’t played basketball since the eighth grade and i kind of sucked at it. if only she had described it as soccer balls, i might have more faith in the change.

but i’m getting used to it. i’m watching julius snoop around in the woods behind my house, and besides the fact that he looks like he’s inside an aquarium with a frame around it, i can see him in astonishing detail. most striking is how i can make out individual needles on trees, how the strips of peeling bark seems to pop out from the truck in high definition, and how a gnat just lifted off from a stalk of blackberry, nigh 40 feet away.
i find it remarkable that i never noticed til now that one eye can’t see more than a foot in front of my face. to be honest, i probably would have kept on in oblivion had it not been for a farm conference power-point presentation (why the hell did they make that slide in tiny-ass print? i thought) and an evolving terror of night-time driving (which i thought was normal, because doesn’t everyone feel dangerously blind when they drive at night?). apparently, once this fishbowl effect wears off, i’ll just have crazy detailed vision whenever i choose. i’ll see the speckles on my dog’s paws from a distance (he had speckled paws?). i’ll see my own handwriting when i write in my journal. i’ll even see incredible things like the great blue heron i saw yesterday, who, i kid you not, lifted out of the pond at my friend’s place as i drove by, and literally flew like a technicolor pterodactyl alongside my truck.

it is amazing, and humbling, to realize to what degree that we, as a species, can be blind to what is happening in front of us. what a primo example – my vision’s sudden downslide, of how my own sense of perspective is so limited to, well, my own perspective. a few months ago i was out on a hike with willow and our friend maggie. we spotted a salamander in the path, a big one, maybe 7-8 inches long, and we all gaped at it in wonder. when we got home we looked it up on the computer, eager to identify our sighting. we found a chart displaying images of the different types around california. all three of us picked out a different image. i mean, we were convinced of our choices. i swore it was reddish brown with an orange underside. maggie swore it was more mottled, black and orange. i forgot willow’s take on it, but it was completely different.

so what does that mean? that maisie was half-blind during that hike and we just didn’t know it at the time? sure, if your name is willow or josh you can run that joke into the ground for as long as it takes to not be funny (already not funny). but i think the deeper meaning has to do with remembering to open up our perspective, and our eyes so to speak, when we get stuck thinking that one thing is the right thing, or that what we see is how everyone else should see it too.
wearing glasses for the first time is like being a newborn calf, blinking open those giant lashes and looking out at grass and sun and teat for the first time. these first few glorious days of discovery contain an important reminder: to treat the world like a giant teat. to see life not as a commonplace thing of preordained or limited output, but one that is full of milk, the consistency and flavor of which we could never truly describe or understand, even after years suckling. if i took that analogy too far, i don’t apologize. i was told recently that i have long eye-lashes so the comparison seems apt.

all of this matters, because pretty soon we will all get used to wearing our glasses, those both literal and figurative. and then the sun will fade from its multiplicity of colors to just the orange of story-book drawings, and the grass will be just a green splotch on the ground, and all teats will be forsaken their beautiful nuances.

and we can’t let that happen.

for all i know, there are a thousand gnats lifting off into flight from the blackberry bushes outside my window. i will try to keep that in mind next time i think the flower bed that we’re digging seems to be curving to the left and willow thinks its curving to the right. chances are, given what side you are digging from, it could go either way. so better to say, “yes willow, you are right, i can see how it curves to the right, given your perspective. how about we meet in the middle and look at it together to assess it’s linearity?” and then, in the end, to just accept that a hand dug garden bed is always going to look slightly wonky, no matter how hard you try to make it straight.


These look pretty straight to me. Willow?

These look pretty straight to me. Willow?


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