She whispers my name... Only I can hear

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The wave

It is easy to become disconnected
Living here in this small depressed city
Schenectady
The meaning of the word has been all but forgotten
Taken from the Mohawk people, twisted by Dutch settlers
Schenectady
The place on the far side of the pines

The meaning is appropriate to me now
As I look from my windows, down upon a neighborhood
That doesn't seem to care
About itself
About each other
About the world we live in

The city seems to be
On the far side of everything

Priorities
Getting to and from work
Shopping
Small talk
People embrace their small groups of friends
While ignoring each other, looking around with disdain and mistrust

In this way
The cop and the drug dealer
The thief and the victim
The wealthy and the poor
The working and the unemployed
The educated and the ignorant
Can all occupy the same street
Hiding behind locked doors

Without conflict
Indifferent to one another
Going on and on

They seem dead to me
Like lifeless robots
Unaware of everything
But their simple everyday programs

Awareness is the key

They do not hear the rain
Only complain about the wet

They measure snow by the weight of the shovel
Rather than by the beauty of the falling white flakes
Or the subtle white shrouds on the trees and over the ground

They measure almost everything, it seems
By the level of inconvenience it brings
To their mundane daily routines
No one smiles, no one sings

But something magic happens
When I turn from this place
And head to the farm
With it's much slower pace

Schenectady is surrounded with a beauty
Most fail to see
The mighty Mohawk, winding down to the even mightier Hudson
Big water, carrying the collected raindrops of a thousand storms
The two rivers sweep their way through farmland and forest

My spirit soars, like the hawks I see
Rising on invisible thermals
Above the checkerboard of trees and fields. so free
As I pass by, moving from the dank urban misery to rural pastures
I begin to breathe differently, my heart beats with a renewed intensity.

Leaving the highway behind
I find myself on familiar old roads
Surrounded by wilderness and farms
Rising up into the hills, until...

This is farm country now
Not factory style industrial farms
Real Farms, kept running with skill and hard work

Priorities revolve around the weather
And the needs of the livestock
Cows to be milked
Chickens to be fed
Fields to be tended

This is where Food comes from
There is an unspoken importance to it all
The Farmers are aware of everything

Awareness is the key

And then the road takes me up a long, long, hill
Murphy hill, the locals call it
Leaving the Cobleskill valley
It carries you into the Catskill highlands

Life is different here
As I approach the family farm
Winter is harsher
Summer is shorter yet sweeter
The air is fresher
The water, cleaner
The terrain, more rugged

Unpaved roads are the norm
They wind their way
From Farm to Farm
Climbing over long languishing hill tops
Or skirting around them for miles.

The hills can be unforgiving
And survival is more tenuous than down below
But the people know it
And the sense of community
Spread over an area measured in square miles
Is far more inclusive and inviting
Than my lonely block back in the city.

People here don't care about your politics
So much as they care about your well being
They stick together with an unspoken understanding
An attitude of independence and interdependence
All rolled into one.

I once arrived at the Farm in a blizzard
Only to find the road freshly plowed
And as I crested the hill, and the house came into sight
I saw nine strangers on the roof
They were going from home to home
Shoveling the massive snowfall from the rooftops
Lest someone's home should collapse from the sheer weight of the snow

No one had asked them to come
It was simply understood.
They had the means, and the time to do the job
They wanted no reward
Protecting neighbors homes is simply what they do

So I offered them hot coffee, and hot chocolate
Which they graciously declined
Fearing that they might not get to every home in the area before dark

So after some small talk, and much smiling
They were off to the next home
People here work hard
But they seem to smile a lot as well

And so it is
There is a phenomenon here
Something that has always stayed with me
And given me comfort when my faith in people has been less than great

It is a simple thing
Yet I find it very reassuring
As I traverse Farmland and wilderness
On the slow unpaved roads

The people here seem truly glad to see you coming
As they work in their yards or sit out on their porches in the warmer months
They smile at you
And if you make the effort to acknowledge their presence
When you pass by

They wave to you

If you feel any sort of a connection to this place at all
You feel compelled to wave back
So you wave and say hello

And if you haven't already
You fall in love with this place, and these people