Friday was my last day at Peacemeal Farm. I started working there within two months of moving back to Maine, when I still believed that I wanted to “be a farmer”, and left less than a week before my first day as a high school English teacher. In total, I spent 21 months working there. With the exception of Wyatt, all of the people I care about in Maine came into my life because of the farm. Three Ladies I couldn’t do without – Molly, Abby and Christa – and three farm crews, each containing a few true gems. Human Gems: Hailie, Debs, Dave, Pat, Farlin, Myer, Greta, Eliza, Mike, Lucas, Rick, Hannah, Pudge, Paige, Lauren. Animal gems: Clover, Ellie, Jasmine, the cats and the chickens. And the farm family, of course: Mark, Marcia, Camella and Anna.
I guess I feel like I needed to say all of their names. Closure? Maybe.
The last day was an authentic one – bitter and sweet. Bitter for the divisive drama that can envelope a tight knit crew of physically and emotionally exhausted people who spend every day together. Sweet for the many precious moments that are also inevitable in that context: snippets of enlightened conversation, smiles across a bed of vegetables, bursts of laughter, apologies accepted, misunderstandings explained. And it ended with a harvest of 30+ bushels of melons, plucked at dusk from my favorite field. They smelled so sweet and there was nothing bitter about it.
There’s a running joke at the farm about my being from another era, as a 30 something working with a bunch of 20 somethings. It is a joke, but like all jokes there is a kernel of truth within it. A few of us were discussing “Eras” around a campfire on Saturday night… specifically how short they feel these days, as everything around us changes so quickly. Benji and I were chuckling as we recalled the first days (that we remember) of “the internet”. I was in middle school when a friend and I got in trouble for chatting with boys on AOL, for three hours, at a time when the connection cost $12/hr. The three other members of the farm crew who were there, all of them under 25, were silent, and I felt old. They grew up in a different world, in a lot of ways and I felt it then, as I periodically do. This Summer, though, we shared the same small world of soil and vegetables and rainy harvests and sunburning afternoons and aching muscles. Age, most of the time, didn’t matter. I’ve loved that about the farm. The crew is always bound together by something that is unique and timeless within this fast-paced, super-connected world: hard, physical, rewarding work. In that context, “Eras” don’t matter all that much.
Nevertheless, I feel as if I’ve come to the end of one. I did a bunch of laundry this weekend, including two loads of farm clothes. I’m a sucker for nostalgia and it flooded me as I took those clothes of the line, removing my great-great grandmother’s clothespins from each faded and permanently soiled shirt or sock, placing the pin back in her clothespin bag, folding the clothes, dropping them in the laundry basket. Her farm, the one I dreamed for years of returning to, has finally been sold out of the family. My time at Peacemeal Farm is done and a new career begins. How’s that for over-dramatization? I can be very good at it.
Within this transition I comfort myself with the knowledge that I’ll still be growing flowers with Molly at Nettie Fox Farm. Our partnership is beautiful and productive and growing. And I’m sure I’ll stop by Peacemeal Farm every once in a while for some farming therapy on the way home from school. I’ll arrive in teacher clothes, pull some overalls out of the trunk and transform into another version of myself for a little while. Then I’ll head home to grade papers or plan a lesson.
Teaching, I know, will be bitter and sweet in entirely different ways. I don’t yet know what those ways are, and so I’m excited and terrified. It’s an uncomfortable feeling, not knowing, but I’m embracing it.