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Born in the US, raised on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, lived in Italy, the US, and Canada. Lover of language, travel, colour, and the natural world.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


It is a little after 10pm in my world, but if I were going to guess the time based on how I feel, I would say it has got be be nearing 2am. I spent the day today raking leaves again--shaking out vines impacted with leaves, sweeping layer upon layer of dry leaves off of benches, raking and sweeping piles of leaves into piles and then hauling them off across the yard, through the damp grass, up a slight incline next to the pool cabana at the home I am doing yard work at, past the woodpile, to be deposited atop the ever-growing mountain of leaves that is to become a compost pile. I call it Mount Olympus :-) because as I watch it grow in both height and width, I feel a tremendous feeling of satisfaction. I imagine it is somewhat like what an ant must feel when it moves an entire ant hill from one spot to another, one grain of earth at a time.

I am doing yard work at the home of one of my best friends. One of the benefits of this arrangement is that when I take a break, we get to hang out--have lunch, drink tea, munch on gluten free gingersnaps. It is a pretty sweet deal really. The sky as my office, and one of my best friends as my lunch break companion. I cannot complain.

As I work moving piles of leaves, the landscape around me is changing. I love work that involves physical, visual results daily, and I have to say that although this three-day leaf-raking gig may be sufficient to ward off any desire for golden days of raking piles of rusty, crunchy leaves for a very long time (as in the rest of my life kind of long time), I am really enjoying the physical demands of yard work for these three days. It kind of reminds me of farming in that I have to pace myself, and be consistent. I try to set a pace that I can maintain for at least three hours at a time without keeling over. Once I have been doing daily physical work for a while I can maintain my pace without feeling pain in my body -- I just feel challenged and engaged. But after many months of spending my days writing, my body is feeling the effects of the last two days profoundly tonight. The idea of going back for a third day of yard work makes me want to groan. Not because I do not want to do it-- I very much do, and I know I will enjoy myself once I get started, but getting my sore body up and working hard again for a third day in a row is not going to be easy, I can already tell.

This evening after supper with my friend I headed out to haul the last load of leaves over to Mount Olympus. Darkness was heavy, and the grass whispered against my rubber boots as I pulled the bulging tarp along the ground. In the fading light I became more aware of the sounds of the night -- a family of coyotes out on the prowl were howling and barking nearby. Two lone geese called out as they sailed past above. Crickets throbbed. I stood in the fruit orchard for a few minutes listening to the arrival of the night before turning to go back inside to warm my hands by the heat of the wood-burning furnace and enjoy a hot cup of tea. Walking back to the house, my arms heavy, hair damp with hard work and legs tired, I smiled. I felt deeply happy and content.

My former employer, an organic farmer, told me once that you have to really love farming to be a farmer because it is a hell of a lot of hard work. I have not done any jobs that I have loved as much as working the land. Never felt so challenged and yet so willing to do whatever it took to accomplish my goals for the day. Never has exhaustion felt so good. Sitting inside my friend's house tonight I reflected on how grateful I am for this three-day gig at my friend's house that is demanding that I work the land -- sure, it is not the same as farming, but I have been working with plants, soil and leaves that will be used on my friend's vegetable garden as compost.

It is interesting that we are always placed in the right place at the right time to experience things that remind us what makes us most alive. For me it is the land--an intimate, physical and daily relationship with the soil and plants and the wildlife that live around me. What about you, friends? What makes you most alive?

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