I was on a flight to Washington DC. This was the first leg. Minneapolis to Milwaukee. I was rushing out, last minute, to be with my father. A medical emergency. His heart had decided to fail. The doctors were unsure why. He had been admitted for further testing and, well, to keep him alive. Not my best day at all.
My row mate was an attractive young lady. Early thirties would be my best guess. Long dark thick hair pulled up and back to keep it out of the way, lest the strands have their way with the frame of her face. And that face! Sturdy. Midwestern. A lesson in beauty through strength. I could see the glimmer of stories unfold before she even began to tell them.
Small talk ensued. I told her about the reasons for for my trip to DC. She offered her heartfelt concern. I wished not to dwell and asked her about her trip — as much out of distraction as interest. I’m glad I did. She too was headed out to DC.
“What is bringing you out to DC?” I asked.
She explained that she was a Farmer. Had been all her life. Like her Father. She lived in a small town she was certain I had never heard of. In the northwest corner of Iowa. She worked a piece of her father’s five hundred acres. She belonged to an independent farmer advocacy group and was going out to DC as part of this to talk to legislators about various issues. This was her first time doing so. She was excited about the trip and experience.
I said, “Wow. That’s awesome. I never would have pegged you as a farmer but I have tremendous respect for it. What do you grow?”
She explained they had decided to start experimenting with organics on her portion. They had some preliminary success with a couple of crops and were expanding this year to more. She explained in laypersons terms the various challenges and why it is so different yet exciting. That her father had even started experimenting a bit with the animals he raised too.
“I don’t pretend to know much about farming but I have read a bit and know what tremendously hard work it is.”, I stated. “I mean, especially as an independent family farmer. From Big Agra to diminishing returns you must be beset on all sides. What keeps you doing it?”
“You gotta love the land.”, she said. Her whole tone of voice and body language changed when she said it. There was an unassuming yet palpable passion behind every word. “Not just the way it looks. The way it feels to be in it. To be a part of it. I wake up before sunrise every morning just itching to get up to my neck in it. The smell too. I smell like shit all day but that shit is part of the land and the land needs it as much as it needs me. I go to bed each night broken, exhausted, yet thankful. Not just thankful for the three showers I need to wash it off me but for the chance to do it all over again tomorrow. I love the land and my place within it. You have to.”
“You have to love the land…”
This farmer realizes that the relationship with her work, like any good relationship is, and should be, reciprocal. That the work, the land, would not be as good without her commitment to it. And, in turn, it returns that commitment to her. And, because of her intimacy with it, it returns that much more.
This. This passion. This love for what we are born to do. Whatever that is for each of us. Like her, our days should be filled with it. Every moment. We should wake up each day inching to get up to our necks in it. To be covered with it. To be a part of it. To be intimate with it.
As a writer, I have to love the words. I desire to wake each day and get up to my neck in them. I want to be covered with their stench. I want to end each day broken and exhausted from them yet anxious in the anticipation of my return to them tomorrow. And, by loving the words, they return that commitment to me. I have to love the words…
How about you? How about your land? Do you love it? Do you need it as much as it needs you? Why? Why not?
Want to know what you should be doing with your life? Find the shit you want to be covered in. Start there.