In a chat yesterday, I was hit with yet another of what’s become a daily dose of doubts and affirmations about what I’m doing here. I entered this field with full transparency, as someone who cares deeply but has no roots in farming, agriculture or any real knowledge of the land. It took a rapid succession of life events leading up to the pandemic and then a suddenly quiet, lengthy lockdown away from the city to find my way into this field. I haven’t looked back since, but I have caught myself at a crossroads as to where I belong now that I’m here.
The exchange was with an old and dear friend from my hometown, now a wonderful art teacher with a fanbase of appreciative students, and the first to applaud my transition when I announced it this week amid the soft launch of this site. One of many I hope not to let down. He shared some of the doubt I’ve come to hear from others in my field, in the arts, throughout this pandemic: is our work essential?
Many have been moved by recent events to become more involved in social justices, and admirably so. Many others, myself included, simply needed to be gifted this time to step back from the relentless and unchallenged pace of life to which we’ve somehow grown accustomed, and are arriving at profound realizations now that we can hear ourselves think.
I do think artists have a place among farmers, and vice verse. And that there’s something to be said of the fantasies and realities of adopting a farm life, having lived among shopping malls, bus terminals and food courts.
Until that wound in the hillside, my place, is healed, there will be something impaired in my mind. My peace is damaged. I will not be able to forget it.
It used to be that I could think of art as a refuge from such troubles. […] I am no longer able to think that way. That is because I now live in my subject. My subject is my place in the world, and I live in my place.
My friend and I each felt not only a tug toward the glorified farm life of our (respective) dreams, but for an alternate history: wondering what it would have meant to go into farming earlier on, taken a different path.
I don’t think I can mask my envy for the multi-generational farming families I read about, even learning of their struggles. It’s not unlike how I feel listening to soul: voices carrying a weighted history and passion that first fill and embolden me, then leave me feeling like a deflated, simple thing.
An unattainable wealth of soul. Dirt, absent from my fingernails. A soil that builds through not only hard work – an attainable thing – but through time and tradition.
We play the hand we’re dealt, and I’m not ungrateful for the life I have. The more I dig into this new field and look back on the one I’m stepping from, the more spaces I see for building bridges, and the more building bridges begins to feel like a calling I can stand by.
“I was really happy to hear you say that art and what you’re doing go hand-in-hand, because I felt like that with teaching. Making art of any kind goes hand-in-hand with social engagement but so many, especially the art teachers, don’t see that or do it.” Thanks, John.
It was a much needed reminder, and call to action.