Sunday, June 22, 2014

Holding Back the Hand of Man

Here on the mountain the sun is warming us slowly from the cool and breezy night to what promises to be a warm and sunny day. It is part of what holds us here, what each day makes us happy that we are here and not still in the city or the suburbs. Being here has also given us peace and quiet, solitude and a small but loving group of people we’ve come to know and cherish. This place, as stimulated and focused our creativity. Just being here brings joy.

We met here with a few of our friends the other evening, on our deck that sprawls across the south-facing front of the house.   It is a big deck, generous in both length and width, and except for one small area about ten feet wide, runs from one end of the house to the other. All the rooms but two have windows or doors that open onto the deck. At the outer edge we stand six or more feet above the ground, a consequence of living on a mountain.

On the other side of the house, the true front, we are at ground-level. No stairs to climb, and no barriers to getting in or out. We live on a dead-end dirt and gravel road, up a steep gravel driveway that bends back on itself. To reach the front door we have constructed  a wooden walkway bends through a courtyard of shrubs and flowering plants. The  yard is small, about 30 by 50 feet. Then the land rises again on the north and west sides, creating the heavily-treed backdrop that protects us from the winds and winter. In all, house, gardens, decks occupy less space than the suburban lot we lived on when we were just outside the city where my work was. But that is not all of our place. We have a mountain that rises beyond the courtyard, fields of hay and yet another mountain that provides the view from the deck. From any point of the house, what we see is what we hold.

When we first built here, more than 20 years ago, the trees surrounding the house were perhaps 40 or 50 years old. More gracious now, they surround us so closely that we almost feel we are living in a tree house. The view of our fields in the valley below has become more obscured with each year.

We have tried to change very little of the land we call ours. We have worked to encourage good timber growth, we keep about a dozen acres productive in hay, but in general we have tried to make as little impact on the land as possible. We came here because of the land, we stay here because of the land, we know that what ever happens to us, we will always have the land because it is now a part of our hearts and souls. It is the place were we have grown in understanding if not wisdom. Our time here  prepares us for whatever tomorrow holds.

We try to hold back the hand of man. That is our job. This place is literally and figuratively our rock. We stand on it assured that it will not crumble. In truth, the land owns us.

We are caretakers who will pass on, but the land will remain.

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