Saturday, January 15, 2011

Snail Mail Time

My grandmother and grandfather have walked out to the end of the driveway to check their mail at the same time every afternoon for as long as I can remember.

As a young child this was a great activity that either involved bracing oneself for the summer heat and mugginess, or bundling up to go out in the snow. Their driveway is a normal length one - but to my small and chunky child legs it seemed like a hike and always a glorious adventure. My grandmother would point out birds in the trees along the way (and seriously. We're talking 50ft here. Tops.) and it was always miraculous to me that she could pick them out by song. Or the flowers by name when they weren't blooming.... she would regale me with stories of the birds and the flowers....and she brought to life all the flower fairy books that I so adored as a small child.

As a young adult is was a reassuring daily occurrence - I always knew when to call their house and be able to catch them. Their schedule was a comfort in the turmoil and chaos that was the beginning of college and the extremely unsettling processes of both leaving home (again) and getting through the culture shock involved in returning to the US from Japan. The few times that I got to visit them while in college I reveled in their schedule and looked forward to checking on the birds, the flowers, the trees...all of the friends in nature that my grandparents had made over the years.

As an adult with a driveway and mailbox of my own, I find myself walking out to the end of the way every afternoon to check the mail. While I have not settled into a routine that one could set their watch by, I do find myself pulling my boots on and bundling up for the cold outside at around the same time everyday. I walk down the 'driveway' and check on the status of the mud. "Am I going to be able to get OUT of the driveway?" "Should I try to get out now or wait until all this mud freezes?" "hmmm....the lower meadow is looking like it's recovering well from where the Duke Energy tractor went through..." "the upper meadow needs the edges trimmed" "damn the ornamental pear we found amongst the brambles is really taking a beating" "shit. Almost fell down again" and then I'm at the end.

I check the mail, and turn around with my arms full of the mail (OK. Mostly crap). I see the driveway stretching out before me and curving off into the trees through the gate that now stands open 24/7 after being closed for decades. As I start trudging back through the mud towards my tin can, I can see the lake glinting through the trees off in the distance. I continue down it taking stock of all that needs to be done and visiting with the bird songs and animal tracks. I think of my grandmother and wish she were with me to tell me whose birdsong I keep hearing, and to hear her tell me stories and quirks about each one.

While at one time I thought of the walk to check the mail as just part of her schedule, as an adult I can see that it's much more than that. For me, it's part of my day that lets me think about the farm and what I need to do to get it to be a "farm" in anyone else's eyes but my own, and to dream about the future. To think about how big that ornamental pear might get now that we've unearthed it and rescued it from the brambles it was being swallowed by... To oscillate again between putting the herb garden in the winter garden plot and the lower meadow..... To try to decide once again whether to use the old shed wood for the chicken coop or for raised beds.... To try to decide where to put the deer blind outhouse.... To see the land that's still in the process of being cleared in its full green and growing potential.... To remember why I came to NC, and to be reminded that no matter how daunting the whole thing seems at times, I am right where I am supposed to be.

**Umm. No. As I reread this I see that it's kind of an ode to my grandmother. She's alive and kicking. Just FYI. And still walking down to the end of the driveway every afternoon.


samb said...

this is so beautiful, how you link the past to the present. =)

caitlinvb said...

thanks sam! It's been a retrospective/reflective few weeks. With the weather so bad there's only so much I can do outside, so my brain goes into overdrive :) Hope Peru is treating you well!

Amelia said...

Just now going through the blog and catching up after being in Europe for 3 months - this post, however, brought tears to my eyes! I am so, so, so happy that you are exactly where you are. Gives me a lot of hope.

caitlinvb said...

Thanks Amelia! You need to come visit! I'd love to see you and will bribe you to draw a map for me....I'll find SOMETHING to bribe you with....