Saturday, June 03, 2006

Texas Depression

For the most part, I love to travel. But there's a difference in travel by choice and travel by "executive order." I took up administrative slack at work so that "the organization" could manintain good face as a partner/member of an influential national arts network. My "pay" has been that I get to travel to the network meetings, which are required. Over the past two years I've travelled to: Los Angeles, where I got to visit an old gypsy travelling companion of days gone by and ride a roller coaster on the Santa Monica pier (thus inspiring her 30th bday boardwalk celebration a year later). New Orleans, a few months before Katrina, where I strolled down streets filled with childhood memories of summer pilgramages to visit my momma's family. Miami, in December, where I examined beached jelly fish up close, sipped coffee at tiny neighborhood Cuban bakeries and feasted on Haitian food washed down with real Mojitos.

And now.... a suburburban sprawl on the outskirts of Dallas. I have been homesick since a week before I left to come out here.

In my mind, I am at Mount Airy, surrounded by friends, crooked fiddle tunes and moonshine.

In my reality, I'm counting the hours until I arrive back home to Judy Branch.....

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Where is Judy Branch?

To get to Judy Branch you have to drive a good while. On this drive, you follow a creek to where it meets a river, and then follow that river to where it meets up with a railroad line. You then follow both river and track, passing several stages of the coal and gas industry: two or three mine entrances (mainly strip), a few fluctuating roadside gas wells, a processing plant, a tipple, a loading track (to put the coal on the train), repair shops for trucks and equipment, riverbank graveyards for unfixable parts, another processing plant and a deep mine...

It may be hard to imagine, but there's immense beautry and life alongside these industrial eyesores. Fall, spring and summer are best. It's always best when the leaves are on the trees. Those leaves remind you that there is still life here despite the constant pillage.

I have grown to love the drive to Judy Branch and all the places it takes me. I have not grown into comfort with my own complicity and participation in the system that makes things so. I hate that by simply being a human being living in our current society, I am inextricably linked to the complex system that brings all these industrial monstrosities to my distant holler. I have spent my entire life participating in systems that I do not believe in. I have yet to discover a way to feel okay about that.

Judy Branch is the place I find myself right in the middle of it but with a quiet distance to reflect. Every time I come home or leave, I go on a journey that forces me to think about the real costs of our "quality of living." When I get home, I go on a journey of rediscovering the challenge of growing your own food and fending for yourself. Neighbor Billy Joe (Neighbor Bill's wife. She calls him William.) thinks that if folks would go back to getting by with what they have, our world (and country) would be in a lot better place. I tend to agree.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Okra planted, time to sleep

Despite the heat and the possibility of taking catnaps on a much-needed day off, I worked in the garden. I have been working tirelessly in this garden since April, even though I know the odds are against me. Neighbor Bill has told me all about the farming difficulties here on Judy Branch. Soil is rocky and not very rich. Been over-farmed and strip mined to boot. Then you have the deer. Hundreds of deer roaming these parts, and the dogs don't do too much to keep them out of the garden. Even if you build a tall fence, you still have to reckon with the racoons, and possibly the groundhogs. If somehow you can manage to keep those out, then you've got the bugs and the soil problems. Somehow, though, he has done it. A real garden of Eden, just the next house up. He even has asparagus.

The last place I lived was on a river that flooded. After the flood, the garden only required that I drop seeds on the mud and cover them over. What a bounty! For two years I had more corn, okra and tomatos than I knew what to do with. More, even, than I could give away. To this day, I dread to think what kind of toxins were in that rich silt left by that flood. Whatever they were, they gave me three months supply of green tomotoes. And that's the only good thing I can remember about that place.

Today I finished my fence and planted okra. Last week I punctured my foot in a failed attempt to drive a T stake in the ground for my garden fence and learned one of the most important lessons in life: steel T stakes should NEVER be mistaken for pogo sticks. I'm stubbornly independent and I like a challenge. On the matter of the fence, these characteristics did not work toward my personal well being. I do hope that they will at least produce a good crop of okra.