Back on the farm. How did this happen? Just weeks ago I was happily traveling, flaunting my ultimate untethered freedom by paragliding first in Utah, then Torrey Pines, Yelapa, Santa Barbara, Big Sur, Pacifica. Not even gravity could catch me. Now I’m back in dirty Carharts and rubber boots, digging in the wormy dirt, and catering to the relentless demands of plants. If I slack off at all, they die. There is no playing hookie here. It’s the ultimate in rootedness. The very opposite of flying.
It is my ninth spring at Eagle Mill Farm. That is nine seasons of laying out the irrigation, of tilling rows, digging holes, planting tomatoes. And for the ninth time, I am watching the same pair of Canada Geese arrive and loiter atop the greenhouse, nuzzle each other out in the weeds and make me sick with envy at the longevity of their relationship. But, if the farm were my lover–as a friend once observed–I suppose I have succeeded in a nine year relationship, too.
Fortunately, I’m not completely tied down; there is flying to be had here too. At Woodrat Mountain I have been taking my first real mountain flights. Over the past months, I have grown used to coastal flying, to complacently floating on the thick ocean air and snuggling in close to ridges. At Woodrat, I launch into vast open space, into pure thin air. The huge maws of three valleys lay open before me, the sky feels oceanic, and I am a speck–an agoraphobic seed tossed about in the sharp-edged air. It is a staggering sensation of smallness and vulnerability like I have never felt before. As we went over my P-3 requirements this morning, my instructor Kevin Lee suggested treating the fear like a small child and leaving it on launch to play while I fly.
I have only agreed to a month on the farm this year, just to get things started. But I have to be careful; its such a big beautiful world out there and it’s too easy to get reeled in to this one particular spot, spellbound by the land and all its beautiful vegetables, all the wine, the friends and never make that long summer drive to Alaska…