When I was young, my godmother gave me an air plant as a gift. You may have seen one of these before; they’re odd little specimens that have no roots. I was fascinated by these plants that could dwell on the branches and trunks of other trees, or even on my counter in a small dish, soaking in the water they needed through their leaves. A plant that could travel anywhere, because it did not need to be uprooted. A plant that was flexible and portable. A plant that could adapt to living in different places.
I saw myself this way for the longest time, as a plant without roots. I was independent! I materially could subsist on almost nothing! Why stay in once place when there’s a whole world to explore, to absorb, to travel and live in? A lot of who I am has been bound up in this pride in my rootlessness, my love of starting over over and over again.
But the Farm School has changed me.
I can actually remember the moment it happened. On an unusually warm night in late April, just before sunset, I left the greenhouse and was suddenly struck by the perfect composite image of this place: chickens wandering around, children held in the arms of their parents or playing tag in mismatched clothing and improvised superhero capes, two adult instructors on the front bench discussing important intellectual questions, and me, just watching, saddened that I would ever have to leave this farm.
For the first time in my life, I was no longer jealous of the portable little air plants that used to dwell in my childhood kitchen. Instead, I was jealous of all the little transplants–from tomatoes to corn to fennel–who were seeded with care in our greenhouse, moved to the field at a young age, and then nourished to maturity there.
I found myself jealous of these delicate little plants that will spend most of their lives in just one place. I want roots, too. I want to stay somewhere, to be happy somewhere, to drink deep of where I am, to really become one with that place. This place has made me want to transform my inner air plant into an inner sequoia–or at least into an inner fall brassica with a long growing season.
I’m not the only one to have this place touch me so deeply. I know other student farmers have experienced their own transformations as well. One of them said that this year has felt both like a return to self and a change in self, and I think that’s true of many of us.
As one wise Farm School community member so wisely said, human beings evolutionarily traded connection for mobility. Mobility is useful, but it costs us. Really settling into a place, and taking it into ourselves through the food and air and water and human relationships that nourish us there, gives us some of that lost connection that we sorely need. Connection to ourselves, the land, one another.
It is hard to pull ourselves out of this place after rooting so deep. The farm has become a real home, though we all knew that it would be a temporary one for most of us. But this place will always be remembered within us, because its soils have become part of us, taken into our bodies and our beings. We have become one with it, and we may leave it, but it will not leave us. I am thankful for that.