Sunday, June 21, 2009

Coming Home From Away

CLICK - HEAR the Podcast from the farm

Lupines along the shore in Sturgeon

Susan Weeding the GIANT rhubarb outside our barn

The boys and their bikes.

Well summer is here. And father's day was a sweet success. The boys gave me their cards and a fine present I'll be using to grill over the pit this summer.

We've had some ups and downs but that's nothing. Folks, when you leave your every day behind and plant yourself somewhere different you have a chance to see the world with new eyes.

Islanders occupy a particular place in the world and their pride of place makes it clear that if you're from "away" you can never truly be an "islander". But you can be a good neighbor, a friend, an asset to the community and someone that the folks on the road will wave to on the way past. That's good enough for me.

As I drove my tractor through the field the other day, a neighbor waved and beeped his horn on the way by. I took it as a simple note of approval like a friendly wave in town. I was out in the field working my farm and that made this passing islander glad enough to beep his greetings.

We aren't skilled farmers or traditional islanders. But I always hope we're seen as people who love and appreciate this community. We aren't here by birth - we're here by fate. And I think that because we've come here to work a heritage farm in this province people in the neighborhood are willing to give us a chance. That's all I could ever ask.

A friend who moved to Santa Barbara once noted that my children were lucky. Because they were second generation born in Santa Barbara, they would always have the honor of calling themselves Barbarenos - a distinction that goes back to Spanish California. You see we too have a particular pride of place.

My sons are 13th generation Americans. Our ancestors were among the first Europeans to plow fields in colonial Massachusetts and New hampshire. My mother's family walked west to the Kansas prairie behind covered wagons. So what are we doing removing ourselves to Eastern Canada?

We 're no longer English. We're not Spanish. We're not Canadians. But we are free people who have chosen to cast our lot here in the Maritimes. Why? Well, fate is hard to define. But whispers from the past offer a suggestion. Many of the folkways described by my father's father still live here. And my mother's mother actually foretold this place in an incredibly detailed free-hand embroidery of our farm which she gave to my mother as a wedding present in April,1943 - 57 years before we came to the island. So it could be lots of things that brought us here. Or it could just be that we've finally come home from away.

I observed the other day that Hollywood has put an obscene premium on wealth and beauty. But God must love plain people because he surely made an awful lot of us. On PEI, I feel comfortable with God's people. Sure, I'm proud to be a Californian. And I'll gladly trade on the magic of the name. But what makes this place special is that I'm free to be who I am.

When I fall on my face people will laugh. My pride will be hurt a little. But if I'm willing to swallow a bit of my California pride, some smiling islander will offer a hand up and have a laugh with me.

I'm the child of a benign and sunny coast come to a place that strips shiny exteriors to a weather beaten finish. I can only hope that when my shiny paint fades my outsides will harden up. And I hope that my outlook will remain as sunny and warm as the people I know who make this island their particular place of pride and hope.

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