December 2007 Archives

The Memoirs of a Survivor

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doris lessing porch.jpg
"that epicist of the female experience, who with scepticism, fire and visionary power has subjected a divided civilisation to scrutiny"

Doris Lessing won the Nobel Prize for literature this year. She has me shaking in my farmhouse over a cup of chamomile tea at 10:41 pm. An hour I haven't seen in a long time- what with waking up everyday at 3:48 am (a scant 5 hours from now). I just finished reading The Memoirs of a Survivor.

The only thing hopeful about this novel is the title. She Survived? She wrote Memoirs? Wasn't killed by the hoards of 4-year wild cannibal "kids."? Come to think of it at this late hour-- she probably was making some kind of analogy about how little kids can sure eat us up-- time, energy, emotions. Hmmmmm. I've got a few of those running lose around my house too. But in the book the hoards of subterranean wordless children actually kill people and eat them. They don't just confine them to playing Pinky Pie My Little Pony tea time with Hot Wheels action for the Little Ponies (when all I REALLY want is a nap-- because I've been up since 3:44 a.m.).

Ok-- so WHO told me to read this book? I forgot who you are but remind me why you said that this was a tale of hopeful survival in the face of collapse and apocalypse? Why did I rush into Borders to buy this book on your recommendations that it would buoy me in the face of the other apocolyptic books on my night stand? I know you are someone I respect because I bought the book immediately upon your suggestions. It helped that there was a new little "Winner of the NOBLE PRIZE in literature" sticker on the front. Please write me and let me know what you found redeeming.

The book wasn't really scary until the end-- until all of the people had left the city and the author (Doris says this is as close to an autobiography as she has written) and the young girl/woman character are left alone in the city with the cannibal children in the stories above them. It was them being alone in the city that scared me. It was even more frightening just now when I walked down my pitch black stairs looking out the living room window on acres and miles of dark, empty land. I knew-- just 10 minutes ago-- that I could not stay on this farm alone. I can't be here without Mike, Alma, Jens, and Lake. What would I do without Mike? And Happy. If Happy started to bark now I would be terrified-- not just scared. The other thing that scared me was that there was no place to escape to:

"...where would we be going? To what? There was silence from out there, the places so many people had set off to reach. No word ever came back.... And what of all those people who had left, the multitudes, what had happened to them? They might as well have walked off the edge of a flat world.... news from the east: yes, it seemed that there was life of a sort down there still. A few people even farmed, grew crops, made lives. "Down there"-- "out there"-- we did hear ofd these places; they were alive for us.... But north and west, no. Nothing but cold and silence"

Looks like I'll keep writing.... if interested you can click on Continue reading.

Christmas bling

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church like Eidskog.jpg

Maybe there was this much Christmas all around me in St. Paul but I was oblivious or my attention dissipated by so many other distractions. I went to church in St. Paul -being among the social justice side of the religious left. So it's not like I found church in Big Stone County. But I will tell you that there is something refreshing about the lack of self censorship here. An innocent indulgence in the spirit of Christmas among grown ups and kids.

We drove out our driveway and three miles into the dark prairie-- through the low marshlands to the south and up to Eidskog Lutheran church. As isolated as any prairie church could be-- not even the occasional farmstead light along the way. We parked on the road and crunched through the night snow. We walked into the church ablaze with light and the smell of coffee coming from the basement fellowship "hall." The smell of coffee permeating from the very walls from 120 years of egg coffee brewed by generations of sturdy old world women. There were over 200 people seated in this isolated country church. We sang and listened to Christmas hymns and heard people's stories and memories of the songs they offered up. Then we moved downstairs in a rush of talking and laughter for coffee, sloppy joes, pickles, and Christmas cookies. Can you smell it?

No offering asked for.

That was the first of three hymn sings I've been to close to our farm. Aside-- in St. Paul I wasn't even asked to audition for the choir. Here a couple people told me I had a lovely voice. It's a fair, alto voice-- but here I join a choir a bit more scant. And I try very seriously to blend in remembering the women from out of town singing soprano solos amidst the congregation-- their lovely lilting voices lifted to God and the enjoyment hearing themselves standing out.

Check out the comments...

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Just a quick note to point out the great comments that other folks have logged at this blog. You can click on "comments" at the bottom of each blog to read them. I'm so impressed with the comments, for example under the Browns Valley and the Farmers, therefore... entries.

Thank you so much to those who have commented.

Browns Valley-- in my bones

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couteau des prairie.jpg
Photo of the Couteau des Prairie. This does not do it justice. This place begs for some photographers and artists to capture the images.

I drove yesterday north and west from our farm through Browns Valley, Minnesota on my way to NDSU. This is a magical place. Magical. It is the continental divide between the Gulf of Mexico and the Hudsons Bay. I was so distracted driving here-- the landscape changes dramatically from flat corn and bean fields to a valley with boulders, grasses, and the couteau across the valley rising up in the Dakotas. Other worldly, haunting, soul touching, lovely. It feels safe and sheltered. The wind was howling-- shaking my car along the road. I felt that if I were here hundreds or thousands of years ago I would feel safe. I had the sensation that I had roots here-- ancient roots. I felt it in my bones.

The earliest people on this land were drawn here. About 9,400 years ago the ice dams broke loose and waters flowed to the north-- the Red River. How dramatic that must have been! And people made this their home shortly after that. I looked it up when I got home and found this history of the region

"The area has seen human presence for thousands of years. A Paleo-Indian skeleton now know as "Browns Valley Man" was unearthed in 1933, under circumstances which suggested death after deposition of the gravel but before creation of significant topsoil. Found with tools of the Clovis and Folsom types, the human remains have been dated approximately 9,000 years b.p.[4][12]

The Traverse Gap was used by Native Americans, who recognized its geographic significance. Two buffalo skulls were placed on the continental divide, where travelers would stop to smoke a pipe to mark the place where the waters divided."

As you pass through here you can sense that something significant is happening on this landscape. One can almost feel the continental divide.

Six weeks- one car

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country road image.jpg
photo credit Chris Long

[an entry from October]

Took Alma and the boys (in burly) out for a bike ride-- 6 miles in total, about 4 miles on blacktop. After about 3 miles Alma says to me "There are no cars at all. It's kind of creepy." We rode all 6 miles without being passed by a single car. It's not creepy to me. What a change from our house in St. Paul where we couldn't let them ride bicycle even on the sidewalks. Strangers and neighbors constantly pulling into driveways and turning around. We saw a little girl on our block riding on the sidewalk get hit by a car turning into a driveway. She was ok, but her bike was crushed.

We lived here for 6 weeks before I saw a car drive down the gravel road at the end of our driveway. Alma and I were riding bike up the driveway and I looked to the north and saw a truck coming down the gravel road. I actually said out loud "what is that?!" Six weeks -one car.

That was in mid-October. Then the harvest started and hunting season and the world came alive with men. Tractors, trucks and combines all night long, all around us. You should have seen the harvest moon and the men out working the fields. I drove home to the farm from the Cities-- looking at the suddenly populated acres that had been sitting so still and quiet for the first six weeks we had lived here. The moon so bright-- it was enchanting.

And hunters everywhere. One of Alma and my last bike rides we were on our way back home when a truck of hunters approached slowly and rolled down the windows. The urban alertness in me made me feel really frightened. Alma and I were in a completely isolated area with a truck full of men approaching. We were wearing blaze orange and the men laughed and asked us if we were hunting. They said they were from the Chokio area and waved goodbye.

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This page is an archive of entries from December 2007 listed from newest to oldest.

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