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Saturday I was in Istanbul. It was
the middle of the tulip festival and all over the city by the streets and
squares ran ribbons of tulips,
thousands of them arising from
carpets of brilliant red, yellow and
blue primroses or velvety gold and
purple pansies. The sun sparkled,
the sky was blue, domes of mosques and minarets shone, everyone smiled.
In the Grand Bazaar I bought bracelets and necklaces of moonstone and
jasper and the ubiquitous blue evil-eye-averting glass beads;
poured out in gleaming piles on shop counters and, from the Egyptian
bazaar, spices with no name, to carry back and scent my homely kitchen with the
essence of Ali Babaís cave.
ruins of Ephesus, a vendor of fruit had treasure of a different kind:
baskets of deep red
pomegranates and brilliant oranges, from which he squeezed brimming glasses of
juice which it was hard not to think of as ambrosia.
me into purple prose.
Greece is an
equally enchanting story. White
houses climb narrow streets built on old volcanos, blue sea below, the colors of
the Greek flag come alive. Red wine
in friendly tavernas, pretty clothes to try on and buy in small shops, a black
cat staring from a high wall, small flowers everywhere, spring and new
beginnings. Sunset over the Aegean, the cold walls of the Knights of St.
Johnís city on the isle of Rhodes, a liter of Mythos beer in a glass boot,
coffee early in the morning in Lindos and the joy of a clean accessible W.C.!
Such are the pleasures of a retired, middle-leaning-toward-old-aged
schoolteacher. My kind beautiful
daughter drew smiles wherever we went.
Back home to
the farm, New England spring. The
smell of young tomato plants on my hands after a morning working in the
greenhouse, a carpet of pansies on the benches waiting to be sold, black turned
earth after the plow, the birdsong which fills the air in early morning, when
the sky is still ink-blue and the spring trees are black silluettes against it.
Watching the weather, hoping for warmth and sunshine after this
extraordinarilly wet spring.
years the view out my front door has been the field across the street. I have
watched the slow crawl of the tractor across the field and the greening of
lettuce and beans and cauliflower and cabbage, each in its season.
Heard the peepers screaming into April nights,
bullfrogs croak like off-center clothes driers, seen a great blue heron
cross the moon, watched Orien wheel across the late winter sky, ducks paddling
in the flooded field. I was a girl
in Illinois and love the sight and sound of tall corn. The rustle of it on hot
We sold the farm. Had to. Still farming it, leasing it back, year by year, for now.
But it makes me sad. In the
time since it ceased to be Indian land, sometime arouund 1640, this farm has
belonged to only three families; the
farmerís father and his brothers, fresh from Sicily,
rented it in 1916 and bought it in 1919.
He plowed it with horses until after World War Two when he bought a
tractor, which is still in use here. When
he suffered a stroke and couldnít work anymore
he started to teach his son the business and so the college student
became a farmer in his turn and in his head and hands are all the knowledge and
skill from those long years, plus new knowledge, new skill he has learned along
the way, during his forty years of farming.
But the farm
had to be sold. There are a million reasons why the small farms are
disappearing, and I read with a sick heart articles in the New York Times Sunday
magazine about how to save them, and books on experts telling us to eat local,
mostly vegetables, and listen to friends rave about the local farmerís market
(mostly farmers from out of town) which a farming friend described as a flea
market with vegetables....
a teacher, and my husband is a farmer.
I used to joke that we were a typical frontier couple - the schoolmarm
feeding the minds and the farmer feeding the bodies of the nation.
We both get told often how valuable we are. And yet.
Change is good.
The farm is sold, and for the first time we will be able to travel a bit
together, albeit after November and before February.
We will eat like kings during the summer, feed our friends wonderful corn
in August and September, and Iíll have the prettiest garden in town.
In December weíll cruise down the Danube and visit Christmas markets,
and Iíll try to speak German again, and for a few cold months he wonít have
to get up every night and make sure the plants in the greenhouse havenít
frozen. Change is good.