Walking into the glow of a full moon toward the Garden Cafe' I am adopted by a golden retriever that is delighted with company for a 5a.m. walk. He is attentive and well behaved though just slightly confused about where his home lies and I haven't the morning heart to send him scurrying with a blunt command I don't mean. I eat a ham and cheese omelet heavy with Kimm Brother's potatoes, the same potatoes I have come to know so well, and studied maps. I still see him sitting by my travous outside. Another bark. I try not to look up. Nic steps from his stove and pies to tell me my friend just went around to the backdoor to wait me out. Looking outside an hour later he is still waiting, still holding by the door. He thinks that I am his, and I wonder how I'll get out of town without this eighty pound stomach following me.
(Yesterday) For half the day I am separating potatoes from stone and making Hannah laugh as she works the conveyor belt of rolling potatoes and round field stones across from me. We remove rocks as a steady river of spuds rumble between us over a dry track. She is beaming light with sunglasses set in her dark hair over a John Deere hat that shadow water blue eyes. I am singing because I don't care and my mind is shuddering in time to the motors. I am singing to white noise. It does not matter that I am dry or throated. The electric motors are loud forcing a voice that is not mine just to break surface and ease the cadence of potato, potato, potato, rock, twig, rock. Thought turns to reflex and back. "Old black water keep on rolling..." I see Hannah's lips move softly as her hands move from stone to stone.
Hannah is one of those women that just can't look bad or ill kept no matter how her clothing tangles or the earth dusts her face and I study this angle of grace to understand though I remain mystified and content with that. She is eighteen and getting married in March. All her world is rising like dawn. We both are boyant with new roads in our morning hair. Each time we look at one another we smile a grin that exclaims that we are truly excited about life, the future, and it is contagious. I'm hit with a small potato and don't have to look up to feel her smirk.
I wish winter wasn't coming so fast. There are so many questions only time spent in one camp can answer. I am driven out to the potato fields by George, a cheerful part-time musician that looks like Jerry Garcia. He is a big man with a gentle cluck for a laugh. I listen to his travels and how he lost a hundred pounds to save his heart. It was worth saving. His voice is gentle. I try to see him smoking it up on a stage. All I hear is his smooth heart with the volume turned up and I listen as he talks tapping my foot. We watch the field, the lines of pale vines releasing the wet of last night's frost turned over and over as if we are watching the sea from shore. Tractors become a few small ships floating in a line of waves. A few birds fly over without looking down.
Riding shotgun in the blue tractor I feel the earth break behind us to the throat of the polished blade as the dump trucks fills with fists of rock and spuds on a field surrounded by a horseshoe of mountains dusted with snow. This is what I wanted, dreamt of and it passes so fast; to work with the people of the land, to taste the harvest in the dust coming up from my shirt, to be part of this truth of America, dirt cracking in the folds and wrinkles of my hands. It is a meal I have no control over and this plate moves away too soon although I am chewing in earnest, still taking it all in like it is my last chance to eat this particular confection and spice. And it is. Before I memorize all the names, clear the taste of earth from my palette my feet are talking about new roads and the return to strangerland, the return to being wet too long and yet another little pang of leaving dances in my chest. Have I grown more sensitive to these little leavings, or am I getting closer to heart, to a belonging that comes with being at peace within my own skin? I take lots of pictures but this is a weak placebo to a soul that wants to know these voices, these faces, this town. I worry about shredding my clothes on steel and rubber belts, wear on boots, the coming of winter, and think of walking down the same road I have just tractored....wondering through all of this thought... will tomorrow see me gone or smiling through this dirty face with the chill of morning settling in my hands?
Dark becomes light against the glass of the restaurant. The dog has forgiven his post and wandered off. The morning tells me that my only sweater is too thin as I shoulder Crow Dog, fasten the two wheeled cart to my waist and dip my hat brim down in the direction of Logan.