When you pull out the last of the peas, the tall varieties that grow to five or six feet, you get really up close. Leaning over and moving along the trellis, hands working, you pull up from the ground and down from the trellis, and the vines, ripping and tearing in all directions, tumble across your back and wrap around your neck like a garland. At the row’s end, you turn, reach your arms wide, swoop up the vines, and carry them off the field. There is the smell of the few shriveled peas, their companion roots already rotting. There is the rattle of the vines at both ears and all the bugs that bounce off your forehead. And there’s you—you carrying your big armfuls when suddenly you understand that the vine-heaps you carry are one and the same as the earth you tread. This good Earth. They may pave it, frack it, mountain-top remove it, they may act in every way to disregard it—but for now at least you’ve got these armfuls. Here you are almost 54 and you’ve got this prize. Earth by the armfuls. You gather one, you gather another, tomorrow you’ll do it again and all the days after you’ll gather may Earth help you. It will help you. Look at you. Vines snagged on your shoe. Every inch of your skin Earth-covered. In the mornings like this morning you’ll wake to return to it, but of course. You’re already there.
A Life of the Hand: Images