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Our land

My last living grandfather is in his final days. He's surrounded by loved ones, giving vigilant attention, which, as an uncle has noted, is exactly what he would want. I'm ever more grateful that I was able to visit him twice while home over Thanksgiving. The living memories are so, so important.

As I process my emotional response to this, I'm remembering a phrase shared by a native American woman who felt called to work on explaining to us non-natives some distinctions in our respective worldviews. She said, "The earth is our ancestors. We are walking on the ashes of our ancestors."

Once again, Mt. Rainier factors into this story. My grandfather has been moved, at his request, back to his home of over a half-century. He's in the living room, where Mt. Rainier is present to greet him. He has gone out to visit the mountain just about every year of his life. It has been a rich, fulfilling life. In the way of Western civilization, none of the family members have been especially interested in and committed to the project of inheriting the land he's lived on and cared for and cultivated. So, in the way of Western civilization, the lot will be sold once he passes on. Given on to a new set of memories, without much attention to the history and legacy of the space. I suspect the sad, old apple tree will go, too. Maybe the blueberry bushes will be spared, and the pears. The house's septic system is in poor shape, so the house will probably go, too. The barn, with its distinct creosote barn-smell, long disused, slumbers. In many ways, it's the barn that's the center of that piece of land.

And with the house and barn and land gone, our memories will be loosened to roam free, like ghosts. They will be called back on Mud Mountain because it is so big and sloppy that not even westerners could turn it into a thing to be bought and sold.

I think, too, about the phrase uttered by the native woman when I read about this decision. Just as Texas is leaching its earth, so is Arizona. We Westerners still aren't any good at thinking in cycles (birth-life-death-rebirth), or thinking beyond our individual life spans of profits and incomes and wealth and power and force and violence.


( 5 remarks — Remark )
Dec. 15th, 2014 12:10 am (UTC)
This is a dumb and overly big question, but could you take that land? Would the family let you have it? Because NO ONE HAS THE OPPORTUNITY TO GET LAND LIKE THAT HOLY CATS IT MAKES ME CRAZY

Seriously. Hearing about your family's land, for years, has made me want to pull my hair out because it's such beautiful, precious land, and if your family doesn't steward it, it's going to get turned into condos. And if your family does steward it, it could be a blessing forever.

Again, I realize this question is overly big and not my business and probably too simplified and too dumb for a variety of reasons. But the land. Could you take on that land?
Dec. 15th, 2014 04:10 am (UTC)
It's hard on two levels. It's not an especially large parcel of land. Some years ago, my grandfather sold some of the back end of the property (was forced to sell? Dunno details.) to put in a county road. So anyone taking it over would wind up having to work pretty damned hard and creatively to scrape together a living there. Plus, something pretty serious has to happen with the house because the septic system is shot. So anybody taking over the property has some pretty huge projects/financial burdens to take on. Plus, if it isn't a primary residence, taxes get pretty crazy. Taxes have already gotten fairly crazy because of all the McMansions that have gone in around it.

The second level is the family level. The siblings (my mom and aunts and uncles) have their own individual opinions about things, and would rather see certain family members over others wind up on the property.

I could see the space turned into something like studio space for artists-in-residence, but boy howdy. Believe me, the whole thing has been in the back of my mind for a number of years now.
Dec. 15th, 2014 04:11 am (UTC)
Grandpa's place
As one of those who will inherit Rebecca's grandpa's place, I intend to do whatever I can to see that transfer of the property will go to someone who recognizes that it is sacred. I won't have full control of what happens, but will look to the PCC farmland trust organization for help in making connection to the right folks. Or maybe Rebecca!
Dec. 17th, 2014 03:55 am (UTC)
Hi, Rebecca,

I am turning similar thoughts in my mind. This year my grandmother sold the land on which she has lived since 1948, when my great-grandparents parents broke off a few acres of their farm as a wedding gift to my grandparents. My grandfather built their plain but sturdy home with hand tools in his odd hours. It is in this place that my heart is tied to the Earth.

Someone in my family, perhaps me, perhaps my mother, might have taken over the the property if the road it had been built on hadn't devolved into an unofficial bypass of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. I learned this year that my great-grandparents had offered another parcel of land to my grandparents, but my grandparents didn't want the parcel on the dirt road -- the dirt road that would remain a sleepy farm lane 70 years later.

The property was purchased by a young Mennonite couple. I don't know the couple's plans for the place, but it is easy to imagine that they are hoping to build their legacy on that land, and that gives me satisfaction. When the sale is complete, I plan to send them a letter to let them know they are living in a cherished place.

In the summer, my parents moved to the small, college city a dozen miles from my grandparent's house, and this eases my feelings of loss; my life is still woven through the county where my family has lived for two centuries.

This really turned out to be all about me, and that was not my goal. My goal was to say -- I know how this is.
Dec. 17th, 2014 03:55 am (UTC)
- DM
( 5 remarks — Remark )

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