Keeping On Keeping On

Barack Obama came to me in a dream a few nights ago, gave me a high five and told me “You’ve got this.” Honestly, I’m not so sure. Part of that may be due to the rest of the dream involving packing little Wonderbread rolls in a prison-like factory run by some antebellum longbeard cult leader.

But I’m keeping going. In the end, isn’t that all there is to do? You keep going.

Writing of his days flying air mail over the Andes in the late 1920’s, St. Exupery tells of his friend Henri Guillaumet. With the flimsy airframes, primitive engines and non-existent weather forecasts and navigation aids, it was not at all unusual for pilots to disappear, never to be found.

A Potez Model 25, typical of what Guillaumet flew across the Andes 92(!) times while delivering airmail.

Guillaumet’s plane failed to arrive one night, and a memorial service was duly held. He showed up a week later, haggard but alive. The story Guillaumet told was that after his plane crashed in the mountains, he walked for days through the ice and snow before collapsing of exhaustion. Lying there, he got to thinking about life insurance. If his body was never found, it would be four years before he would be declared legally dead and his wife could receive the insurance money. 

From where he was lying, he knew that with the coming of summer his body would be washed into one of a thousand mountain crevasses. But there was a rock jutting up about 50 meters away. And he thought “If I get up, I may be able to reach that rock. And if I can prop myself up against it, they’ll find me next summer.”

From that vantage point, he saw another, better, place to die. And from there, yet another. He went on through the mountains for three more days like this before being found and rescued by a boy from a nearby village.

My point being, who am I to complain? And what is there to do but go on?

My days have become somewhat of a steady rotation as the clock winds down on what one pundit called “the sixth year of the 2016 election.” I had been doing volunteer coding for progressive campaign causes but, as we’ve slipped into these final weeks – and days! – I’ve gone back to phone banks. Reaching out to registered voters to let them know how to check whether their ballots have been received, and what to do if they haven’t, or have been rejected. Recruiting others to join in and make calls.

I get hung up on most of the time, and I can’t say I blame the hangers-up: their phones must be ringing off the hook. But when I do get through my “Hi, my name’s David, and I’m a get-out-the-vote volunteer,” my conversations have been uplifting. An elderly woman I spoke with in Pittsburgh said she was appalled at the vandalism of her yard signs, “Can’t we be respectful of others’ opinions?” She apologized profusely for not being able to help, but explained that she was freshly out of the hospital and still quite frail. A young woman in what I recall as being a rough neighborhood told me my timing was perfect: “See, I’m trying to talk some sense into a fellow right now. Can I start making calls for y’all as soon as I’m done with this guy?”

Inspiring as all that is, it’s still emotionally draining. When I’m too drained to call, I find that I can get a charge back by spending an hour or so splitting wood. Yeah, it’s the advantage of aerobic large-muscle exercise, but there’s also something viscerally pleasing about wielding chainsaws, and swinging a six-pound axe (technically a maul) to reduce enormous discard logs into useful firewood-sized bits.

And I’ve been getting off-farm a bit, as well. Our Saturday farmers market has been creeping along while doing the COVID-safe dance, and yesterday the winds and tides were right for me to take the kayak out across the bay. 

With the exception of crossing Lake Ozette on a calm day last month, I’ve never ventured far from shore. There are boats out there. Big boats. And waves coming down the Admiralty Inlet, all the way from Canada. But whenever I put in at the Maritime Center, it’s hard not to look over at Marrowstone Island, across the bay, and think, “It’s not that far, is it?”

So yesterday I finally made the dash – two miles of open water each way, rewarding myself with soft serve ice cream from the convenience store in the campground at the north end of the island. Calories well-earned.

And then there’s the farm itself. Never an end of things that need to get done on the farm. Pierce is putting up a greenhouse. Lydia’s got the irrigation in from the fields, had one of our pastures disked, and is now helping Brendon finish shoring up the parking area while, with her other hand, running all the groundwork on a potential new farm partner. Logan’s putting together plans for winter plantings and Brendon is…well, some times it feels like Brendon is doing everything. I always feel like a slacker for not putting in more hours to help everybody.

Speaking of which, the sun’s finally up, and I need to get some food in me before my next shift on the phone bank. I think we’re calling Pennsylvania again today.

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