The Work of Nourishing

    When we first began working the land at Wild Ridge Farm last spring, about a year ago, I found an arrowhead made out of a red-colored rock.  It was a little bigger than a quarter, an almost perfect equilateral triangle with the edges tapered and lines etched into the sides.  It amazed me completely, and I couldn’t stop turning it over and over in my palm.  I showed everyone I could think of, put a photo of it on the farm’s Facebook page, brought it inside our house and put it on my dresser to marvel at whenever I wanted.  

    Then, almost every day for weeks afterward I found more.  Sometimes five or six a day, carved into slightly different shapes and sizes and made from different types of rock.  I also found what could only be stone tools, which I loved to place in my palm and find the place where the fleshy part below my thumb should go and then wrap my fingers around it and immediately find the grooves worn smooth on the other side - the perfect space for fingers.   Was it used for scraping hides? Grinding seeds?  Each day I would come back from the fields with my pockets full of these stones and lay them on our brown kitchen table for Anna and Joseph to see.  

    Our farm sits on County Road A in northern Ozaukee County, just south of the Milwaukee River.  About 1/2 mile northeast of the farm the river makes a large bend, and it is in this place where we’ve been told that some of the many tribes of the Algonquin Family once made their home.  And also that the land where our farm is now was a primary hunting ground, which explains the plethora of arrowheads and stone tools we find when we till the soil.

    This spring, while working the ground in our newly built hoop house, I found another one and it started me thinking about our connection to the past as the current stewards of this land.  A few hundred years ago human beings were finding nourishment and feeding their families on the land where our farm now sits.  I like to imagine that they found not just sustenance here, but also the joy and community that comes with sharing meals and feeding one another.  And I feel such a strong sense of gratitude, but also of responsibility, that we are now tasked with feeding ourselves and our greater community from this land.  

        By mid season last year my arrowhead and stone tool collection had outgrown the attractive ways I could find to display them, and ended up living in a gallon size plastic bag which I stored in the hutch in our living room where they’ve been ever since.  Then a few weeks ago I stumbled upon this Mary Oliver poem:  

   

The Arrowhead
Mary Oliver

The arrowhead,
which I found beside the river,
was glittering and pointed.
I picked it up, and said,
“Now, it’s mine.”
I thought of showing it to friends.
I thought of putting it—such an imposing trinket—
in a little box, on my desk.
Halfway home, past the cut fields,
the old ghost
stood under the hickories.
“I would rather drink the wind,” he said,
“I would rather eat mud and die
than steal as you steal,
than lie as you lie.”

    Yikes.  Last week I took that large plastic bag, stood in the middle of the field where I had found each piece and threw them one by one back onto the land.  It wasn’t just the reproach I felt after discovering the poem, but also a desire to maintain the sacred spaces where food is found.  To mount the evidence that even in the midst of our   tumultuous world, people are creating space to nourish one another.