Monday, July 28, 2008

Ate Many Berries

I slept in a tent! And with only four or five bouts of hysterical paranoia.

My first night at Frosty Morning Farms happened to coincide with their Strawberry Festival. The word festival conjures up all sorts of images for me- sword swallowers, bobbing for apples, pulled taffy, waking up in a paddling pool full of beer cans. Something big that leaves you sticky and hungover for a week afterwards. The Strawberry Festival in comparison to my lurid imagination is the anti-party. The members of Commonplace Community Land Trust get together, pick strawberries, then sit around a mud pond cooking and eating them. When it gets dark they form a circle and sing songs about fighting the establishment with hand holding or something and drink dandelion wine. It actually looked quite delightful if you knew everyone and felt comfortable sitting on the grass for eight hours straight. But I'd just arrived and wanted to get to work, whatever that meant. Unfortunately for me the Strawberry Festival is the one weekend all summer when no one works.

Around dark I was a mile up 'the hill' on a treacherously unlit rock strewn road. I had to escape We Shall Overcome so I did something I never do and begged total strangers for a ride. When they dropped me off at the farmhouse there was only the dim light of the kitchen window to see by. Jason, the Frosts' teenage son, was watching a movie with an Unnamed Youth. I begged him for some sheets and blankets to cover the bare mattress awaiting me on my tent platform. As he rustled around upstairs the Unnamed Youth and I exchanged words of a fuzzy bizarre nature as I'd gotten into the dandelion wine.

Stealing Jason's flashlight off the counter, I tried not to let my peripheral vision acknowledge the darkness. The night was unseasonably cold especially after the boiling heat of the city. I crawled inside the tent, not checking to see if the flaps were zipped completely shut against the wind because it seemed like touching the canvas walls would admit what flimsy protection they were. In my bag was a bottle of codeine cough syrup and I decided the only way to knock myself out was a heaping tablespoon of the good stuff. Shivering, I tried to pour out a portion big enough to put me to sleep instantly without inducing vomiting and instead splashed an elephant's dose all over my arms, legs and bedsheets. I finally managed to get some in my mouth and fell into a restless sleep. My last thoughts were either that I'd die of an overdose or be eaten alive by fire ants attracted to my cherry cough syrup coating.

Accomplishing neither objective I was forced to rise the next crack of dawn and sit through another day of strawberries. Before leaving town I'd jokingly (kind of) told my friend Robin that if I ever wrote an autobiography it would be titled "Ate Many Berries, May Poop Self". After two days of berry syrup, berry pancakes, berries and whipped cream this had become my mantra.

By my last night at Frosty Morning Farms the strawberries were pretty much out of my system and I had begun to love my tent. The gentle breeze blowing up from a nearby grove of trees, the sweet murmur of the chickens just outside, its delicious cherry scent. It didn't feel unsafe to peer into the darkness anymore. One night I was sitting on the edge of my mattress combing my hair dry and listening to the creaking outside without wondering if it was an ax murderer. I looked up and bumping against the netted ceiling was a signaling firefly. A little peeping Tom hoping for some hot l.e.d. light action.

Why are fireflies so poignant and touching? Maybe it was because I only saw three the whole time I was there and began to think it was the same one, blinking quietly and alone in my part of the yard, our part. There we were in a vast empty evening wishing each other goodnight through the walls of my tent.

Is it evil to anthropromorphize insects?

Perhaps the reason I began to like going to sleep in my tent was that when I woke up it was to this:

The next step of course is to sleep without any semblance of walls at all...perhaps when I've been prescribed methadone. Before streaking off into our drug induced dreams the firefly and I can flash sans boundaries into the night. Except it's a bug without thoughts or feelings.

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