Ode to Dirt

The plowed potato fields lie sleeping under the snow, soaking up moisture in corduroy ridges. When the plows open the fields in March, dirt takes flight in spring’s rushing winds. Summer’s irrigated crops hold the dirt in place, growing food, barley for beer, canola for oil, clover for the honey bees, hay for stock, white, purple and pink blooming potato plants. By fall, dirt, water and sunlight have done their job once more. The potatoes are harvested, the barley is cut, the hay is baled. The trees along the Rio Grande summon all that remains of summer’s light and release it in the gold of cottonwood and aspen leaves. The wind returns, sweeping the old year away. Behind it, snow.

Dust storm in March. Wind carrying dust from the east encounters wind blowing from the west. Stalemate.
Summer on the Rio Grande

Rest and moisture

Communism in “Forgotten” America

On a Facebook meme I read a cool thing that said, “If you have enough time, everything’s in walking distance.” I love(d) to walk so I suppose I’d walk across country with my big white dog and her cart pulling our camping supplies. Bear doesn’t have a cart and I don’t have camping supplies anymore, but I still think that would be fun. That’s why this is one of my favorite videos — I’ve hiked part of this, the beginning — but since I was alone, it was a back and forth thing and I didn’t get far but I was thorough…

What I really want to write about is communism. I live in a communist town, but If I told them that, they’d come visit me with torches and pitchforks or something. 😉  I have all the stuff I bought to help me rehab after the surgery I’m not doing and I wanted to find a place to take it where it might help people. I posted on my town’s community Facebook page and soon got the name of a woman. She (I do not know her) messaged me; she’s the pastor’s wife at the First Christian Church. They keep a closet of medical equipment for people who need it. Perfect. But that is communism. The movie theater in my town went out of business year before last. The community raised funds, bought the theater and keep it open. It’s run by volunteers; proceeds from sales go to getting NEW (really new) movies. The community felt it needed the theater as a place for kids to go on weekends, for families, for dates… Communism.

As I was driving through the valley with my step-daughter-in-law, we passed a huge truck filled to overflowing with potatoes. I pointed it out to her. She said, “I’ll never look at potatoes the same way.” The day before we’d been at the supermarket and I’d shown her a bag of potatoes that had been grown in Monte Vista. She was truly stunned by the writing on the bag, “Monte Vista, CO.” Heaven. As we drove around, I had pointed out the harvested fields and the old and dilapidated, no longer used, adobe potato barns, replaced by more sophisticated (really? are they?) systems. I told her about the Potato Festival and how wonderful and magic it was in its way. “We are so far away from where our food actually comes from,” she continued, looking at the truck, “and the work that goes into growing it. It’s sad that’s how it is.” I agree. I thought, “Honor the labor of the peasant.” A Maoist slogan. I hate Maoism, but that is the point, the good side of it. I don’t see the farmers around me as “peasants” but the labor is hard and their product does no less than keep people from starving.

My step-daughter-in-law asked if anyone ever left the Valley and I said yeah, of course, but people also come back. I told her about the people I’d met — many — who’d gone somewhere else looking for what they imagined would be a bigger life. Of course the ones I know are the ones who came back, but their reasons for returning are almost always, “It wasn’t that great. I missed the beauty of the valley and the people.” It’s more or less what drew me here — years and years of hard work in a world in which I did not matter, where much of my effort was “busy” work. The work done by people in a community like this is NOT “busy work.”

People here are intensely patriotic. I feel their deep sentiments are for a gubmint that (IMO) no longer exists or knows they are here. Poverty here is harsh. What the poor have for social welfare, though, is not so much government programs as it is the church, the family, the town, the neighbors — it is the community. The food bank is active and generous and open to people. Communism.

This is also the old-fashioned way of small-town life. It’s nothing “special” — it’s how people have lived in villages forever.

I remember how long it took me to learn in California that in that kind of population, the numbers, the ethnic and national diversity, high taxes to support government run programs are absolutely necessary. There is no way a community can voluntarily support a population of need such as exists there. The numbers are too great and the motivation is different. People really do need to be paid to help each other because the cost of living there is so high. For example, it’s not walk down the street and man the food bank for half a day. It’s drive at $4/gallon for forty minutes to help out at the foodbank half a day. And it isn’t just ONE foodbank; there need to be hundreds of foodbanks.

I wish there were a way to differentiate taxation based on the nature of communities — maybe there is but I don’t know it. The reason regions such as mine vote conservative — passionately and adamantly — is not because they love Fox News, it’s because increased taxation HURTS us. We raise our OWN funds if we need a community center; we contribute our OWN money, out of pocket, to support the local food bank meaning that taxation is DOUBLE for a community like this one. The government taxes us and then we tax ourselves. We know this — when a proposal comes along to build something for a community, those who grow food (live on more than 40 acres) are exempt from contributing. They can if they want, of course, but they aren’t required. Potatoes.

So tomorrow I will load my car with my brand-new walker, still in its box, my bath seat — still in its box, the grabber, the raised toilet seat — still wrapped, and a pair of crutches that just happen to be in my garage and take it all over to the First Christian Church. When I do decide to get knee surgery, I’ll know where to go to get help with medical equipment. I’ll go to my community.