On Mondays I wake up at 5:30 hating everything. I hate myself, I hate my alarm clock, I hate the pushpin next to my bed, I hate chaos theory, I hate cucumbers (I always hate cucumbers), I hate steamy movie scenes, I hate toothbrushes, I hate other people for being awake and not hating everything, I really hate other people for being asleep when I'm not, I hate fallen arches, I hate sun hats, I hate the once-soothing sound of summer fan blades in the morning air. I smear sunscreen onto my face without remembering to wash the sleep out of my eyes and hate that I now have to either leave the sleep there or rinse sunscreen into my soon-to-be screaming cornias. It's far enough past the solstice, and far enough into a day of sky taunting storms, for it to still be pitch-black outside. (I hate that.) The clouds hang low and cool in the hills east of the Hudson River. (Okay, maybe I don't hate that so much...). I eat maple yogurt made from milk from cows that are currently in the barn down the hill being milked by really weird, fascinating machines and farm apprentices, and I don't exactly hate the yogurt, but I do think about the fact that whole milk yogurt is not the same as low fat yogurt and which one is better anyway but who cares because I hate everything. Except my bed, which I am no longer in. My drooling dog mind, certain that the only reason we could be up this early is that we are UNDER ATTACK, kicks the adrenaline up and starts driving itself feverishly into the self-criticism button, fix this, fix us, fix the (non)emergency, fix everything.
I ignore the dog and continue eating yogurt.
The dog is catching more early morning burs, more of those crisp little "shoulds" in hard shells determined to lodge in my side, and getting them all over the place. I put on my hiking boots and rain pants (harvesting without them when the sun isn't up yet is about equivalent to jumping in the swimming pond across the road with all your clothes on) and wait for the other intern to come and lead us down the hill too fast.
And then this happens: in the mist, we harvest tomatoes and I speak with an apprentice about that illusion called future (dog mind throws itself against the bars in the tiny cage of my head). The tomatoes are firm and they have green shoulders. My hands turn green-yellow grunge from the leaves and smell of that pungent kind of salvation that comes from this late-magic summer fruit. Everything feels free, like it can breathe, the low sky a collarbone bending down to pick us up, small children protected by this out-in-the-open weather. Relief spelled r-a-i-n.
I am prepared to bet that I could make my first million by bottling and selling a scent called "tomato harvest infused with dark 6 am rain." In the face of rampant dissatisfaction and a pendulum heart that won't tell me anything about where or how to go next, and as someone who admittedly has some sleep issues, a rainstorm and 5:30 wake-up call should pretty much send me over the edge of horror canyon into the gorge of despair (imagine really deep echoes around both of those phrases for the full effect). But today I declare the following, won't you join me, say: I'm finished with "shoulds," they're evil little burs, let's all get over ourselves and spend a few days picking them out of our skin and the cuffs of our pants. And then forgive our stupid panting adorable shit-rolling curious insatiable lovely dog-minds for bringing us such wiry, piercing little seeds of doubt and chain.
I ride in the jolting back of the blue truck bed and grin like a mad boat captain, watching the road go backwards, the drizzle in my face fresh freedom, the spray of mountain-seas. I have been frenetic with the wild permutations of thinking about next month and invisible conversational nuance and my car battery and feet and was not expecting this kind of peace. This kind of joy in motion. The road only goes backwards while we move in a direction with no name. Here we are in this truck bed careening towards something, California or death or the field down the road, and I only see the potholes after they've hit. They are full of muddy rain. Spine already knows. Ass already knows. Slung sideways in the glorious dirt of the truck bed I finally feel safe. Heart shaped like those lopsided oxheart tomatoes that all had rotten spots already already knows.
Most days I don't love the farm. I respect it but it is not my endeavor, I feel no ownership or belonging, I work most days in an office and resent my tailbone for getting so much use. I am a guest in the field and a bad early riser. I try to draw far-reaching conclusions from every minute thing I do or don't enjoy (perhaps a trait of many of us in this particular carnival moment of abject uncertainty). I could exchange my thoughts-per-minute for dollars and have enough to buy a three-hour trip down the river and all of Manhattan when I got there. I believe in farms, especially this one, I work for and on and around farms, but they have been hard for me to love. The first farm I ever really worked on got tangled up with my white blood cells decision to engage in open revolt and my first shameful thrill of heartbreak besides and also it was run by people who kept asking me if I could see the faeries outside my tent. I have been somewhat mistrustful ever since.
But today I love the farm. I love its people and their rough warmth, their hands full of competence I aspire to. It is not an easy love. I try hard not to draw conclusions, not to decide what I will and will not handle in the future. The farm alone among all my rattled loves and angry phone line snares, all my cover letter disappointments and friendship-wish travels that never put me on a real road, has offered me this: the smell of tomato leaves burned into my hands. It does not rinse off when I come in for breakfast.