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LAND LEAVES ITS LANDMARKS ON ME

At the moment, I'm sitting in my office watching someone else mow the lawn.

He's just caught the mower blades on some weed-barrier cloth at the edge of the hostas. He'll probably clip the nearly hidden rocks just down the hill from the paperbark maple. And I wouldn't be surprised if he got stuck in one of the holes I dug for a tree that never got planted.

I never think about these things when I mow the lawn. I miss them instinctively. They've somehow grown into my bones like everything else about this place - bedrock surfacing in the middle pasture, monarchs drifting over the milkweed, bumblebees drinking at the edge of the spot we keep wet for the pigs.

I came here nearly a decade ago thinking about the impression I might leave.

Everything has worked the other way around. Some days I feel like a grave-rubbing - as if the terrain had been traced onto me.

The tractor is the same, only dustier. The first time I drove it I felt like I was acting a part, self-consciously lifting and lowering the bucket. And now it is simply an extension of who I am. Or perhaps I have become an extension of what it can do. So it goes with every tool on this place.

The farmers brought hay from Massachusetts this morning and that meant lowering the hay elevator from the loft. I do it once a year, and always the same way.

I pretend I know what I'm doing, but I'm doing only what the barn and the elevator and the horses and the hay wagons require me to do.

And now the bales come jerking up the elevator, and I swing into an easy rhythm, arms heavy, using the bale's weight against itself.

It may look as though I have tossed that bale in a long arc, back to the darkness where the stack is rising. But what I know now is that that bale has used me to fling itself.

I stand in the barn opening, trying to feel a breeze and pretending to have thoughts.

But I know, too, that it is really the thoughts that are having me.

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