Residence in the earth

one of our neighbors in the valley

The way our would-be straight lines fall on the land, whether along the contour or across it, makes me think of clothes on a body — the farther from town, the more natural the fit. From highway to road to lane, it’s the same-size wheels, but then for the crops they must grow, sprout treads. Suddenly escape is no longer an option: if we want to eat, we must slow down and pay attention to every detail.

Why any of this should amaze me is difficult to explain. As long as I’ve lived in the country — almost all my life — I am still a creature of books and screens and flat Cartesian spaces with their promises of freedom. I must continually remind myself that power is round: gears. Coins. Bellies. The sockets in which our animal limbs revolve as we wander the globe.

corrugated pipe

Why Monday and not Saturday, the Amish woman wonders as she hangs out the wash, darks and lights together. The breeze swells a kerchief the same way the earth ripples under the fields. Aren’t weaving and harrowing pretty much the same? Her eyes still lazy from Sunday follow a hedgerow up to where the woods start in earnest — a good thing, because desire works best within limits. It’s a sin to want more than what you can properly attend to. She gazes at the mountain, a long, low ridge nearly identical to all the others she’s known since childhood. Every few miles another mountain, like a permanent Sabbath rising between weeks of fields.

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave's writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the "share alike" provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

9 Comments


  1. Interesting how you draw your focus on a woman.

    “She gazes at the mountain, a long, low ridge nearly identical to all the others she’s known since childhood. Every few miles another mountain, like a permanent Sabbath rising between weeks of fields.”

    Navel gazing?

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  2. I love the meditative play of straight lines vs wavy curvy ones in your words and photos.

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  3. Navel gazing?

    Um, I don’t think so. I’m sorry if it came across that way.

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  4. Every few miles another mountain, like a permanent Sabbath rising between weeks of fields.

    Ohh. What a line.

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  5. Okay, this is splendid. Your photos and your first two paragraphs really set up the final paragraph.

    This contains two of my favorite lines from your work. I see others have commented on your wonderful final line. I can’t remember a prettier or more succinct way of expressing a saint’s life in the context of the biblical calendar, or indeed of expressing her world (earth?) view.

    The breeze swells a kerchief the same way the earth ripples under the fields.

    Spendid. Just splendid.

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  6. Power is round.

    I love those pauses. I love this idea of a circle. Thank you.

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  7. Thanks for all the comments; I’m glad to hear that some of my lines hit home. I’ve been groping for a way to put these thoughts into words for quite a long time.

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  8. Everytime I go back to upstate New York I think about those contours hugging the shape of the earth. I’ve never seen anyone wrote about them before. Giving us the eyes of the Amish woman to look through makes it so much more memorable, as we create our own images of her landscape. This is a really wonderful post, both in conception and execution.

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