Fruits of labor and beauty

May 14, 2017

[Tweddle & Treat Farms, SBDNL: hike with James, 2:30-4:45pm]

Tweddle Farm, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Tweddle Barn

Walking through the tall grass in these fields that have gone fallow, it’s easy to get the sensation of walking in two places at once – the present and the past.  The self-sowing perennials have lived on long past the homesteaders who planted them, continuing their brave march into the increasing wild – poppy, periwinkle, daffodil, forsythia.  What began as a planting for pure beauty has multiplied.  It’s a happy thought: if we can labor for our survival, we can also labor for pure joy, and those may well outlive us far longer than any of our strife for our own mortality.

The outbuildings – gleaming, freshly painted, empty vessels.  What they now hold cannot be seen.  They hold the memories of harvest, daily chores, and an abundance of human and animal emotion.  On this spring day, even the dandelion springing up from the cracked stone walls seems to be trying to convey some message: sunnier days are coming.

Trail to the Treat Farm

We wander the meandering path connecting both farms – a corridor of towering, ancient maples, beech, hemlock, and the hollow ghosts of black ash.  The trees, most of them still in their bud and blossom, were lit by sun streaming from a virtually cloudless sky – turning the buds into sparkling chartreuse gemstones floating all around us on branches too numerous to see.  Meanwhile, the floor of the forest is carpeted with the lush greenery of squirrel corn, violets, trillium, and a host of other wildflowers, all holding up their white, purple, and yellow gems.

Trillium along the Treat Trail

After a long winter, when the songbirds return, we are very nearly deafened by their constant comment.  Chattering along as they were, we know we are not the only ones pleased with this spring’s promises of prosperity and warmth.

At the Treat Farm, we meander through the abandoned orchard with its fossilized apple trees – some with holes clear through their trunks, still managing to commune with earth and sky through the shreds of ancient wood that remain.  These apples must taste heroic!  [We came back in the fall, took two apples, and learned it was true!]

In the backyard we marvel at a thicket of plum trees – filled with more blossoms than there are stars.  Their fragrance must surely still waft through those drafty farmhouse windows into the now silent and abandoned kitchen.  Planted so near the house, these were placed for both beauty and survival.

From the old orchard we walk the trodden path that zig-zags through scrubby grassland, up into the dune forest.  Before realizing it, we reach the very edge of the sand and stare out over the perfectly blue horizon. 

Walking the trail back, retracing our steps, I ponder the heartache that must have come from being forced to abandon all of this, to leave the blossoms and beauty behind.  And before the farmers were ousted, it was the natives who were exiled. So much of what we love about a place is immovable and immortal when compared to us.  But, maybe on the quietest evenings, when the moon illuminates the fields and the air is alive with the sound of crickets, weightless feet wander these paths once more, reconnecting, remembering, enjoying these fruits of labor and beauty.

The Treat Farm

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