I would happily read about you planting potatoes, and all the other other things, all the longday. That's a thing I really miss: the garden space to be able to do that, to have a project that literally grows every day, with roots and leaves and everything. There should be YouTube videos that are nothing but people gardening in silence. I mean, there probably are - I just haven't checked....
[Later] Nope! Surprisingly, there aren't. They're all How To videos. Missed opportunity, I reckon. At some point Calm and Headspace and the others will release soundscapes called "Gardening Sounds" and then the world will get it. Until then, I'm disappointed in everyone. For SHAME, folks. For shame.
It was interesting to see the growth (no pun intended) in people gardening during the pandemic - partly for something to do, but partly for the offsetting of increasingly higher food prices. I wonder if all of this disruption is going to trigger lots of green fingers in folk? Out of interest I went to Google, and this piece from Wales in 2021 has a startling statistic: "Almost three quarters of 18-24 year olds currently growing crops and plants – including on their windowsills (23 per cent) and in their bedrooms (20 per cent) in urban areas." 75%!!! And that's arguably the most information-technology -adept generation in the world right now? Wouldn't that be a fascinating reaction, if it were true?
Hello— just following on our walking conversation, thought you might like this little essay: https://open.substack.com/pub/tcrawford/p/walking-christos-floating-piers?r=2edmz7&utm_campaign=post&utm_medium=web
Her uncle was always mentioning Kofi Annan :)
I loved every word! And also, you got the best bee picture. We sat, picking out which we thought were the largest, watching them last night. Some are almost as big as little birds. They are so happy and seemingly unstressed there. Thank you for writing all of this.
My wife's parents lived in Montana for many years after their retirements. Her dad kept trying to give me apples, which just won't grow (for me) here in fire-blight-prone central NC. I've also had poor luck with potatoes.
So beautiful Nia. This line: "Those of us who want some intimacy with the stories that live within us have to make do with what’s given. It never feels close to enough." I feel that in my bones so often--of not knowing the life and experience of my own father's mother, of what she had to go through in her life, of what we inherit in the experiences of our ancestors that remain clouded and hard to reach. And yet they are within us. And the connections we have with the lands we live on, the soil, of how easily and how much we are at the mercy of legacies of oppression and colonization, of false identities tied to an idea of a larger 'nation.' And yet still, how seedlings planted decades ago can still return in spring. To hear of your grandmother's humor despite what she was forced to endure. It's hard to all make sense of, and yet we continue to plant, to nurture, like you with your beautiful descriptions of tucking in seedlings under sun-warmed soil, caring to make sure earthworms aren't exposed. It is how life continues. Such a beautiful read friend, thank you for sharing this and the treasured recordings of your family.
Beautiful writing. Thank you. I was hooked from your first questions. The way you told your grandmother’s story was riveting. You have me thinking about food and safety and family and land and abundance and the marvels of the natural world. To think of how the earth helped your grandmother care for her children. It’s always available, that nurturing and belonging, if only we turn in that direction.
Thank you as always, Nia!
The following made me also think of another nation, a vast one in N America:
“What is currently called Russia is a vast land where many different people have lived for thousands of years, and yet the story of the land and people is still dominated by the mythologies of a nation shaped by an aggrieved sense of inherited exceptionalism and a constant grasping for something more.”
And I still have goosebumps from "I wonder what it would take to have a world where everyone has access to what we need for survival, and nobody has to bleed for it."
You have such a lovely, lyrical way with words that makes your newsletter an absolute pleasure. And you write so movingly about such small, quiet moments that are really about such big things.
The stories about your family trying to survive in Russia especially resonated today as I'm spending several days with a Cambodian man who is showing us some of the country and recounting this country's recent horrors. It's absolutely ...stunning? moving? shocking? to hear this man so matter of factly recount his life.
A while back I wrote about potatoes but mine was superficial. I realized that when I read this. The potato transformed all of Europe but this was the best I've ever read of it. The siege is misery beyond comprehension. Remarkable writing Antonia.
Yes i was in love with the Russian language and I double majored in journalism. i worked at the pilot for a while and decided i liked waiting tables at the Buffalo better.
Family histories can be selective. I love hearing where people come from and what draws them brings them here.
One of my Blackfoot friends said the Flathead was called the Valley of Berries.
I am really enjoying your writing. It always touches me deeply even when I don't comment
Beautiful writing! I studied Russian history/political science and language at U of M so I understand the hard lives people lived under Stalin. I really appreciate the stories of your grandmother's resiliency. My grandparents gardened on the Whitefish River. During the depression there were times they didn't have a nickel for a cup of coffee but they never went hungry. There is a bounty here that I am grateful for. And p.s. She never put her plants in the ground until all of the snow was off of Big Mountain.
Moving essay about food, planting, scarcity, hardship, and starvation. Also about bounty, privilege, good nutrition, and the joy of working in the earth with our hands. The line I love, which talks about the overabundance of and daily bombardment by city, mechanical, and vehicle sounds, to the detriment of hearing nature, is this: “in what felt like silence but was just the absence of most human-made noise”
¨Isn’t “unearth” a strange word? Can anything really be un-earthed?¨
Seems one of the more sensible ones to me. ´Earthed´ here I would think of in terms of grounding and an electrical system.
¨They were on posledni poezd, my father has told me, the last train out of the city.¨
And thank God, you wouldn´t be here otherwise.
¨I recommend Anna Reid’s Leningrad¨
I read it when it came out. The story about the woman´s mother luring people into her apartment so she could eat them definitely got to me.
¨I wonder what it would take to have a world where everyone has access to what we need for survival, and nobody has to bleed for it.¨
My great-grandmother (a WWI veteran) had quite hard times during the Depression but she always had chickens. (She made quilts of the cloth that the bags chicken feed was sold in.) Grab a hen, whack the head off, hang it upside down over bucket on Saturday morning, yank the feathers off on Sunday, and plop it in the oven. Usually it was roast chicken, green beans and potatoes of some sort for Sunday dinner. This is Texas of course, so it´s always insanely hot, complete with approximately seven billions stinging insects. Hard living, but never THAT hard.
It wouldn´t be difficult to do; people with money don´t want to do it.
i have been digging out small tree stumps - on to getting the tomatoes in
"Unearthing" is indeed a strange word and an unsettling concept. But if humans don't become more mindful, it could happen to us.
Ah, Antonia, so much here.
Like many, I started diving into my own ancestry during the plague years and found connections there to the history of the commons. On my father's side they're scottish. I didn't have to go back too many generations to find signs of deprivation and starvation. My 5th great grandfather (7 generations) was a crofter in Aberdeenshire at the time of the Clearances, the forced removal of tenant farmers and the enclosure of their common land for sheep grazing. His grandson was a farmer, but moved to Edinburg, where his wife died in the poorhouse. His son was a farm servant, then a railway porter. His son, my grandfather, moved to England.
Many Scots emigrated during that time to Canada and Appalachia. I wonder to what extent that lived experience of forced loss of common land lies behind the forced removal of Native Americans and enclosure of their common land in the American West in particular, and American's obsession with land ownership and private property rights in general.
This piece of your reawakened those thoughts. Thank you.