A half-mile up the unpaved county road, lights flash. I panic, and toss the three gift cigarros–generously and expertly rolled by my neighbor–into the akali and ice rimmed irrigation ditch.
A moment later, a tractor comes into view, towing a plow; strobe lights glittering to warn of it’s girth. I marvel at how skittish I can be straight, and stop the bike to go look for the chromed match cylinder. No luck. It has been a six hour ride to Western Kansas in late February, my hands are stiff and lifeless in their gloves, my ears cannot be felt.
My Host steps out from among the ragged elm trees surrounding the farm house to flag me down. He is older than he told me. But I expected that, and am not disappointed by his watery blue eyes, nor the unkempt beard that smells of hay. Loneliness has tempered his face and his affectionate hug and eager sloppy kiss warm me immediately. I don’t regret coming all this way.
We spend the last minutes of Winter light looking for the hastily discarded container. In that time I learn he is an organic farmer in a county of big agriculture and feed lots. I passed some of these, the stink of urea unfiltered on the motorcycle, the dark shapes of cattle finishing in the muddy lots under a galvanized sky. A temperate buddhist; a lover of the Nepalese; a horny isolated man nearing 60.
The house was built in the 20s. Thin shellaced doors the dark orange of old pine. Pale yellow wallpaper of tiny floral prints. A tanka of the Goddess of Peace beside a picture of his parents.
In the mudroom hangs the fresh pelt of a pheasant, and a turkey-like smell comes from the kitchen. I shot and dressed a pheasant for you, he says. It is a delicacy I have never had, I reply.
Our meal includes sprouted lentils and bulgar wheat with lecithin and yeast in it. He does not drink alcohol; only the water he filters from the well. The still is encrusted with white mineral. He tells me the water table has been contaminated by chemical fertilizers and the wastes of the surrounding feed lots.
We talk late into the night. Tomorrow will include a visit to his Menonite friends; the only folk that don’t consider him a pariah, he says. And they share an interest in organic farming. He goes on to explain what he considers to be ‘sustainable agriculture,’ and often refers to his travels in India.
He tells me there are good and bad spirits on the earth, a yogi had warned him. He looks at me inquisitively. All I can say is that the meal was very good, and I feel full and nourished. He spoons me tightly until late morning, a deep sleep for both of us.
And then tears of remorse over his mother’s death in this very house; he out for a night at a rest stop 100 miles away. The same night when in his uncautious desire he was beaten up in the gritty stall. His mother’s heart– maybe sensing his injury–giving way under the painful shame she had felt for him. All I can say to him is what I believe and that is God calls us when he wants us.
In a barn hang drying flowers of all sorts. Rows of them suspended from cords stretched across the cathedral space. In the back is a cluttered place where he marries ears of wheat with dried cornflowers into rich soft-hued wreathes or sprays. A bough of tiny roses tied with a bright chartreuse ribbon; a field of of barley and babies’ breath, ready for a miniature combine.
© Tasso 2001