My dad is a farmer. Not the up with the rooster, working the fields, dirt under nails kind of farmer. He is the kind who looks at a yard and sees a small plot of earth in which to grow things. The kind who thinks and plans and plants and eats and then thinks and plans….He is a man of letters with South Carolina agrarian blood generations old pulsing through his veins. He scrapes scraps, churns refuse, spreading and working it through the soil like a baker kneading bread. He sees life beginning, stretching, full of possibility, regenerating in every square inch of dirt he has sanctioned. I have heard the tenderness in his voice as he walks me through his garden, seen the loss in his eyes when he talks about leaving a place and leaving behind his plants. He has taken an impossibly cold, rock of an island in the St. Lawrence River and planted tomatoes and herbs.
I have long hoped that this same blood runs through me—this love of the land and tending things. Maybe it will become more dominant as I age, settle and slow down but for now, it is still just a longing. I lack the patience, the attention to detail and the long view that characterizes one who plants. My desire is for the immediate, the applause, the back slap. I live for the dreams, the ideas, the process, the prototypes. My father patiently turns and nourishes the soil. Waters and dead heads and stakes his plants. He collects leaves from neighbors, hand washes delicate egg shells and sorts through the remains of meals to create the perfect compost cocktail.
These things don’t come naturally to me. So, for now, I emulate hoping that in the doing—the digging and planting—any remnants of the South Carolina soil that runs in my veins will be stirred and awaken the farmer in my soul.
Photographs by Amy Watson Smith, 2013