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"The Talent in These Woods" by Beth Weick, as published in North Country News, February 2010

As if on cue, they both rose. Hands clapping, feet stepping to the rhythm, heads nodding in time with the beat. A few others followed suit. Across ages, there was the same smile – even on the faces of those who remained sitting – everyone with a lively tap in their heel. Outside, the wind howled as if demanding an encore. Rouge snowflakes were tossed around chaotically, glimpsed in the spotlight of an outdoor light. -3°, -5°, -7°.

It was a night to enjoy a fire. Indeed, the woodstove was kept roaring, as was the oven. Fresh-baked bread emerged first, followed by winter squash stuffed with sausage, potatoes, and turnip greens. The kitchen counter, however, was full with numerous dishes besides those: cabbage salad, baked beans in two varieties, breads, desserts.

The air, too, was full with the sounds of crackling wood and scraping silverware. Better yet, conversation, instruments being tuned, and eventually, music. This night was not just any night here at D Acres Organic Farm & Educational Homestead. No this was a triple-header of sorts, a potluck-snowshoe-open mic combination.

The cold temperatures froze enthusiasm for the moonlit walk, but the rest of the evening was all the more robust. With full bellies accomplished, we moved on to music, poetry, and even some acappella. Guitars, of course, dominated, but a saxophone and a much-anticipated fiddle made an appearance as well. And the poems shared were not to be underestimated.

I'll preface the next paragraph by saying that here at the farm we are busy gearing up for the coming season. This means coordinating events, organizing workshops, lining up interns, ordering seeds, ad infinitum. Through it all we hope for good people to surround us and join with us, but that's not something that is manifested with a simple statement. A resounding evening with goodwill in the air; friends and neighbors sharing in home-made food, music, and laughter; talking through the ups and downs of the day, and the work with which we each occupy our time. No, we can't plan for this, but it is what I, at least, relish in particular.

After all, what is rich land, satisfying work, and healthful food if there are not people to share it with? There is a simple beauty in this act of coming together, a comfort found in putting aside the hardships or the struggles to seek the joy of a familiar connection. It is holding an eye from across a room, nodding, knowing we each want to be right here, right now. It is spreading a smile, knowing we each are enjoying the same ambience, in the same place, in the same moment. It is inclining my head, careful to listen, catching the details of another's recent tales and efforts. These exchanges are reassuring.

I, for one, am already looking forward to this month's potluck/snowshoe/open mic. Here's your chance: Friday, February 26, potluck at 6pm, moonlight snowshoe at 7pm, open mic begins at 8pm. Bring a dish to the potluck, snowshoes for the walk (will it really snow again?), instruments or a willing ear to the open mic – yes, all events are free! And let me say: the talent tucked away in these hills is astounding. Come revel in the richness of your neighbors.

Beth Weick is a resident of D Acres Organic Farm & Educational Homestead, a non-profit service organization. She first came to the farm in April 2008 as an intern, and now focuses her work on gardening, tending to the animals, and writing. Learn more about the programs at D Acres by visiting www.dacres.org.

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