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"Stardust to Garden-Dust" by Beth Weick, as published in North Country News, October 2010

As the tasks of the day are completed and nighttime settles around D Acres Farm & Educational Homestead, I usually find myself with a satiated stomach, dirt-stained calluses, and not-quite-clean jeans, climbing my way to the silo loft I call home. Sometimes I pause to feel the wind or to hear the peepers, the birds, or the sleepy snores of piglets as the season dictates. Often I take a glance at the stars, or note the clouds that hide them.

The other night, though, was no casual glance at the Big Dipper, no perfunctory nod to Cassiopeia. No, not quite.

Instead, I lucked upon a proper tour of the night sky. Which is to say I saw ring nebulas and other galaxies, double stars and the moons of Jupiter, southbound geese and maidens chained to rocks. Okay, that last duo took some advanced skills at connect the dots…nevertheless, the whole affair was impressive and fascinating. Talk about long distance vision.

It made me think of a quote by farmer and activist Wendell Berry that goes as follows:

"Here as well as any place I can look out my window and see the world. There are lights that arrive here from deep in the universe. A man can be provincial only by being blind and deaf to his province."

Berry has eloquence on his side, for sure. But in my simple walk through the North Orchard, past the pond, under the rose, and up-up-up to the windows of the silo…the stardust in the sky and the garden-dust in my pockets don't seem so disparate.

There is, of course, the science of elements and minerals and galactic dust, the right ratios of which allow us to be as we are, alive, in this galaxy on this Earth that houses us. And there is, too, a philosopher's wonder, the juxtaposition of life's small details unfolding under stars so very many light years away.

I suppose I lean more to the latter simply because the awe of metaphysics comes more naturally to me than the equations of physics.

But whether you consider yourself a scientist or a romantic, or are stuck somewhere in between, there are still innumerable dusty stars, and countless grains of dusty soil. We each have to make our own sense of that, I suppose. It strikes me as a reminder of our human humility and smallness, but also of the vastness of Life. There is grandeur in a night sky that seems to diminish the details of our worries, and a patience in galactic timescales that suggests our hurriedness inconsequential.

Mere musings, yes. There still remains the challenge of relating farming to stellar mythologies. Yet as the constellations visible in the sky transform while the seasons come and go, so, too, changes the dirt, or the leaves, or the snow, or the mud I must brush off myself while glancing up past the rose, and ascending to the silo. While Orion wields his sword across the sky by night, I wield my garden fork, or rake, or shovel, or pruners by day. And together, these acts tell a story intimately tied to place. This place.

Beth Weick lives and works at 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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