The Best Days Are the First to Flee: My Antonia, Georgics, and the Canton Farmer's Market

So it all came together for me this weekend-- my poetry studies, finishing my latest audio book while I walk daily, food and farming and the losses that fall always reminds me of in all its gorgeous plentitude and flaming beauty. All this as I got to the Canton Farmer's Market for its last day of the season.

It was a bittersweet day. My dad, whose dementia has worsened, didn't want to go for the first time ever. Usually he and I go every Saturday in summer. He couldn't say why, just didn't want to go. (So I was relieved when the following day, he was willing to go out to supper.) Then too every Farmer's Market Day this year has been a reminder that my cousin, Bobbi Kendig John and her husband Gene John, whom we used to see every week, aren't here since they were murdered in their home about a year ago, one of the saddest losses in my life.

And yet, the day that began in pouring rain, cleared at 10 a.m. as I headed to the market alone, with gorgeous sunny skies, warm for an Ohio October day and there were most of the usual vendors, listed at the Canton Farmer's Market site:

Among them a few who posed for me:

Marvin and his wife of "Marvin's Garden," sell such down home bouquets of dahlias and sunflowers, and this week, the last little gladiolas and I usually buy a bunch or two here every week.

And the guy I think of as the original Muffin Man ("Oh do you know"), who tells me about his family member's healthy projects, this week about his son's desire to sell cotton candy made from organic sugar. The machine just arrived-- stayed tuned for zrootz organics!

And then, there were the folks from Arrowhead Orchards with apples and cider this week and their signature truck and smiling faces

There was the gang from Brenkle's who this week had a Cheddar
Cauliflower, an orange one, in contrast to the purple one of last week. Huge heads for $1.50. Lettuce all summer for $1 a very large head. Beets and their greens. I try to buy some produce from everyone, and this week from the Holmes Co. folks, I bought a single beautiful leek, & they gave me a flyer for a winter farmer's market that they will be at in Louisville.

I've been studying the tradition of poetry about farming, Georgics, in Robert Hass's A Little Book on Form: An Exploration into the Formal Imagination of Poetry. I had heard the term but never realized it began with Virgil's four long poems, which Pablo Neruda called (with some admiration), "propaganda for the farming of the Roman countryside." I found Eavan Boland's poem "An Irish Georgic," which I love, including these lines:

If there is an ethic to the Georgic
let it be down to earth and literal
sifting, critical, and absolute devotion to a way of life.

But I can't imagine writing any Georgics. (Though choosing the Georgics font is my little joke here so I can say I wrote IN Georgics.) I am no farmer, just a gardener who wants to eat more heirloom tomatoes than she could otherwise afford.  No farmer, nor any of my kin, once my Pennsylvania Dutch grandparents who came to Ohio to farm lost their farm during the Great Depression and had to hit the road with thirteen children, my father the last one living.

Still, I so felt the pull of that life as I sobbed and walked and listened to, reading, finishing, (on audio) Willa Cather's My Antonia.  It is just an incredible tribute to the Midwestern farming life, to childhood friendships, to heartbreak and happiness. Speaking of friendships, my two Cather friends who study and teach Cather, Kevin Hearle and David Larson chimed in on my post about My Antonia. And on top of all that, it was the favorite novel of a former colleague and partner in poetry at UF, Marianna Hofer, who died last year, too. I thought of her with many of my steps, of those best days when she and Lu and Paul and I were causing trouble and teaching hard and having such fun out in the farmlands of northwest Ohio. I will be thinking of Antonia for a long time, looking up more Cather to read.

However, there is a lot of this season left yet, and I am back volunteering in prison, back in touch with Lu this week, who was in Findlay for an event where Rick Gebhardt, the man who hired us all and started the hard work and merriment and the widow of Bob Ewald, another merrymaker in the English Department. Paul and I still have to get out and buy apples, maybe get a ride to Mount Jeez at Malabar when more leaves turn.

I probably need to look up Keats and read an ode there also.

Here's to Autumn everybody!

No comments:

Post a Comment