Here I sit on the back patio, spring sun riding the air. An annoying ATV buzzes around the block — I hope that doesn’t last. May the child grow bored. Quickly.
I am thinking about what it means to live in a village. I hear our next-door neighbor hollering at her animals. She keeps dogs, goats, chickens and a cat to catch mice. Others around us raise horses, donkeys, sheep and geese. The grazing field beyond our back fence is home to a few furry white goats; the bearded one of the bunch was the first creature to welcome me upon our return. He came to the fence, shook his head hello and wiggled his nose. He does this every time I talk to him from my side of the fence. (And then he pees — I take it as an animalistic sort of greeting.)
This is our village. Sometimes in America, I think, a village is called a village because it evokes a certain appeal. I have seen suburban villages where local government regulates the color of one’s house or the state of one’s yard (and its contents), the driveways and lampposts, and the animals deemed fitting. Chickens do not peck the earth between and among houses in these villages, nor do the dogs howl at night like their wild ancestors did. It’s hard for me to think of such places as “villages,” because they just don’t fit the image I have in mind. Nothing wrong with that. It’s just that when I say the word village, my thoughts head to friends on the other side of the globe.
I think of farmers I know in Cambodia or Laos or Thailand or India. I think of people with fruit trees and wide fields, and animals that eventually turn to meat on the table. I think of straw hats catching the afternoon sun, as mothers and fathers and kids pick their dinner.
To me, a village means earth. It means insects and dust. It means soil and sun and rain, and keen eyes on all three, for these things are critical to every resident’s survival. It’s a down-and-dirty life that means manure and mice and snakes that slither across the land. Above all, a village means hard work with gnarled hands.
We do have these things in our village (and our hands ache as they grow bigger, stronger, heartier). This is all new experience to me. We have people who sell chiles and pinon from the back of a pick-up. We have horse trails through the bosque and along ancient arroyos that date to the Spanish, sometimes even before. Occasionally, a couple will trot past our back fence, driving a horse-drawn carriage at a leisurely Sunday pace.
We really do live in a village. For some reason, that concept just struck me, the way simple ideas sometimes pierce us in poignant ways. Somehow, after so much time in far-off places among people who live off their earth, this feels right. To me. At least for now. These birds, their song. This dirt and the grapes it can grow. These trees and the apples they bear. This seat and its view of happy-go-lucky goats beyond the fence.
And all the work this workable land entails.
Yep. Even as I gaze across a huge, dusty expanse of land and cringe at all that needs to be done (knowing I will never accomplish it all; knowing I will leave the country again, coming and going with goals unattained) — I like it. I like this notion of village.