Here I am, pausing amidst a thicket in a flood plain said to belong to me. As of a couple days ago, Jason and I hold the title. Title! As if land can be typed up, copyrighted, sold on Amazon. I certainly didn’t write it, nor do I possess it, not really. It possesses me.
30 acres! Well. 29 to be more precise, in said flood plain and in the higher wooded terrain across the lane. The dream is to turn it–or a part of it, the small human part of it–into a biodynamic farm and inclusive arts center where we can live with Felix and others. I keep coming up with fancy names for the project, but when I talk about it, I just call it the Felix Farm. I take it Felix approves from the upward rising roars with which he greets my talk.
Anyway. The grasses. They were Felix-ish in that they would have dwarfed me if they stood at their full height, instead they bent and swayed, giving me the illusion of towering over them. Our dog Magic, however, was totally subsumed. I only knew where he was from the swish and undulation of the stalks. There were scads of tiny purple flowers arranged in pyramids, fuzzy, burrish dots of slate blue, white bells, seedy sour blackberries, poison ivy which I hope to have avoided, fuzzy bees, dragon flies, goldfinches. There was the weight of the muggy August air, the heady plant smells, the cacophonous buzzing, peeping and trilling of countless unseen creatures, and my phone, overheating in my pocket, cycling through ringtones for reasons unknown to me. Perhaps it was trying to compete.
None of our kids have seen this place yet. Jason and I bought it after having visited only once, each of us separately. It was all rush, rush, an emergency response to a late June phone call from the head of Crotched Mountain School, where Felix has been living for almost seven years. The added costs and loss of revenue due to COVID had decimated finances already on shaky ground. The board of directors had unanimously voted to close on November 1, giving some 90 kids and the 350 adults dedicated to helping them four months to find new schools, new jobs, new habitats. In the midst of a pandemic. In a country that spends far more money on juvenile detention centers than residential schools for kids with disabilities.
My grief is more for the community than for us. We are fortunate. We have Jason’s job, which–because we don’t dare bring Felix back to Brooklyn– allows us to do things like purchase 29 acres in Dutchess County that come with a three bedroom house built in 1856, a barn calling out for goats, an ever rippling pond. We have Felix magic, which has led us to dozens of marvelous people over the years, and it seems to be working now in the guise of Mark, a local contractor whose previously scheduled job just got delayed, allowing him to make our entryway and bathroom accessible to Felix’s wheelchair. With his assistance, we should be able to roll Felix into our new abode by November 1.
What comes next? Stories for sure. Masked people who will help us farm and carve out paths through the forest. Like everyone else, I’m looking forward to the day we’ll be able to take off these masks and show off our smiles again. By then, who knows, maybe the barn will be cleaned and the roof fixed, and we’ll have some baby goats. Maybe the beginnings of a wheelchair accessible orchard will have been planted. We will see. There’s lots to do!