It always amuses us to learn about a couple wanting to “return to the land” and grow their own food. Some choose a forsaken desert area that sees five drops of rain a year (remember the commune in “Easy Rider?”) Others choose a remote mountain top where one must move 100 pounds of rock to plant one corn seed.
Now those places are lovely to photograph, but a person seriously wanting to derive a living from a small piece of land could find no better place than the Arkansas Delta. The land there isn’t pretty to some, but it sustains life. Oh, does it.
It always has. When we were first married, and had neither “pot nor window,” a cheap date consisted of walking freshly plowed fields after a recent rain. There is something about the smell of plowed earth that throbs in harmonic tones with some archaic remnant in us. There is buried in the fecund soil of the Delta, a living soul that connects us with the very birth pangs of humankind.
There are more recent sensations as well, for there, in the mounded furrows, we would find artifacts of the first human inhabitants of the land. By our time, only stone implements and arrowheads remained. Old timers talked of finding skulls and pottery. The remnants of one age often fall victim to the progress of another.
We retrieved objects that had risen to the surface. Perhaps we were stealing from the past. You might say so. We viewed it as saving the past from further destruction. At least it connected us to people who had loved this land and left it unscarred for future settlers. It was like giant hands from the past were reaching out to join ours.
We can only wonder what a young couple walking the same ground might find 200 years from now. We must also wonder if the land will, at that time, support life as effortlessly as it did in the past, or support life at all.