The Spirit of Homesteading

The spirit of homesteading is alive and well. It is present whenever you sink roots into this place. It doesn’t matter whether it’s in the woods or by the sea, in remote country or an urban land. What matters is the act of connecting, and the sense of belonging.

My favorite definition of “homestead” is the place one finds “adequate for the residence and maintenance” of a life. To find a place adequate is to stop looking for something better. It is to embrace the found connection, wherever that might be.

A decade ago we moved to a spot with oak trees, red-tailed hawks and white-throated sparrows. In these woods I heard the delicate whistle of a saw-whet owl and watched a bobcat stalk through morning light. From this area we harvest wood for the stove, gather apples for the pantry. These poems are rooted here.

On my desk I keep a small stone. It is no bigger than a wild plum. My ancestors crossed the Atlantic and journeyed to Wisconsin in the mid-1800s. They settled in a region known as the Driftless Area—a land of rivers and rolling hills, not unlike where we live now. When the farm celebrated its 150th anniversary, a relative showed us the original home site. All that remains is a narrow ledge of stacked rocks.

The stone of my desk is a piece of chinking from that foundation, a time-traveler, connecting me to a sense of place and the spirit of homesteading.


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