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  • Writer's pictureKyle Kearns

Connected with Your Land.

Updated: Jul 11, 2023

God's Pasture:

Growing up, my parents had at least 20 acres of rural land in upstate New York. I don't remember the exact acreage, because the area that I roamed as a child was far greater anyway. Streams, springs, ponds, beaver dams, swamps, hardwood forests, softwood forests, wild pastures, grazed pastures, deer trails, footpaths, logging roads... you name it.

My parents really, truly, worked their own land. Even more today than back then. We harvested firewood from our trees, had a sawmill, made maple syrup, grew gardens, composted, hunted the plot, opened fenced grazing areas, and made endless landscape improvements from rustic timber-framed structures to natural stone walls. Stone that was handpicked from our dirt. At the time, which is shocking to me now, none of these back-breaking endeavors sang to me. Though these things did ultimately have a deep impact on my life, as a kid I would stay aloof and hide in the house from the chores... these things all just seemed like chores to me! I played a lot of video games, even as I could see my father in the backyard carting heavy timbers to his barn to be hand-hewn. Often, he was reluctant to let modern machinery or equipment impose on the quality, authenticity, and integrity of his medium. Sure, machines had a time and place, but not at the expense of those aforementioned principles which support a time-honored craft. I replicate this now in my own work.

One spot did sing to me. We called it "God's Pasture". One sunny, cool, crisp Fall afternoon my father and I had taken a nap under the Beech trees there. The young trees held the high corner of the pasture all to themselves, and so they were straight and impeccable. This high corner of soft, rolling hills sort of tumbled downward into smaller and smaller grassy mounds. Then finally into a steady sloping field. The field was dotted with some young evergreen shrubs, saplings, wild-flowers, and boulders. At the foot of the pasture was an old apple orchard. Then just beyond that was a stream, which audibly babbled on a silent day. Often there were cows grazing in the pasture. Or occasionally deer strolling the orchard. Or turkeys, birds, squirrels, rabbits, foxes, snakes, bees, butterflies... all doing what they do.

Almost twenty years later, from the day we fell asleep atop the hillside, this pasture is now almost completely overtaken by a young forest. You can no longer really see the apple orchard or hear the stream. The deer are there, as you will spook them when walking by, but you can't enjoy their company as I once did. The cows are in greener pastures, so to speak.

What remains today is the awesome feeling of personal connection to my land. Even to just that one particular spot. Truth be told that spot wasn't even on our land! It was just over the other side of the stone border wall. So, this feeling of connection then is not a feeling of ownership, but something else. When I visit home, on most occassions, I will go on a walk to God's Pasture and take some mental notes or observations of all the new changes. There is a constant, unrelenting dynamic transformation in progress, with each passing moment, that is completely independent of my existence.

The connection then, I surmise, stems from participation, and not from ownership or even observance. The urge to rest beneath the shade of a tree, overlooking a robust and plentiful pasture, with the din of running water, is biological in origin. All it asks is that we participate. The conditions of the area beg the passing animals to make it a part of their home. Please, won't you stop, graze, play, eat, drink, rest, and participate? And it is important to note here, that it was humans that created the pasture and altered the environment favorably.

Too often today I see manmade landscapes designed and created that are almost entirely devoid of partnership, thus are inadequate in fostering connection. The focus seems to start with ownership, then ventures into observance, then perhaps timidly suggests participation (though often only human participation). These manmade landscape "zones" seem to have been 3D printed directly on to the home's exterior. The residing ecosystem (plants, animals, organics, decay, fungus, loam, rocks, water, etc.) in the new manmade landscape zones often behave as if they have missed an important memo and will engage is some truly puzzling activities. For humans, rather than sort of haphazardly finding your butt in a chair on concrete slabs, you'd find far more pleasure and meaningful connection with your land if you wielded a pickaxe and swung it with reckless abandon in the general direction of the compacted earth. Or I can do that for you. It is truly my pleasure.

Feel Connected,

Ajna Stonescapes

Some of those hand-hewn timbers put to use when my father and his company Rustic Structures, LLC. built an early 1900's style round barn.

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