Building Permanent Culture in Knoxville
We are, by nature, a peripatetic people, ever since we walked out of Africa, many millennia ago. But, considering our countless generations of mass migrations as peoples, we remain devoted to the idea of home. We aspire to be part of something, as Wes Jackson would say, “native to this place.”
Yesterday, after an extended morning of physical toil, we took an afternoon drive to Spring City. We left our farm for a relatively short drive of 24 miles. Passing the dam on the Tennessee River, in the shadows of the cooling towers at the Watts Bar nuclear power plant, we arrived in Spring City in mid-afternoon.
Word had reached our farm that our beloved Sweetwater vegetable market had reopened, or perhaps always had had, another store in this town. Indeed, it was tucked away on a small back street, with a modest early-spring assortment of plants, seeds and vegetables. I was looking for a local source for a couple of pounds of turnip seed. Cindy was looking for some forsythia. We came away with a flat of 25-50 Red Acre cabbage starts, a few forsythias and a jar of honey.
Last fall, we lost all four hives of bees. We first felt the loss as a failure on our part. And we still do, but the recrimination has been lessened by hearing of countless losses by other beekeepers in our area the past year. Not having bees at the moment has left us without any of our own honey, so we asked the Spring City proprietors if they had any local honey. Sadly they shook their heads, pointing to what they did have to offer, resting on a shelf.
I picked up a jar of honey–gathered by a beekeeper in Sweetwater, Tennessee, 25 miles away across the valley. In an era of global trade, on our vast continent, in one of our 50 states, in the eastern part, in a large valley, the distance between two small towns that are in essence neighbors, this jar of honey was deemed “not local.” Some might consider that parochial; I consider it hopeful.
In the vast scheme of time, our movements have covered the globe. But our view is still constrained by the horizon and our lifespan. Our needs remain personal and consistent, native to our own place in that history of migrations.
And maybe that is enough.