Dispatches From Quarry Farm: Distance Lends Enchantment To The View

Caretaker Steve Webb and his son are the only year-round residents of Quarry Farm. Steve provides us with occasional, not always altogether reliable, updates from the premises.

The grey-green Daffodil shoots still break the surface of the cold brown earth. 

The birds still sing.

A dog still begs and plays and snores, waiting for the next chance. 

A caretaker is, by nature, a social distancer

 “Distance lends enchantment to the view,” said Mark Twain. I’m positive that he wasn’t referring to a pandemic when he thought about this concept but when I look at it through this lens it does, ever-so-slightly, relax the tight beating muscle in my chest. The same muscle that usually operates at a slightly below average pace is now beating like the handle of an espresso machine. 

As if we all haven’t had enough. The burgeoning authoritarian oligarchy that is the America of late is so divisive that we are tempted to look at a pandemic as a political issue. If there is one thing that should bring us together (figuratively) — the silver lining, the lemonade — it’s that this is a human issue and a window to see how vulnerable and related and temporary we all are; it’s a chance to see how undeniably the same we are and drop the arbitrary borders that exist in the minds of the fearful. 

Mark Twain once wrote in his notebook, “All you need in life is ignorance and confidence, and then success is sure.”

He could not have been more wrong and more right all in one sentence. Blinding ignorance and confidence — fueled by the American God, money — are, much as they were when Twain made his note, the foundation for political power. But the moment that the conversation turns to something absolutely human, our supposed leaders are exposed as completely impotent. Success is often as short lived as whimsical ideas and impulsive speech and whole lives spent seeking wealth and power are just nanoseconds of human history — distance lends enchantment to the view.

The birds still sing.

Blame, of course, is the knee-jerk reaction of the inflated child — it was definitely someone else’s fault; apparently now it’s China’s turn. Pride is the dying engines of the plane spiraling towards the earth, confidence allows the spiraler to declare that he is uncrashable and ignorance believes that gravity only applies to all the other poor suckers out there. 

But gravity is setting in. Like finding a stranger in your arms when the infatuation wears off. One who only cares how a tragedy makes himself appear is incapable of empathy. The country is waking up to the nightmare. The money is gone, a lack of leadership is frightening and we want to feel better and at the same time know the challenges we’re about to face. We want to brace ourselves with a foundation of wisdom. 

I do see the irony in speaking about blame while seemingly blaming someone for this unfortunate situation. I am not blaming the President for a pandemic. I’m just noticing the looks on the faces of many who were infatuated with him as they come to, feeling the shame of a poor choice like a hung-over morning, coming to terms with being duped. 

It’s okay. We can all understand the excitement of going for the wildcard. But it didn’t work out. There is no time for judgment. Our problems are bigger than this and we must move on. As a community we have to put distance between us and the noise of a corrupt and deliberately confusing administration. When heat is applied the real leaders tend to bubble to the surface while the vapid clowns are released like gas.

As we seek direction with this global, human problem lets listen to the people who have spent their whole lives researching these topics like scientists and doctors. Let’s take a deep breath and be thoughtful. Let’s not watch the movie Contagion — holy sh*t that freaked me out! And let’s elevate ourselves somewhere up in the sky like birds that still sing because distance lends enchantment to the view. 

I am not trying to imply that I know anything. In reality this is an exercise in self-reassurance and hope that even though our physical distance is required our connection as human beings, existing on a living planet, is stronger now than ever.  

Today I will go out into nature. I will play basketball with my son. I will pull in deep, thoughtful breaths of the early spring air. All because the grey-green daffodil shoots still break the surface of the cold brown earth, the birds still sing and a caretaker is, by nature, a hopeful distancer.