Painting of a Russian peasant farm--"First Snow"--by Nikolai Smirnov, no longer with us. It hangs in my living room.
Gifts II. April 27, 2014
Works of art exist simultaneously in two economies, a market economy and a gift economy. Only one of these is essential, however: a work of art can survive without the market but where there is no gift there is no art. –Lewis Hyde.
We all fear loss: of people, of things,
of what is familiar. We fear change,
which, often enough, is our only
salvation. I love this home I’ve made,
this small farm, my healthy hens
wandering the orchard, my dog who
now digs up the backyard on a long
treasure hunt after voles, children’s art,
paintings by Russian friends, even a
ragged orange sari from Nabaneeta,
given forty-five years ago and taped
to my desk to be a curtain, this
writing chair I’ve made a new cover
for five times in more than forty years,
and written in it more than eighty
books. The climate worsens. Growing
my food is harder each year. If
fracking comes, I will leave. It
means giving all this loved property
away. These hundreds of gifts
will make me richer. I already
see what will happen. The single
student I had in my winter class,
whom I scolded more than praised,
now brings me raspberry canes,
tomato, pepper, and okra plants.
I took Robert eggs, and he burned
off one of my tree stumps in the
meadow. I am reprimanded. I
forgot the mystery of the gift,
which has to move. The secret
of eternal life then?
Give it all away.