Monday, February 10, 2014

Under the plateau

The land is big for small eyes, somewhere north of a couple hundred acres. It's mostly forest, tall trees with needles that shine in the summer and dry out as the heat starts to go. There are also boulders bigger than me and dirt so red that when it rains it looks like the ground bleeds.

Our home is hidden away behind a wall of juniper and a ridge that shoots into the sky. Above there's a plateau where the important people go for important meetings. I'm not allowed to go up there until I'm older, they say, and not until I demonstrate that I'm truly committed. I ask how others demonstrate their commitment, but they don't answer except to say that I will see in time and to please not ask any more childish questions.

My friends and I work in the garden with a few adults who watch over us. Without help, the adults teach, the land is inhospitable. Bushes and twisty trees thrive and are all around, I point out. They are hard and inedible. Unsuitable for growing a movement, let alone sustaining a single person. Soil is imported and it's a different color, so dark brown it's almost black. We put it down and I help grow carrots, red and yellow potatoes, lettuce, a rainbow of tomatoes, onions, and several types of beans.

Each day is like the day that came before it and like tomorrow. I wake with the sun, put on my robe, and eat breakfast, usually a stew of our vegetables over white rice they make for us. It tastes like water and dirt and vegetables, but I usually feel pretty full after eating. The robe is threadbare and in the morning the breeze makes me cold, but once the sun shines I warm up quickly.

Then we go to school until the sun is high in the sky, where a man and a woman teach us like we used to learn before we moved here. Their names are Brother Richard and Sister Abigail, and they wear better robes that aren't as worn because they spend less time working in the garden and more time preparing lessons for us.

After school we eat again, some fruit and cheese with milk and bread. I am told this makes me strong to build our community. Then we work in the garden for a few hours, helping water, weed, plant, and harvest. If it is too hot or we get tired, we rest and recover our strength. In the summer they only let us work a few hours because the heat is terrible, even in the cover of junipers and in the shade of our cabins.

By the time the sun drops behind the plateau I am hungry and tired and can't even think about playing with other children who might have more energy. We eat more stew, this time with a little meat, and drink milk for strength. By now the darkness is near and a fire is built in the middle of the compound. We gather and listen to stories told by many brothers and sisters about how our home is beautiful and essential.

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