Apifera Farm - where art, story, animals & woman merge. Home to artist Katherine Dunn

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©Katherine Dunn.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Thank you, Jack London

Riding at Uncle Clayton's around 1960

I have had three farms in my life that have opened my heart to what my soul requires in this earthen life. One was my Uncle Clayton's farm in North Dakota - with thousands of acres of corn, wheat and soy, and a barn full of creatures. It was there I would travel the ten hours from Minneapolis with my family, anticipating the smell of each horse and the feeling of the saddle under my bones for the entire trip. I journeyed there through my adulthood, and even though my Uncle died much too young, it was his land that stirred the beginning of my farm dream.

During my forties, I began searching for a place to replant my feet. Minneapolis and NYC had been my homes in the past, but I felt a yearning to head West. The sensation would come to me in subtle ways - such as I always found myself facing West whether inside or out. I ventured to Northern California to visit some friends, thinking maybe the small towns that dotted the Sonoma Valley were a good fit for me, my guides and dreams.

It was there I met my second farm - a place called Beauty Ranch, better known as Jack London's farm. I went there out of curiosity, and for a place to ramble around in while I waited for the dinner hour to meet my friends. I arrived around 10 am. I left around 3 pm. As I went from the small cottage that London wrote from each day, saw his barns and read about the many new animal husbandry practices he was doing, I felt his soul in that land but also felt mine speaking loudly to me. He was a true steward there, not just a landowner - which was a new concept back then and often ridiculed by some local farmers. By the time I arrived at London's grave, I was very emotional. I felt like I'd met him, loved him as a person - flaws and all- and then lost him. His ashes were placed under a large rock in an unpretentious spot, tucked away in the forest near the graves of two two young children of the former owners who died from disease years earlier.

That visit to Jack London's home back in the mid 1990's reminded me that my dream was a tenacious one, one that my soul was not going to let go of and in fact was going to keep reminding me of in anyway it could that a farm was where I needed to be. A farm was where I could enact my optimal performance as the creature I was evolved.

I guess you know I finally found my farm. I took a long time and my guides must have been exhausted getting all the pieces to finally fit into place. But I've never stopped loving Clayton's farm. And I knew I wanted to return to Jack London's - not only to feel it and share it with Martyn, but to thank Jack.

So I packed up Lydia, tucked The Dirt Farmer in the front seat, thanked the angel who said she'd care for Apifera's charges, and headed south to California. On the way, I had many meetings with Redwoods, Oaks and Eucalyptus . The beauty of meetings with trees is note taking is never required.

I couldn't wait to get to Jack's. And seeing the horse trails this time reminded me how far I've come in 10 years. The dream of owning my own horse is in the past - now I live that dream out loud by riding my own horse, learning with him under my weight. I'm not much for 'bucket lists' as I tend to enact what I want, but I do dream of riding a horse through London's land someday, just as he did.

After arriving at London's last Sunday, we started our visit at the small cottage where he initially wrote. I felt his love and interest in his life and land everywhere. The small back porch room with simple, single cottage bed where he so often wrote, notes still hanging on the wall, was full of sun, perhaps not unlike the day he lay there and died.

Three miles of walking later, I arrived at his forest grave. I didn't have to say much, I simply said,

"Thank you, Jack."

Jack London riding at Beauty Ranch

You can learn more about Jack London at their site and see how you can visit or volunteer there; and read a good article about his short life.


Ruth Armitage said...

What a moving post, K. The pull of the land is strong in some of us. I love visualizing you facing west in the years before your move here! Someday I must visit the Jack London Ranch.

Katherine Dunn/Apifera Farm said...

Ruth- besides it being one of my favorite regions in the world, I love Glen Ellen, you really would like it I think. For me, it is a spiritual place too.

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Thank you for reading! The farm and my art/writing keep me hopping, so might not respond immediately. Thank you for understanding. ~Katherine & Apifera ~