By Al Schwartz | Bass Lake Poet Laureate
And so another equinox, and so another goodbye
It is with mixed emotions that we (I) say goodbye to a family that was with us here at Bass Lake for only a short time. The Gøèwj¢öfurƛƷ˂ʥērs, Jr., Jarl, Betsy Johnson and young Sarpa arrived in our community in June of 2010 and as of today, have left us. They were not only good neighbors but valued friends who never had a moment not free during which to take leave and climb the circular stair steps of conversation on a host of subjects not unfamiliar to your average farmer.
Yet the Gøèwj¢öfurƛƷ˂ʥērs, Jr. were not your average farmers. Far from it. With Twin Nut Farms they raised the level of haute cuisine to new heights and snobbery. Few understood their adventuresome recipes or their politics. But I did. With my wife, Alma Ailing, I spent many a glorious evening at Twin Nut trying to figure out what it was we had just eaten while young Sarpa practiced juggling paring knives, her bloody little fingers bravely grasping at the flashing blades. Jarl, or Jar as we called him, never failed to make us feel provincial with his tales of life in the city as he called New York, his former home. And Betsy, with her youthful bounce and her yoga mat, kept this old codger on the edge of her seat.
But they have left us, thanks in no small part to the failure of this community to comprehend the Bass Lake Elementary School menu. The switch from the long-time BLE kitchen staff to Twin Nut Farms shocked and surprised, dare I say upset, many parents and students of and at BLE (students). A healthy diet should be the goal of every elementary school kitchen staff. But this, alas and alack, was not the case.
With the departure of the Twin Nut Farms people, the job of feeding our more precious commodity, our children, our future, will turn once again on the can openers of the former BLE kitchen staff, many of whom we know on a professional basis only.
Jarl, Betsy, and Sarpa did not stoop to say goodbye. Rather they left only a small note, handwritten by Betsy and left in a rare Michiana coconut for me (us) to find. I have painstakingly retyped it below. Good luck Gøèwj¢öfurƛƷ˂ʥērs, Jr. May the moon always reflect the light of the sun and shine on your general vicinity.
Twin Nut Morning
The end of the season is always a busy time at Twin Nut. And this being the last day of our last season we are especially mindful of our daily tasks and the miracle that comes from our focused attention to their completion. Today we will perform them extra simply for tomorrow we will enter base zero.
We rise, as always, at 4:30 am. Jarl and I practice wet yoga and deep blinking while Sarpa completes her nocturnal periodic rest for mind and body. At the moment of the sunrise, 7:34 am, we move into a final sun salutation, then lightly dry our bodies with towels made from fair-trade organic Egyptian cotton. Sand hill cranes warble over-head and great blue herons “grawwwk” on take-off. They are wishing us well. It is the last day of summer.
Sarpa wakes with the winged commotion and greets us in the traditional way. We feast on a breakfast of steel-cut oats and melon from our floating garden. We use the melon rinds to polish our teeth and we wash our bowls. At 8 Sarpa begins her mindful-child lessons and I polish the locally sourced door knobs and tuck the sustainably-grown Spanish Oak Cork flatware into our organic napkins. No matter what the day holds for us, I’m never fully-aware until I have rubbed my knobs till they gleam.
When Sarpa finishes her lessons, she takes her first nap of the day. She insists we call it her meditation. Jarl and I fill with bliss. When she wakes 10 minutes later, she’s refreshed and I’m ready for her to help me chop vegetables for dinner and for our midday snack. Often she awakens early and gets herself ready. I am always surprised when I come in from turning the compost to find our precious Sarp at the sharpener, her tiny 3-year-old fingers working the knives to a hair-splitting edge.
After we julienne the heirloom carrots and turnips, Sarpa hauls wood for the day. It being late September, she chooses the sugar maple she felled and split last spring. She says it lights quickly and burns just so on these crisp, late summer nights. Nothing warms my heart as much as watching Sarpa start a fire in the wood stove while I sip a lovely Pinot Noir from our vineyards and oil our hand-carved napkin rings.
By this time Jarl will have harvested the Bride of Frankenstein broccoli/cauliflower hybrid he discovered on his latest re-birthing trek across the spine of the Andes. The florets, deep green with bolts of white, grow only in sheltered, nearly inaccessible fissures. Jarl found this rare member of the mustard family while rappelling down some 500 feet to save a fellow climber who suffered a seizure and plunged into the great crack. With his friend under his arm and the delicious Bride clenched in his teeth, roots and all, Jarl saved a life and introduced the world to a new superfood. That was a busy day!
A heaping bushel of Jarl’s Bride (as he sometimes refers to me!) cooling in the shade, he then heads to our fresh-water salmon farm, where he hand collects the catch of the day. Clad only in organic Guatemalan shorts, Jarl lurks in a stand of native coontail 20 feet beneath the surface for up to 30 minutes at a time while waiting for the perfect fish. Breathing through a Balian elbow reed straw, Jarl hypnotizes his prey with an underwater throat humming technique he learned in Fiji while on an aquatic behaviors fellowship. Fresh salmon for our guests simply go to sleep and never feel a thing!
Since it is international night I translate the menu into the five languages our guests speak, as indicated on our reservation form. The rare Terêna tongue of the Amazon gives me the most trouble. It’s been years since I used it in my post-Smith days as a working tutor living in Brooklyn. Which, as fate would have it, is where Jarl and I met. I was lessoning for a family from the Upper West Side – the man was a diplomat and his wife a writer and editor – and Jarl, just out of his post-doc work at Columbia, was working on the docks gathering material for his memoir. We were actually neighbors in Brooklyn Heights, next door neighbors! We met by chance one day when I was going down the stairs and he was coming up. We married that afternoon. Jay-Z sang at our reception.
Thinking about such happy times always lessens the tedium of hand-wrapping Vietnamese spring rolls, which we make with our sustainably-butchered free-range hogs and organic cabbage. Jarl hand-slaughters each hog after reading it a farewell poem composed at the miracle of its birth by Sarpa.
Life at Twin Nut – the name came to us in a flash one wondrous evening when we discovered the nearly identical 100-year-old beech nut trees standing as sentries at the entrance to our lakeside Heritage farmstead – has been amazing these past 2 years. We had wanted to escape the City to give Sarpa the healing and nurturing existence of living on a sustainable, carbon-neutral farm. And though we realize that decision was karmically beneficial and soulfully transcendent, we’ve come to view it as a stepping-stone to our ultimate harmonic transvergency. Despite being the only fully locally-sourced, organic, cruelty-free restaurant and healing center in the tri-state region, we’ve come to the conclusion that our truest good for humanity will come only when we grow beyond a zero-carbon footprint and achieve carbon-negative status. So it is with love and the acceptance of our true purpose in serving our species and the planet that we have decided to live out our lives in hypo-allergenic capsules orbiting the moon.
Jarl has been working on the capsule design for weeks now and has completed the final touches The next step is to feed the plans into our 3-D printer, which we’ve filled with plasticized soy pellets from our fall harvest. Using weather balloons made from corn-syrup and recycled reverse-osmosis water bottles, we are going to float off into space and settle into orbit.
We have the full and loving support of our community and family. This last meal will sustain us for one year while we emerge from suspended animation, a necessary component of acclimating to the hyper-natural conditions in outer space. Our farewell message, written by Sarpa and spelled out in American Chestnut grafts we planted in our organic fields, will be visible from our new home above the Sea of Tranquility. Goodbye, Mother Earth! Hello, Mother Moon!
But, as is always the case with goodbyes, leaving our community of loved ones (you know who you are!) will be difficult. These past months we have shared many good times and locally-sourced fun. We will think of you often and look down upon you from our new home in hopes of catching a glimpse of you at our old home, Twin Nut. Jarl, in his desire to continue our work from afar, has arranged for his former law partners to turn our beloved Nut into a sanctuary for free-range songbirds as well as a Zen-guided rehabilitation center for recovering food workers. It is our wish to have our legacy live beyond our time.
As I write this, the first of our guests have begun arriving. Sarpa is up from her pre-mid-afternoon nap and has begun welcoming our friends with fresh begonias and hand squeezed guava juice. Jarl is saying goodbye to his herd of pygmy elephants. He will miss them so.
Now it is time to say farewell. Farewell!
Betsy Johnson- Gøèwj¢öfurƛƷ˂ʥērs, Jr and Jarl and Sarpa