“The Bridgehampton Field,”

A Memoir by Amy Palmer

    I noticed the children were all taking off their shoes as if they were entering a shrine, as if they were about to enter a special, consecrated place. Then quietly and with reverence they began the walk to explore.

    It was early summer; there was not much there, only small plants and seedlings, beginning their short summer life in the warm soil. Small plants and seedlings that would last until the first hard frost. The anticipation of what the field would do that summer in that short space of time, and the contemplation of what it would bring forth, was what drew them.

    Or, maybe not. Maybe it was because they had been coming to the field for so long, all of their short lifetimes. They had been brought to the field since they were infants, and they had sensed, watched, observed, learned. They knew the field well. They loved the field: the earth, the creatures, the pebbles, the plants.

    They knew the chocolate, cocoa-like look of the field in early spring, right after it was plowed and disked, before the seedlings went in. They knew the talcum powder feel of the earth after the plow had finished its work, and the way the field waited to begin once again its yearly miracle. They knew the warmth of the soil before the pumpkin seeds entered the earth, the seeds that would thrive and grow to give them pleasure and delight them in October. All this they knew without any formal teaching.

    In the seasons of the field lay the structure of the children’s year. It led them through the deep of winter, the games of winter that children play. It taught them about the survival of small animals that somehow made it through the heavy snow and bitter cold until spring. The foxes, the groundhogs, rabbits, deer; the field mice the dogs could hear scrambling under the land. It awakened them to the mystery and slow rebirth of spring. In the summer they were under its spell. In the summer the field became the raw material for many of the lasting and significant memories they formed of the field and their summer childhoods.

    But more than any other remembrances of the seasons they would carry through their lives would be recollections of the days of autumn. This was the season the field came into its own; the harvest season, the season of the full moon. The season of huge pumpkins, fat, red, juicy tomatoes, berries still forming, ripe for the picking and eating, all the gifts of fall and of the season of plenty. This was the season of the harvest dinner held in the field each year.

    In a more perfect world all children would have a field. There would be no need to teach them how crucial and important the husbandry of our land is. How the looking after and love of the land is as natural as breathing. There would be no need to teach them about the fragility of the earth and how we must cherish it. It would be imbued in them through the experiences of their childhood in the field. They would have absorbed the culture of the land, as if by osmosis. They would have witnessed the care, labor, and love that others had given to the field, not realizing it at the time, but someday in remembering the seasons of the field, they would stop to think, just for a moment perhaps, that others, many others had taught them and loved them enough to want them to have as their own, and for all time, the legacy and enchantment of a field.

    Amy Palmer, whose work has appeared previously in The Star, has been watching a nearby field, and its visitors, through all the seasons of the year since 1991.