Or Söğütgediği, for short. “Willow Pass”, if you must know the English.
Those are the coordinates. I’m now a LANDOWNER.
We’ve almost finished the small pre-fab house on the lot, too, but the exciting part for me is the land.
With a handful of friends, I purchased 21 beautiful hectares in the backhills of Bayramiç on a plot so off-the-grid that it takes 15-20 minutes on a 4×4 via a tractor path to reach it. No electricity. Water from a very abundant natural spring. We are bounded by a river on our southern property line and forested hills to the south and west.
It feels like home. It feels like the Tennessee of my youth.
I am visiting it now, the weekend before New Years. Walking the perimeter slowly, I try to memorize the flora—every wildflower, lichen, and leaf. Every animal track. Noting the gaps in the thicketed fencing where boar have trod through. Listening the the sound of the stream in this season and marking the water level. Low, according to the watermarked banks that say this is usually a larger, louder river.
When we started this Willow Pass venture, which is destined to be a small scale organic farm, I made it clear that I would be a silent partner, happy just to sit and watch the grass grow. That’s still the case.
This declaration speaks more to my laziness, though, than to any aversion to farming. For a suburbia-raised girl, you would be surprised how connected to the land I am. Connected to nature. Since toddlerhood I have always found a way to commune with the land.
At three, it was curling up for naps in the large holes our collie, Lancelot, dug in the backyard. At four, it was harvesting in our massive vegetable garden each morning. By the time I was five, I was joining my brother in the only natural territory left in our shiny, new suburb: dirt hills with rivers and ponds that offered swampy fun like frog and snake catching.
At six we moved to a new house. No garden, but forests with treehouses and ponds with turtles and tadpoles in summer and ice skating in winter.
When I was twelve we moved to our third house in Tennessee. Almost rural. Technically it was a subdivision, but there were only three houses on our street. We were surrounded by forest on three sides and my friend Caroline’s Arabian horse farm opposite us. Deer would wander our lawn regularly to linger at the salt lick. A day of fun would be walking up a dry creekbed with Caroline or exploring the foothills on my dirtbike (1993 Honda XL).
After moving to Turkey in my 20s, it took me years to find my way back to a life infused with nature. But I got there. The eyes simply need to see green. The ears need to hear deep silence. The body needs to be still in the wild until you can see the energy outlining each living thing. As much as I ADORE the vibrant energy of my megametropolis home, Istanbul, I also love to escape back to the land. And maybe with Willow Pass, I will want to make those escapes longer and more frequent.
As I walk the treelined perimeter of our lot, I reconsider how “silent” a partner I will be in our small agrarian venture, Octopus Farms.
Wendell Berry’s words ring in my ear. ‘We have neglected the truth– that a good farmer is a craftsman of the highest order, a kind of artist.’
Maybe the artistry that blooms from this land will be mine.