More than just a good story,
which it surely is, Logan Ward’s See You
in 100 Years (Author Planet Press, 2013) calls readers into a deep meditation
of what we gain and what we lose
the story: In the spring of 2001, Logan and Heather Ward quit their jobs, sold (or
stored) everything they owned, and, with their 2-year-old son, Luther, moved
from New York City to a farm, with a 116-year-old house, in Virginia’s
than that, they also “moved” back to 1900. That meant no cars, cell phones, or electric
appliances, and no electricity, gas, or water service in the house. If it
didn’t exist in 1900, they wouldn’t use it. They didn’t even accept rides in
cars. If they could not get there by walking, bicycling, or by horse and buggy,
they didn’t go. And they would live like that for one year.
of the absorbing joy of this book is the way the reader must think through every
detail of suddenly leaping backwards a full century; the long hours of hard
work required just to remain alive, learning to work with some animals and kill
others, living without weather forecasts or news, discovering the new patterns
of farm life, and the knowledge that you cannot call anyone in case of
wonder 1900’s life expectancy was 47 years for men and 49 for women.
The Stamp of Time and Place
in 100 Years also reveals the way times and places mold
people. So, we see good, liberal, non-religious, and artistic people quickly conform
to traditional husband and wife roles. Ward admits that Heather fell into “the
stereotypical chore load of the female… cooking, cleaning, laundry,” while he
took care of “wood-splitting, water-pumping, livestock care.” He explains, “We do
the jobs we’re inclined to do and that will be more efficient…with chores
filling our days from dawn to dark, efficiency counts for a lot.”
maybe it always has!
then there is rain. As one who grew up in farm country, I understand why
farming communities are inevitably religious. It all comes down to this: We
must have rain and we can’t make it happen. Who you gonna call?
their sweltering, parched summer, the Logan family runs right into an ancient pattern;
a black cloud covers the farm, the wind increases, the air cools, and a few big
raindrops hit the dust, and then…nothing but the blazing sun. Over and over
for weeks. He says it well, “For the first time ever, I understand the
desperation that could drive people to dance for rain.”
then…the rain arrives! “Heather breaks into sobs. I hug her and cry, too.
Letting go is easy in the deluge.”
A Time of Testing
Moving backward 100 years would
inevitably become a crucible of testing. Sometimes excruciating, the tests
measure every aspect of life: physical, mental, marital, financial, and
sure it was unintentional, but the pace and intensity of bad language seems to serve
as a thermometer for the heat of the testing. Ward and Heather’s profanities increase
until they break. From that point, their language becomes clean and gentle.
the biggest test was 9/11/01, as these transplanted New Yorkers had no
knowledge of the terrorist attacks of that day until neighbors began coming to
their door. Logan admits the enormity of the attack made their experiment seem
small and maybe silly. Neighbors invited them to their homes to use their
phones and TVs.
way they work through their relationship to 911 (and the modern news business)
throws a big yard light on modern life. Their choice is not a stunt, but a
plumbline of sanity.
as life on the land knocks them face down in the dirt,
they come up grateful for every tomato, egg, cucumber, pint of goat’s milk, or
drop of rain. Near the end of the book, Logan tells us, “I can’t contain my
feelings of gratitude. For the first time since my boyhood, I offer silent
prayers of thanks…”
Obviously, I loved and do highly
recommend this penetrating, moving, and funny book. It immersed me in another
world and time, frequently pulled me out of bed or office, and threw me into sadness
when it ended.
As with many good books, I wanted to
remain with those people and in that place a few pages and years longer.