Alone next to the earth

Last night, in a rare but wonderful moment of role reversal, I spent the hours after dinner in the field weeding our pole beans, picking away any stray overripe stragglers that were missed after last market’s harvest, while the full-time farmer did the dishes and pajama’d the little ones. Alone next to the earth, without the noise that usually accompanies me as mother hen of the farm, I let the stillness of the summer night sink into my skin, listening to the sounds of the wind in the oaks, the endless hopping of leaf and grass hoppers, a snake (or vole?) rustling in the far too big weeds in the paths next to me. As I went to my knees to stretch out my back muscles, my hands forward in the dirt, my face close to the ground, the sweet smell of earth and green life was so settling. As I finished working, I watched the soft peach and pinks against the dark night blue of twilight juxtaposed with the greens and browns of the fields that lead from the hills of our western horizon to our home.

It was one of those moments in time that is not all that complicated or hard to experience–the serenity of a perfect Oregon summer evening, the grounding power of the natural world–but which takes a slowing down to notice. I know that it is easy for me to be busy focusing attention on my children (perfectly wonderful in its own rite) or on getting this and that and that done before the day ends and another begins. So busy, though, that moments like this feel like a million bucks rather than just the beautiful every day gift of this elegant universe. In moments like these, I always tell myself that I am going to get to this place everyday, to get close to the earth, to slow down for the sunset. Still, the morning comes and with it the forgetfulness of human imperfection.

In a way, maybe these moments wouldn’t bring us such peace and refreshment if we didn’t have day to day busyness to play them against. Either way, it is such a blessing to have this beautiful space here on Earth, and to have a part-time job (next to full-time mothering) working right in the midst of creation; to have work that can be so calming, built in nerve settling even as we get anxious over this crop
getting hit by pests or that space getting heavy on weeds. That, along with the inexplicable peace that comes from being surrounded by so much food, is a wonderful job benefit. To bring forth from a space sustenance for not only us, but all of you, is a great joy. And as we continue to harvest the bountiful zucchinis and summer squash, the steady green beans, as we look at the numbers of peppers and green and orange and almost red tomatoes that will be coming in this week or next, we can still get giddy with that feeling of sheer abundance–even as we have been waiting for the second planting of cucumbers to get ripe since our first was hit so hard by those pesky striped cucumber beetles. It is such a dance we do between the inevitable ups and downs of any given day in the field. The real up, though, is how many less things there are on the down side this year when compared to last year. And with soil building (and farmer training too) we have found that each year the things that bring us worry–the pests, the weeds, the planning, the execution–are less worrisome because the growing space and the growers have become that much better.

As the darkness fell and I came back inside to read stories and sing lullabies, I brought each little one out to see what was left of the sunset, more dark and blue by then, but with a brighter sliver of moon over the hills to ooh and ahh over. We quietly said goodnight to the goats and pigs and chickens, to the farm we call home. These late and warm summer nights are coming earlier and earlier, so I will make every effort I can to slow us all down for moments like this, for these little pieces of time that intricately tie us to this place and become part of us and the things we produce here on this Oregon land.

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