In spring, and really all year and every day, the to do list for the farm is hefty and long. And the reality is, of course, that life’s to do lists don’t ever come to an end, so part of coming to peace with things both here on the farm and in life is realizing that it is the work that is the thing more than an outcome or ending is.
Still, in spring, time sensitive matters arise in farming and it is easy to feel, more than at other times, that dreadful feeling of not having enough time to get them all done when they need to be done. Fortunately, this spring we have been blessed with unseasonably dry and warm weather, giving us plenty of time for tasks we often find ourselves waiting and waiting to do just in time, or often late, because of the endless spring rain. Most mornings this year when we sit down to decide what needs to be tended to for the day, we find we are usually able to take a deep relaxing breath, a sigh of relief, knowing that for this day on the calender we are right where we should be. But there is always something to do, and as the days continue to propel us forward, we have to expand our frame of reference to not just soil prep and planting but to weeding and watering too. Staying on top of things is always the goal.
And that is why it can be frustrating to go out to the field with two small helpers at my side and a grand plan to weed the gooseberries, and then in the end only manage to get one bush down the row before there are tears and cries for mama and I feel the inevitable split between duties, one of course calling me more. If there is no redirection to be found, I must stop what I am doing and come.
And even though a part of my mind wonders and worries at that moment how I will ever manage my share of the farm work when things like this happen, I always aim to just let it go. Sometimes, the need is for nothing, really, except that I am not giving my attention to something else.
What do they want to do? Pick flowers, be held.
And so we do this. We look and listen at the apple blossoms, full of flowers and bees. The smell is so heady and the sun is on my face, a warm boy’s skin next to mine, soft only like it is when they are small and nursing. And all the while–singing, laughing, talking, skipping and dancing around–my only daughter makes us bouquets. It is like heaven.
Any seasoned parent will tell you this, and it is really quite trite but like other ideas of its kind, it is equally true~slow down, pay attention. They are only little once, they grow up so fast. This same advice applies to life too. Wake up, smell the apple blossoms. Because you see, they are already, less than a week later, spent and on their way to fruit.
It is hard to balance the pull towards productivity with the peace of mindfully doing nothing. In that moment, in the field, I really wanted to finish a task on my to do list. The perennial fruits are the worst for weeds and it is one of those things so much the worse if we don’t get to it before it is bad (and it is already bad, I didn’t want it to get worse).
But of course, the trade off was equally important to experience, just as it was more important for me to do. Pausing, giving my children what they needed, lovingly letting go of that feeling of rushing worry–even letting go of the rewarding feeling of finishing an important task–wasn’t easy, but it was worth it.
Later that night, quickly and peacefully after dinner and before bed, in the perfect light of a fading spring day, the baby and I managed to transplant two rows for the farmer. A small task, so easy. But manageable. I never wanted more than to be a mother for so long, I was so fully immersed in the work of it, joyfully, and I didn’t ever worry, for so long, about getting much else done. Those first three children came in a span of five years. It was busy and full of them. I suppose that helped.
But now I am learning the art of working with my children, and letting go is probably the most important tool I have for that. I like to really finish the work at hand, whether it is weeding through an entire row, cleaning an entire room or finishing all the dishes, or writing until I get it all down or a natural break comes up. That is not how it goes, though, with children around, and learning to stop mid task and just be there for my children is something I have to do over and over again. It is good practice for living life mindfully. It is good to do always. I am glad they are here to teach me this simple but hard truth.
And in the end, having these beautiful reminders of this lesson scattered all through my house, isn’t too bad, either.