Sunday, October 18, 2009

Family Farm

Moonlight almost as bright as day was coating the fields and woods like frosting on a layer cake. Deer worked the shadows cast by trees bordering the field wary of the occasional headlights that washed over them. Returning to their nightly business they kept watch as they looked for succulent morsels among the dried grass.
From a lofty perch in a field oak, a horned owl glided out over the bright night landscape. The air not disturbed by his flight, a silent glide, a stealth glide for hunting. Cruising over the field like a heat seeking missile the owl zoned in on its mark. The field mouse was history. The sycamore tree next to the farmhouse became a temporary all-night dinner as the owl settled in with its prey. The children often discovered owl pellets under the massive tree, reminders of success in the long hours of darkness, of the struggle between life and death, another circle completed.

Their farm life gave them insight about the true nature of life; a living ecology project that was constantly redefining itself with the onset of every season. A new list of chores to fit the current needs, a new set of learning experiences about life around them, wild or domestic, beginnings and endings.
With no close neighbors, the children had to be friends with each other. Alliances switched weekly as the family dynamics were in constant motion, reflections of the cycle of seasons that surrounded them. Constant reminders of how swiftly life changes from one minute to the next, hour by hour, day by day.

The worn path that wound its way through the pasture ending in a turnstile was an important part of their daily routine. Traversed at least once a day by some family member over the years as they trekked to the older generations adjoining farm, the path became more a dry bed of memories. The farms handed down through the family had been worked at first by draft horse then modern equipment as each generation poured their love into the earth. Every walk along the path revealed new information about the microcosm that the farms occupied. Depending on the season, the clues given to the various travelers might be revealed in the mud or snow, observations of sky, seeing of seasonal birds or animals. Living on the farm was a slower way of life but hectic in its own way.

The race to complete each season’s tasks put the whole family under the thumb more than once. The unpredictable weather to unexpected emergencies caused as much stress as any high risk job in the city. The family was attached to the land in a way that regular family could not understand. Like a developing fetus that depends on the umbilical cord attached to the placenta as its life line, so generations of this farm family needed the land to continue its life. Nothing else nurtured them as well as the ritual of the seasons. The cycle of life was spiritual to them. There was no need for a building with a spire to make them feel holy and good.

Year in year out the land was replenished. What was taken out was returned in one form or another. The family graveyard overlooked the pasture and fields. Having worked the land all their lives, the past generations continued their watch from the hill extending from beyond the grave a protection over the beloved land.

Some family members tried to break the tie, this bred in attachment to the tangible. Off they would go with a different set of dreams in their minds, but their hearts always brought them back. Not beaten by the outside life, but with a sense of relief to return to the reassuring rhythmic cycle that seemed to be in their blood and ruled out any other lifestyle. They turned their talents to expanding the operation in a new direction to suite their altered dreams to blend with the old their own energy.
Each generation passed on to the next a firm commitment to the land and to the family. Picture albums and journals denoted the family history. Generation after generation, season after season, from birth to death the lives entertained with the land.
EMM 5/19/98

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