Harvest

Harvest is one of the most joyful times of the year. Yes, it’s taken a bit of work to get here but if the garden was well planned and Nature cooperated even a little there are delicacies to be had. Today’s walk through the squash was very exciting. The biggest Blue Hubbard’s I’ve ever seen and bright red curry are starting to reveal themselves through receding greenery.

Our heirloom orchard is having a grand year. From slugs and bees to deer and human, everyone is taking a bite of the sweetness of the season. With each day, as another tree’s apples are ready to be picked, another has all but lost its fruit. That is the sad tale of harvest. The trees are like friends. You get to know the order in which they will ripen, you know the years they will rest and you wait eagerly for their return.

One doesn’t need a large garden or an orchard to appreciate harvest. A single tomato plant will do. There is some undeniable kinship we have with the earth and the sustenance that comes from her. And there is an undeniable fulfillment in co-creating with the soil and dancing with the seasons.

Gratitude and celebration come easily at this time. Even when the onion crop is a bit on the weak side, there are friends and neighbors whose onions did well and we can share, barter or buy. We were made for this simplicity however challenging.

The exuberance is not only in the gathering. If all goes well we’ll delight in the abundance of harvest throughout the winter months and it will ready us for spring. Pickles, kraut, apple butter, cider and jellies galore will dress the table. And this, my friend, is the cycle of thankfulness.

There is Enough

It took a huge effort to get the family of groundhogs eating and sleeping in our garden to leave, but we did it. And then of course we discovered the deer have been eating our corn. It’s always smart to plant enough for everyone I reckon. 

The days will be shortening and the winter’s wood supply is coming in bit by bit. I always feel a touch of relief at the Solstice, knowing that the reduction of light will shorten workdays as well. 

The apple harvest looks to be promising this year and I marvel at how human beings survived this dance on the Earth. I guess our ancestors did, as we must now do, be thoughtful, be creative, be frugal and above all be grateful.

Being thoughtful implies deliberate and careful consideration of the land, what it offers and how best to care for it. Being creative happens with the realization that we’re inextricably bound to the Earth in a realm of endless possibilities. 

If that’s confusing to you, stop by and watch the wizardry of my wife (welcome to Pride Month) as she gathers from the gardens and the wilds to create delicious life sustaining foods. And while some of that comes from being frugal, at its core it is an act of love and gratitude. It’s in recognition that the Earth can and does provide all that we need if we can take the time to remember what some have always known: There is enough. 

Another lovely awakening of this time is Juneteenth. Celebrating the beauty and the strength of those who survived the inhumanity of slavery are steps towards all of our healing. We have much to overcome, but we are one people finding our way on this precious Earth. Let’s get to it!

Make It Count

Today is my birthday and with it the recognition that I’m inching ever closer to the finish line. People want to celebrate birthdays and thoughts of the finality of life are not usually mentioned, but I’ve always been the sort to take life seriously. Not gloomily, but in full recognition of life’s finite nature. These sobering thoughts may lead one to a lifetime filled with choice and I am fond of the saying, “Choice not chance makes destiny.”  

Some people invest in the after life. I’m not one of those people. I love living and I’m quite content with heaven on earth, regardless of the hardships that may come. 

Some people invest in material gain; I’m not one of those either, as I have seen enough burials to know you don’t take it with you.

For me, I thrill at the possibility of filling my days with gratitude and I’ve found that with a bit of practice one can get very good at it. It’s the same with kindness. 

And when we refuse to drink of the cup of fear, it’s amazing what beauty and sweetness awaits.

I have lived long enough to know that I am unique but not special. Unique we all are, individually wrapped by the hand of the Creator. Our specialness is in that and it holds what we all share: the gift of life, and the opportunity to love and to be loved.

In the stillness of our hearts we know that we are loved. And that knowing is the sweetest birthday gift. 

When this magnificent ride comes to its end, I want to be able to say, “Thank you”. 

And if the chance should be offered to come again, I want to say, “Put me in coach.    I’m ready to play.” 

photo: Creative Commons

It is that Simple

As the gardens wane and cooler mornings greet us, the revolution of time presses on. The afternoon light is more vivid and it seems a shame to not sit a while and take it in. This time is made for memories. The hopefulness of spring and the vigor of summer can still be felt, but the coming of autumn holds the reckoning of all that has gone before.

It’s a time of remembrance. Memories of loved ones who have walked on and of those too distant to hold close. It’s a time to reminisce and count the Goodness that has played a part in shaping our becoming. Bringing in the harvest and celebrating abundance is a universally shared experience. And in doing so the spirit of community becomes its own blessing. We are preparing for winter and the longest, darkest nights and this cycle of life and of this season of closure is rich with the preciousness of being alive.

In the course of it, I’m overcome with gratitude and I realize once again that gratitude is the core of who I am, of who we are. And I wonder as I walk over the leaves that are starting to fall, “Is it really that simple?” That to know myself is to be grateful for my life and everything that touches it…and the answer wells up inside of me, “Yes. It is that simple.”

It has been well over three years now that WDRT Community Radio has allowed me to bring you my thoughts on the power of humanity and the choices we face to remain human. For that opportunity I am grateful. Community is alive and well here and it takes all of us to keep it flourishing. Thanks to all who keep it going.

Today is WDRT’s pledge drive. If you feel it, please give.

This piece was inspired in part by the passing of a great friend. May his memory bring peace to all who knew him.

Blessed Existence

Hardship has never escaped the human family. We are pummeled by Nature and by the ignorance that compounds suffering.

My Navajo friend told me how her grandmother fought to keep her baby alive during the forced Long Walk. Mothers who lost their own babies would give what little breast milk they had to the infant. That infant was my friend’s mother. I’ve often reflected on the courage, perseverance and kindness that enabled Annie, my friend, to exist. And how blessed was that existence with all of its hardships. 

I remember witnessing her in morning prayers. Though humble, she was not docile. She stood boldly in her life and welcomed all of the winds that blew her way. 

The story of shared breast milk was not new to me. My mother had been the recipient of wet nurses as they were called. My grandfather had been killed and my grandmother lost her ability to breastfeed. Poverty demands help. And help came in the form of neighbors. I’ve often reflected on the strength and the compassion that surrounded my mother’s existence. And how blessed was that existence with all of its hardships. She, too, had the gift of powerful prayer. 

I am the recipient of the Love of these two matriarchs. With that kind of Love mountains can move.

All of us have been blessed with existence and while our stories vary, hardships and blessings have come our way. Be nourished by them.

These are hard times. These are the times to dig for strength and to uncover our gifts, to seek and offer help. We have the potential to flourish, individually and collectively, despite the hardships.

Have the clarity to be guided by Love. Find the courage to hold onto it.

Regardless of hardship, it is a blessed existence.

The above photo is of Annie.

My Grandmother and me.
My mom and me.

Sweet Bounty

No need to work on being scared this Halloween. There’s no need to watch movies that will make your skin crawl. Just listen to the news. Doesn’t matter which “side” you’re on. There is hatred and violence brewing everywhere. Fear is in the air and it is more present than the elusive corona virus.

There is a belief that this time of year holds the thinning of the veil between life and death. When you live on the land that makes total sense. The emerald green of summer has long faded and the glorious leaves have gone brown. Soon the decomposition will begin and if you are lucky enough to live where the snow flies, a blanket of white will cover the earth. And as if by magic, when the brilliant white disappears, the early risers of spring will once again breath life into being.

This is what we know. We know this time of death is preparation for what is yet to be. We know there is always waxing and waning and this is the time to shelter and gather strength. Now is the moment to take stock of all that is good, all that has held us and all that will continue to throughout the months ahead.

This is not a time for fear and wasted energy. This is not a time to create havoc and spin tails of woe. This moment is for celebration and for effort, to separate the wheat from the chaff, and to preserve all that we will need to make it through.

This is a time of sharing; to gift one another the sweet bounty of our harvest and to offer good tidings and hope. 

This Hallows Eve we don’t need to be frightened. We need to be grateful and ready. 

Photo: sheep having the final gleaning of the garden.

Dear Graduate

Dear Graduate,

You are alive. You live in a most exciting time. You live at a crossroads in humanity and choices are very clear. You can continue to plug away at the dying systems you see floundering around you or you can reimagine and recreate something new and better for yourself and those who come after you.

To do this you must take stock of your strengths and your passions. You are alive. You hold within you great seeds of possibility that are yours and yours alone. There has never been another you. Cherish that. Honor the seed of your becoming and let it grow. Nourish it with kindness and respect. Allow wonder and remain a student of Life, regardless of what comes.

Give of yourself. Volunteer. Plant a tree. Tend a garden.  There is so much awaiting your loving touch.

And allow your cup to be filled. Accept kindness. It comes from strength not weakness.  Hone your gifts of humility, hope and courage. They will remain your steadfast friends throughout your life.

Do not curse your time, nor accept curses of others. You have potentials that have yet to be tapped waiting for you. Carry on.

And to those who fear for them: your fears are your own to unwind and discard. Do not pass the baton of fear. Systems crumble but from their ashes the phoenix rise. Do not doubt that something better can emerge from this unsettling time. It is never too late to reconcile errors of the past and make way for a better tomorrow. Forgive yourself for doing what you were told instead of discovering what was meant for you. In the time that remains you, find peace.

Care for the Living

A benevolent spring is upon us. Time has come to plant gardens or to connect with those who do. Food pantries, farmers markets and Facebook pages are gearing up to share life-supporting food and information. Videos and live-streamed classes teach us how to cook and process food. There’s no reason for anyone to go hungry.

Rain seems to be ignoring us this year. It’s making it possible to repair damages from previous floods and ready our homes for any rough days ahead. There are lots of good, local hardware stores and handy people to help get jobs done.  And while we are readying our homes let us think of our neighbors. There are unused houses and cabins, which could provide shelter for individuals and families who are and will be facing eviction.

Many may be facing hard times. Yet while this virus has wounded our ability to carry on as we have, it cannot keep us from cutting a path forward that may be better for all.

With the argument to reopen businesses now, we are weighing financial concerns over the value of life. There will be plenty of time to regroup our finances. Now is the time to care for the living – and that includes our health care workers. Now is the time to ensure that each of us has basic needs met. There are many fine organizations working against great odds to help those in need.  Find one to support.

This is not a time to cower. It is not a time to be confused or angry. Everyone’s efforts are needed. Too many are living on the edge. We have allowed this for too long. Time to snap out of it.

Throw out the old playbook. There is a new game afoot. Help one another and enjoy all the good we have been given.

Window of Opportunity

The sweetest birdsongs greeted my morning walk and the sky was the blue that I remembered from my childhood. There is less traffic on the road and fewer animals killed. The nettles are coming up enough to garnish our lunchtime quiche. For all the concern of the virus that is plaguing us, which is real, there is gentleness in this moment that is worthy of our attention.

Each day on the farm, we try to tackle a project that had previously escaped us. Today we began to fill a wound in the earth. It is erosion caused by our mules that we had too long ignored. But now we have the time and nature has supplied the means so we grabbed the window of opportunity to do a little mending.

Tasks often loom large and formidable until you actually begin them. Downed branches and dried grasses are abundant and create the perfect fill. We could also see another breach where the mules tend to walk and so we were able to mitigate that problem before it began.

And I cannot help but compare these everyday experiences to the predicament before us.

If we only listen to the pundits and the debates surrounding this crisis we may miss a very real opportunity. This is our chance to learn. It is our time to build our strengths. Our time to review what we have allowed and what could have been done differently. This may be the window of opportunity that we have long awaited.

Taking stock of our lives and everything our lives touch, making amends and mitigating mistakes before we fall prey to them again; this is the possibility before us.

We are being asked to be conscious, for ourselves and for each other.

What an amazing gift! Let us open it.

Right on Time

 

Here come the first hints of spring right on time. I heard a robin sing yesterday and today the call of the sand hill crane caught my attention. The snow is melting and the mud and the ice are treacherous if you take a wrong step, but the brilliant sun makes the cold wind cower and you know it is only a matter of time before you will walk barefoot again.

And there is hope, right on time.

The news in any given day is bleak and I am inclined to believe it is intentionally so. It is easier to control a population when it is kept on edge. It is easier to drive an agenda if you do not give people a chance to find their own way. But at the end of the day, it will always be our choice to fall for fear mongering and hate baiting or to strive to create sustainable peace.

Winter in the Driftless is not for those afraid of a good challenge. But it is the beauty of the season and the brilliance of the night skies that soothes the soul and holds the promise of spring.

I couldn’t live in a hopeless world. And the return of the sand hill crane reminds me of that. I muse over the latest news on the coronavirus, or the hatred that has reared its head against Muslims in Delhi. Yet I rejoice to hear the Korean woman tell how she survived the disease and how the Hindu man saved many Muslim neighbors making trips by motorcycle.

You see, spring returns. And with it hope. Not blind hope, but hope born of reason, conviction and action laced with integrity.  We are born for this. We are born to be victors over fear, hatred and ignorance, because we are born for love.

 

sandhill crane in flight courtesy of wikipedia commons