It is seven o’clock in the morning, and the sun is rising over the black neat rows of freshly plowed farmland. We are traveling back from visiting a friend in Moorhead, Minnesota on our way to pick up our oldest daughter from school to bring her home for the summer. I breathe in the smell of black fertile soil and am transported to a deeper rhythm, a more organic sense of time and purpose. On the farm, there is such a deep connection to growing and harvesting, rain and drought, work and rest, and an understanding of the seasons of our lives.
Our friend told us of the death of his mother, diagnosed with stomach cancer and buried three weeks later. The hospice nurse told all thirteen children that they needed to say goodbye to their mother, to let her know that it was fine to let go. When Mike shared this with his mother, she looked at him and said, “Are you kidding? I have lived my whole life for this!” Instead of sadness during her last three weeks, there was celebration of a life well lived, picking out just the right dress in which to meet God, and dancing in the living room with each of her thirteen children.
Rhythm. The heartbeat of our lives resides in the earth, in the seasons that have been constant over thousands of years. I wonder why we choose to live in artificial landscapes of concrete and steel, create artificial time by working long past the day’s end, and eat gas ripened vegetables and chemical concoctions meant to look like food. I am always taken aback when I hear of inner city children who don’t know what a chicken or a cow is, or even the children on Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution show that can’t identify a cucumber or green pepper. We have long left the farm and the gift the comes from knowing the seasons of sowing and reaping, new growth and letting go. It isn’t any wonder that our society is afraid of death because they haven’t seen it as a natural part of life.
There is a certain amount of trust that must be present when you work on a farm. Without it, I believe you couldn’t be a farmer and flow with the seasons. There has to be trust in the weather that you cannot control, that you will have enough crop left at the end of the growing season not eaten by pests or destroyed by hail that you can turn into cash to feed your family. There is trust that “the good Lord will provide.”
Even driving in the car just passing the farms, I get to see the pattern created by the farmer as he plows the field, or the hawk diving into one of Minnesota’s ten thousand lakes. I have time to watch the waves get whipped into white caps by the gusting wind and watch the blades of windmills larger than life spin, harvesting the energy for another time. I imagine myself digging into the black soil and connecting to my own ancestors who farmed the land when they arrived in this country. I marvel at the number of calves following mothers around fields. I drive as I watch the orange ball of light fade off beyond the horizon. I look out the car window and see a sky full of bright stars that are hidden from view in the lights of a city. I am in awe of all the beauty around me.
Day begins and ends in the car traveling home to Colorado. But the moments in between were not missed by us. We didn’t speed along only in the effort to get home as fast as we could. And even Harry Potter on audio didn’t distract us from sending our thoughts out across field after field, patchworked green and black, noticing deer and wild turkeys, small churches with a cemetery nearby, representing the community aspect of life and death. We were connecting to this amazing land that we live in. Even now as I write, I am transported back to a farm, and its daily rhythms. And while the work is hard, the rewards are sweet. I breathe in and know that I am simply connected to the rhyme, the reason, the rhythms of life.