Thursday, November 4, 2010
The frost has come. The last late raspberries have been hoarded like a handful of rubies into the freezer. The pigs snuggle close in a nest of old hay, the cows lumber across the pasture in a quest for the year's last green tidbits, and the chickens scramble no longer for fresh worms and juicy bugs, their morning treat limited to scatterings of old bread. In the lower garden, all that remains are a few stalwart cabbages. In the upper garden the beets wear purple leaves in mourning for the black skeletons of tomato plants, recently uprooted and laid to rest on the damp branchy base of this winter's burn pile.
The land's production has ground nearly to a halt. We move slower too, weighed down by feedbags and slopbuckets, gathering firewood in the frosty air. But something strange is taking place, just as the cold weather sets in: we are starting to thaw.
When you live for years under the ax, waiting for that dull blade to fall, you becomes well-acquainted with fear, despair, and depression. The threat--in our case, the threat that our farm would be lost--becomes a familiar, if not friendly, presence, and you forget what life was like before the sky was marred with that great hanging wedge of cold metal above you. You forget how to walk outside without bowing and wincing and wondering when it will finally fall...
And then, one day, the ax disappears--life changes, new possibilities appear, the loan comes through and we finally buy the farm--but we're not sure how to stop bowing and wincing every time we step outside. We experiment with lifting our heads. We flicker an experimental gaze now and then at the sky. We say to ourselves, "We're safe. This farm belongs to us. We belong to this farm." We try to say it like we believe it...once in a while, we succeed. We flash each other a grin--but the next minute we're ducking our heads and wincing again, returning to the movements and rhythms we know.
Call it a crisis of faith. We have forgotten that hope is a free gift, not an exclusive commodity. We are enduring the long-awaited thaw of frozen dreams, and our movements are still stiff and unsure.
Bear with us. Samhain, the Celtic New Year, has come at last, carrying the promise of warm fires and songs in the deepening night. Our spirits drape themselves near the woodstove, gradually unfreezing like a pair of trapper's mittens. We are stirring, humming, and warming to life's possibilities.