stillness in early September

There was a stillness in the air yesterday. It wasn’t a lack of wind either because a peppy breeze kept our hoardes of mosquitoes at bay, which let us all breathe a sigh of relief. Something deeper was still and reverent in the coolness of early September.

It is as if the morning was set aside in a pool of brightness between the wild rush of summer and the crushing race of fall. “You have lived another summer here,” it seemed to say. “Either the things you hoped for in this season have been found, or they have not, but the season is complete. There will never be another like it.”

I felt the contours of the season behind me, shaped by details that I couldn’t appreciate at the time because they filled my whole attention. This season brought many storms, with  hail and wind that once pushed a chicken coops into a slanted elipse instead of an upright hoop while Ian stood inside it with our chickens, hoping it wouldn’t blow away. There were the rainbows and the orange skies.

Because of all the rain, there were little rivers in a chicken yard where no rivers should be, but thankfully no ponds in the chicken houses. Our birds could always come back to a dry home. For the chickens, the well-watered clover was juicy and lush. For us, the watermelon plants were so prolific that I can delight in eating as much as I want, day after day. Mosquitoes loved the rain and have been so fierce that we ordered netting to protect our faces and necks.

Owls and hawks were here this summer as our adversaries, so we fashioned new doors for chicken coops and tucked our birds in at night to keep them safe from our winged predators. We put up plastic owls, which the regular owls ignored, and we watched the skies. Our dogs and the coyotes filled the darkness with howls and barks, but our chickens have been safe from attacks by land this year.

Mostly, I am aware of the many times our family has criss-crossed this piece of ground, carrying buckets or tools or baskets of eggs. We have walked while daydreaming or planning. We have walked while cheerful and grumpy, sometimes talking together and sometimes alone. My husband and I change a bit year to year, but the children change so much. Their shapes and the way they think about this farm will not be the same the next time summer comes.

So we leave this summer, a place we will never return. And we prepare to return to another one still several seasons away.

All evening, the tractor rumbled to the north as Ian tilled up a section of the hens’ yard where the birds had eaten all of their clover. He seeded that land and fenced it off so our chickens couldn’t eat the seeds or tender sprouts. This late summer planting fit into a little window of time before the rain, and right before it would be too late to plant for next spring.

Ian’s race with planting time will pale next to his race with the freezing ground. Every year we race to accomplish all the things that will no longer be possible when the earth is hard as rock and the water won’t flow through hoses. Our race with the ground is an extreme sport that daunts me, but it ends. The ground finally freezes, and what is left undone will remain undone.

Our whole lives are like this, of course. Our seasons are shaped by storms and by windows of time when our planting can be done. These windows of time pass, and the storms pass, and what is left are these contours we have created with our walking and with the things we have carried. Then we leave these parts of our lives behind because we have no choice, and we never come back. We might remember, but we will never be here again.

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