navel-gazing in the fields

It seems the air changed just in time for the first week of school. My daughter is re-installed in preschool and loves it. She disappears from my view a little more. Ralph brings the children out to the Farm after school; she and her friends there catch a tree frog, debate about what to feed it and let it go. I offer my assistance and she impatiently gestures: “Go back to work!” I realize as time goes on more and more she will need me all the time, but I will never know or be able to count on when she will single me out.

It feels good to work out on the Farm in this fall weather. I realize I will enjoy closing out the season in this way. I am proud for turning in two workdays this week to help bring the harvest in. Today I pull a large bed of weeds with another woman (we have been suspiciously abandoned by the other workers assigned) and in the chill, brisk air we talk about our mothers who are the same age and shared some similar decisions. After break I shovel a large truck full of horse manure with a father of two and we talk about watersheds and engineering. I carry large trash cans of pulled flatleaf parsley with another young mother and we talk about our families: who works, who juggles home life, how we stay in our beloved community and make a living. In the afternoon I sit in a field of strawberries with my son(sun) and the hot smell of his hair is melded with the heady aroma of strawberries and it is exactly the feeling of falling in love.

I strip off layer after layer as the sun heats up. In the Circle Time before our meal we chant. I chant. I am irritated because I don’t like chanting, but I’ve never figured out if it would be disrespectful to abstain. Instead I close my eyes and give over to a different way, a different mindset. I am conscious of the hand of one of the interns holding mine. His is hard and calloused. Does mine feel soft to him? I am not hungry yet so I go out to harvest. I gather zucchini, jalapenos, basil, tomatoes, cayenne, corn, cucumbers, strawberries, sunflowers. I mentally prepare meals for my company that will be here tomorrow.

Driving home and the van is filled with a lull of sunshine and hard work and children who have been running and playing in a barn and on a trampoline and eating their fill of wine-rich berries. Four more workdays of this and I never know what it may bring: tranquility or irritation, the ache of hard-worked muscles or the jittery-ness of a day spent in conflict. No matter what my mental state though, it always brings us food.

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