In the gray light of predawn, I sit on the back porch and pull on my boots. They’re too caked in yesterday’s dirt to allow in the house.
The cool, damp air is a lie. It won’t be long before the day burns hot and humid.
By that time I’ll be in the field, fixing leaks in the drip irrigation system or pulling the odd cocklebur and sicklepod.
The nutsedge will just look at me and laugh.
The morning work will be broken only by swigs of ice water from my jug and wiping the sweat off my face with my shirt.
Water in, water out.
At noon, I’ll go to the house where my grandmother will have lunch ready. I hope it’s squash patties, boiled okra, roast beef, and good ol’ tomato sandwiches.
My grandfather will tell a few stories about the neighbors and mention the drainage ditch he wants me to clear. My grandmother will tease him about working me too hard. My dad will call to give me a few more jobs I’ll need to finish by the end of the day.
I’ll soak up the air conditioning for just a little while before heading back into the suffocating heat, my water jug full again.
By sunset, I’ll be making way back to the house, my steps a little slower. I’ll be tired and crusty from dust adhered to my skin by drying sweat.
My grandfather will be sitting on the back porch, watching the purple martins fly in and out of the hollow gourds he hung for them. We’ll talk about taking a day off to go fishing soon. Then I’ll hop in the shower while he watches Wheel of Fortune and my grandmother puts the finishing touches on dinner.
I hope it’s vegetable soup and cornbread.
I’m 20 years out from days like that one, but I long for the simplicity I knew then. In my dreams, sometimes I’m back there listening to the quiet stories my grandparents tell while we play dominoes after dinner.
This week the country celebrated National Ag Week, and March 24 was National Ag Day. Right now, if I were to imagine a perfect day in agriculture, it would be like the one I just described.
I lived through so many just like it. While I knew at the time that I had something special, I didn’t know what those days would mean to me as I grew older.
In a world of chaos and stress, the farm or ranch can be a refuge where the work and rhythms of the day take hold of us, and everything else falls away.
Now that I no longer live on the farm, I try to remember that lesson and focus on the things I have control over and avoid worrying about anything else.
In the face of a global pandemic, that’s more of a challenge than it usually is. But in the week that I’ve been working from home, I’ve started to feel that old sense of calm. I have my work to do, of course, and my children are around all the time. We’re socially distancing ourselves, but we’re also spending a lot of time together now. When things get stressful, we play games, swap stories and take walks. Spring is crawling out from under the melting snow, and nature, at least, isn’t closed off to us. The sun shining through my open home office window is a welcome old friend.
As our lives slow down, older and quieter rhythms begin to re-emerge.
I hope you find yours.