The wind this morning is a force to be reckoned with, wildly tossing a mix of freezing rain and snow in all directions. I hear it, pelting at the windows, and whipping over the roof. The regional weather forecast in the Farmer’s Almanac for this week states: “flurries, very cold.” Straightforward, and to the point.
I imagine this is helpful to the farmer, as he pulls on boots at 4 a.m., and heads to the barn to do his chores in the dark.
I make my way downstairs. Not quite as early, but it is still dark outside. Winter-dark. I put the kettle on. While it comes to a boil, I open the damper to the woodstove and the bed of coals left over from the night glow suddenly a brighter orange at the fresh infusion of air. I throw on a log or two, and while a cup of tea is brewing, flames begin to lick up their sides. The heat of the fire will soon warm the room. I light a candle, find a corner on the couch, and wrap my hands around the steaming cup. An hour carved out, and time to think about the day ahead.
I’ve woken early as long as I can remember. I savor that gentle, quiet hour. When my sons were little, that time was essential to providing a calm foundation for the day.
You realize its value when, for instance, you come in to the kitchen from doing laundry, to find them carefully extracting melted crayons deep from within the bowels of the toaster. And you are able, from that tranquil place to notice through the growing cloud of smoke, that, one, they have put on their aprons (because, of course, they are cooking), and, two, they have practiced proper toaster-safety and are using wooden tongs, as taught, not metal cutlery, or fingers. Which are now coated in the same multi-colored mass that they, with smiling faces, are presenting to you proudly, on a plate.
You will then find that you are able (in this order), to inhale, sit down, exhale, and thank them kindly for the lovely breakfast, which they made you with their busy little hands and gave you, from the depths of their wide-open hearts. Those little hands will, over time, grow larger. Today will turn out to be the best day to teach them how to make a soup. They will stand on stools to reach the counter and learn to use a knife. Somewhere between the chopping of carrots and celery, you can talk to them about the toaster and what happens when wax gets too hot.
Rhythms of Childhood
Preparing meals, daily chores, waking and bedtime routines. Mending what was torn, planting seeds in the garden. Building forts in the woods. These were the rhythms of the smaller universe of home. In their seemingly insignificant routine, they work in synchronicity with the rhythm of the natural world, with one another, and within themselves.
“Give a man a fish and you have fed him once. Teach him how to fish and you have fed him for a lifetime.”
Today, an endless supply of “fish” is available to us any time we want. Not just one. But a whole, enormous kettle of endless variety. With just one click of a finger on the appropriate search engine, these will be conveniently dropped at your doorstep several days later, neatly boxed and tightly sealed. Foreign processing facilities will wipe out any less-appealing remnant of a story that begins perhaps, somewhere on a dock. When a pair of cold, weather-beaten hands adeptly loosen rope from a cleat to set a barnacle-encrusted trawler out to sea. Or in a sun-beaten cotton field overseas, where hands both large and small, fill oversized sacks with pure white fluff that end up as a t-shirt, further down the line. Pretty handy, pardon the pun. And yet, not.
With one click of a button, we have in some part severed our connection to the process of creating what we need to live—that human to human interface, carried out by our hands. I want to think that somewhere in this world of technological convenience, the software of the heart will have a conversation with the head. And working together again, they will engage our hands to mend the break. One carrot, one stitch, one seed at a time.
The pot on the stove is full, and the soup has simmered its flavors together throughout the afternoon. The table is set, and we will sit down together and ladle it into bowls. We will have our bread untoasted, but that’s OK. A simple grace, “The Harvest” by Alice Corbin Henderson, shared before the meal, puts all into perspective:
The silver rain, the shining sun
The fields where scarlet poppies run
And all the ripples of the wheat
Are in the bread that we now eat.
And when we sit at every meal
And say our grace we always feel
That we are eating rain and sun
And fields where scarlet poppies run.
On a farm somewhere, the farmer has finished his morning chores. He comes in, pulls his boots off and hangs his coat at the door. He is happy to be in his warm house again. His coffee is ready, and maybe he has a wife, who will pour it into a mug and put it into his cold hands. Over breakfast, he will take an hour to plan the day, according to the weather.
It’s 7 a.m. I blow out the candle and switch on the light.
Cardinale Montano is a freelance writer living in West Stockbridge, Massachusetts. She shares her creativity with good friends, family, and eager learners, and celebrates daily the blessings of nature in the beautiful Berkshires. She is the founder and designer at LineflaxAndRoving.com