March 31, 2018

Out like a lion(cub)–A much needed rain lingers a bit this morning, and a blustery March wind has created horizontal snow at times, reminding me that March can be an interesting meteorological month. I had plans to work in the large field today, preparing it for the onions and potatoes that we will be planting in the next three weeks. I also had hoped to start weeding the garlic in an effort to clear the hardy weeds that managed to sprout over the winter. Like many days, however, my plans on the farm get changed by situations over which I have no control.

Rainy days, like today, can be discouraging unless I remember that one cannot appreciate the sun without the rain. It has been dry lately, and we actually have several crops already in the fields that need moisture. If we have too much sun, nothing will grow. More importantly, though, I need to remember to appreciate both the sun and the rain, because without both, there is no life. It’s too easy to see one as more desirable than other, especially when taking into account the folly of human endeavors, but that would indicate a lack of understanding and appreciation on my part for both my place in the universe and the role that each plays in giving and maintaining life.

As a human, I can be fickle. If it’s dry, I want rain. If it’s wet or if I have work to do, I want sunshine. As a farmer, I am determined. I am determined to stand my ground, against the odds, and build a successful farm. What I sometimes forget, however, is that my plans and ambitions are neither important nor unimportant. I am part of a system, a beautiful complex system, and I have a role to play in that system. My role is important, but no more important than any other.

The human body has many cells, all serving an important purpose in a complex system. Each cell is important, but no single cell is important over all of the others. No cell’s individual task does nor should take precedence over the others. As a farmer and as a human, I am part of a complex and beautiful ecosystem. Sometimes, it rains, and when it does, my plans for the day may change. That’s alright. I can appreciate that the soil needs moisture, and that the rain will work with the sun to feed the plants, which will provide food and oxygen for me.  My ever-changing evaluation of the relative value of sun or rain is irrelevant. They both support life, and living ecosystems, to which all of us belong.

It’s easy enough to see myself, or at least the human species, as conquerors of our environment. Agriculture, after all, is an attempt to bend the will of nature. When we view ourselves that way, however, we are forced into humility repeatedly. Droughts, floods, storms, and pests remind me all too frequently that we are, if nothing else, leaves floating in the rapids of a raging river for which the best we can truly hope for is to steer our inevitable direction with a tiny rudder.  We can affect some outcomes individually, but fewer than we think that we can. Within communities and ecosystems, however, I can effect positive change, if I surrender my ego. Organs in our bodies are communities of cells cooperating while performing a critical function. Species are also like organs that serve critical functions within an ecosystem. If I am mindful of my role as a human farmer as it relates to the greater complex system, I realize that I am a cell in the organ known as humans, and my role is to grow food. It is as important as the need for all of the plant species that need fresh water to live to and to grow. The rain, then, is welcome, and in it I find beauty on a blustery March morning.

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