Seed by Seed
I want to teach them about expectancy. Not the gifts and frosting kind. The kind that comes from waiting through hard things and believing against all odds. I want that for everyone.
I can't decide which part of this farm life I appreciate the most. Right now, in winter, there is something to be said of a long season and dormancy and rest. Trees with branches bare wait patiently for the signal of warm which tells them to grow. Their fallen leaves, which lie under the snow, work themselves into the ground as nature's fertilizer. The animals are slow and sleepy, needing little from us but nourishment and a reminder of our presence. No milk. Few eggs. The birds are scarce, though how much more will their songs carry sweetness when the multitude returns?
The time will come when sweat is thick and hands are stained with soil. I like this time, too. When the work is hard and the bed at the end of day is my best friend. The harvest that follows brings humidity to the kitchen as ball jars boil with preserves, pickles, sauces, jellies and jams. In winter, we wait, and there is something of thankfulness in the bite of cold and blanket of snow.
Perhaps more than any other part of farming, my joy is always greatest in the seeds. The process of taking something so small, entrusting it down and into the soil, and waiting for life to break open, up, and through...it's like a reminder of God's promise in each planting. This is something we do together, tallest to smallest, pressing seeds into earth or container or cup. What do they imagine, as their small fingers do the work? What new flame of hope takes shape as the rhythm of press in and wait becomes their own.
On Valentine's day, we picked up seven fuzzy ducklings from the post office. My oldest daughter rode with and was all smiles when she opened their box in the car. She and I paused before driving back home, noting all of their tiny and perfect features. Little black bills, tiny webbed feat, silly tails that shake before they take a step. I noticed that one duckling looked small and frail. I've raised enough birds before to know that she didn't look as though she would survive the week.
At home, I spoke honestly about what I had noticed. The duck's eyes were dim and it appeared weak. We would try our best to keep it alive, but we needed to prepare for the alternative. I could see the determination in my girl's eyes and set jaw. She would spend the next few days mothering these ducklings, drawing their portraits, singing them songs, and reading articles about how to best keep them healthy and strong. On Friday evening, while all of the children slept, I sat with a friend as this little duckling rested in my hands and breathed its last breath.
Did you know that most farmers plant crop with the expectancy of failure? We sow more than we exactly need, knowing that not every seed will sprout. Knowing that not every sprout will be strong. Knowing that, for survival, even the strong crop will need to be thinned out. From the start we know that in our best efforts, death is real and loss is regular. Watching rows rise with patches missing is disheartening. Seeing emptiness, or pulling the life from the ground - which you so meticulously tucked it into - is bitter.
Yet, we plant because we believe in a harvest that we can not yet see. The probabilities don't outweigh the possibility. The pursuit of life in it all is the very thing that gives us life. Moment by moment. Seed by seed. We learn to expect life, beyond all death, beyond all error, beyond all doubt.
I want to teach them about expectancy. The kind that comes from waiting through hard things and believing against all odds. I want that for everyone.
This is what I want for us all. This is the metaphor that I want breathed into all of our winters and snowy spaces. Do you know, dear child, that life is crying out from within you? Do you show up to your minutes with expectancy for the Gardener and sower of precious seeds? Though it might not come as you wish or when you want, let us be people who expect against all odds.
I want us to embrace expectancy. The kind that comes from waiting through hard things and believing against all odds. I want that for us all.