The moon is waning now, reduced to a perfect gleaming quarter this morning. During Hot Tub Summit just before daybreak it reflected on the hot wiggling surface of the water as thick and brilliant as one of my Grandma’s diamond stud earrings. Bird chorus grew insistent, as it always does, the geese marched uphill from the pond toward the watermelon graveyard, and we started filling the day with laughter and good intentions.
Mornings here are dewy, lush, and colorful. They are an entrancing time, just like evenings. With a small effort I can forget all the work that needs doing. The pinks and purples of these transition hours seduce me into that old belief that farm life is idyllic and easy.
But soon the dawn surrenders to early morning which burns off the dew. The animals are hungry and each one believes he or she is the only needful thing here. Our late August sun grows suddenly harsh, pointing less to the velvety lawn and more to the sticker patches out front. My fiesta-confetti zinnias are growing weary, mildewed and crisp, but still begging for one more week in the garden. I think towards the abundant heaps of spicy basil and smile inwardly, pressing hope hard against the spider mites that have ravaged my tomatoes.
Don’t forget to collect those ripe eggplants today. And work on the compost heap before things get out of control. The horses really need their hooves done. Check on the bees. Fill the chicken waters. Add mulch to the shade garden.
I keep to-do lists like a crazy person, intermingled with my calendar and loosely scribbled diary. Sometimes it all helps; other times the lists only remind me how terribly short I fall.
So I also keep pleasure lists. Sensory Inventories to soak up all the spiritual profit of this unusual and beautiful life. Whether I am doing it right or not, who knows. I often wish I had a full-spectrum mentor here to lead me. But at least along the way I am taking stock of the why of all this work.
The chickens eat the kitchen scraps and return to us fresh, heavy, pastel eggs. The horses and geese love watermelon as much as I do, and that greedy crunch-slurp gives me the same feeling I once enjoyed just watching my children play. Here, we get to exercise old lessons from our grandparents, trying things they tried, understanding suddenly the craving for clean floors and unbothered cows. Siestas in the hot months are both luxurious and absolutely necessary. The sun and the moon rise and fall in the most beautiful arcs, dragging along clouds and stars in quiet patterns that I had never noticed before. The music of rain on the metal barn roof. Bonfire perfume. The hum of bees and the exciting flight patterns of bats and dragonflies. Turtles sunning themselves at the pond and fat toads hiding in the dusty shadows of the garden shed. Venomous snakes beneath the pine needles, plus the stunning effectiveness of a baby llama to ward off wild boars. Deer who visit from the forest, lifting themselves effortlessly over the fence, white tails upturned and liquid black eyes surveying it all. That deep burst of optimism when seeds sprout easily or chicks hatch without our help. Loved ones who visit us and say they can breathe deeply here, peacefully, strangers who become friends on these nine acres. Romance that is sparked over and over again in ever-changing ways. Brokenness and healing, depleting labor and unexpected satisfaction, mentally and physically.
If I ever lose my memories or if someone ever stumbles on these coffee-stained pleasure lists, the reason for all of our work should be clear: Even when we fail, it is all so amazing.