One aspect of the machine world which has not had sufficient attention is the relation of the machine age to the mystery of human joy. If there is one thing clear about the centuries dominated by the factory and the wheel, it is that although the machine can make everything from a spoon to a landing-craft, a natural joy in earthly living is something it never has and never will be able to manufacture.
Part of the confused violence of our time represents, I think, the unconscious search of man for his own natural happiness. He cannot live by bread alone and particularly not by sawdust bread. To speak in paradox, a sense of some joy in living is one of the most serious things in all the world.
-Henry Beston, Northern Farm
What Henry Beston is getting at here, written in the 1930s, is I think as applicable today. Substitute technology for factory and device for machine and we as a species are increasingly distanced from nature, the cycles of the seasons, and direct experience.
I am typing this on an iPad and posting it on the Internet and I immerse myself in that world many times each day. But being out and about on November Hill is what grounds me and brings me the purest sense of joy. I feel a keen sense of need for balance, more so than ever before. The time I spend doing chores and caring for animals and being outside tips the scale and keeps me sane and happy.
This week we've had good rain, huge wind, and some very warm temperatures. An unwelcome bloom of flies, lots of horse manure in the barn on the rainy days, and tree branches large, medium, and small littering the ground. As I walk the farm doing chores I find myself breaking things down into sections. Scooping manure, raking sticks, moving larger branches. Resisting the urge to pull buttercups up by their roots because I did that one year and wrecked my wrist and arm. I've learned we can mow and whack them and we can also let them run their course. They die out by June no matter what we do. Making my way from one area of the farm to another, I take time to stop and sit in my colorful Adirondack chairs, which invite me to pause and just sit. Those moments in the chairs refuel me the fastest. The only thing faster is riding.
Rain and sun in the right amounts means everything is growing fast right now: the grass, weeds, the gardens.
Our fig tree and a young volunteer tulip poplar both lost all their new leaves to a hard frost a few weeks back but they're now shooting out more, catching up, coping. It occurs to me we can all take a lesson from these trees.
Two neighbors had cats go missing in the span of a few weeks and this reminded me of Dickens and how much we miss him. I'm grateful for the cat enclosures we've added on. It's tempting to dwell on what used to be and all the years the cats had the larger territory of our farm to roam, but now, with coyotes and tick-borne diseases that are rapidly fatal we have to cope the same way the fig and tulip poplar did. We grow new ways of doing things. Adaptation.
It seems early to have peak produce happening but the combination of planting times and weather and care have been good to our lettuce and greens beds this year. We are eating big salads and cooking fresh greens every day right now. I consider all these greens a tonic, coming out of winter and early spring into the edges of bounty.
I may have spotted the first squash blossom this morning and that too makes me happy.