It is difficult for me to string together enough words to describe the epic beauty of this evening in the Marsh. Rolling thunderstorms made their way from whispers in the breeze to hazy, persistant downpours all over the farm and dense waterways. Flocks of immature white ibis, egrets, and the occasional spoonbill darted from their daily wading grounds to seek shelter in the trees and grasses. The Marsh got quiet, quiet in a way that only the rain can command of the usual chorus of insects and amphibians that dominate the airwaves. A slight breeze, the sound of rain hitting water, and a sky that couldn’t emotionally commit to being a storm or a sunset. As the last rain drops fell, the tiny ripples from the drips were replaced by the tiny ripples of millions of insects, the chorus returned for the crescendo with one buzzing, croaking instrument sounding at a time, and the bruise colored clouds parted to reveal a sky on fire with the hues of an evening in paradise. Perhaps I think this is paradise because we recently sowed a lot of seeds in the ground that desperately needed water. Perhaps the alligator lazily swimming away from me thinks it is paradise as his tail cuts through the mirrored blaze.
We have enjoyed incredibly timed storms here in the Low Country this Summer. We haven’t had to fire up the irrigation since May and it appears that this most recent set of showers, that which happened last evening and repeated itself this evening, have been enough to spare us once again. It was only this week that our plants at the farm were showing their stress from lack of water and it was only this week that we discovered that our irrigation system happened to be on the fritz. Fortunately, the rains came and we have a little more time to stress out about the prospect of The Dustbowl 2012 at Harvest Lake Farm. During this time of notable stress, it has also been nice to acknowledge that we are finally over the Summer slump! Every year, from one season to the next, it seems like a farmer’s day is spent day dreaming about the productivity of the following season. This never being in the present moment is certainly a life long journey.
What this can mean for someone who farms in what feels like the Jungle is that you spend your days loving and hating the life giving, sometimes oppressive heat and humidity of the Summer months. In the Winter and Spring you long for it because with it comes tomatoes, squash, okra, eggplant, peppers, and all the other gifts of the Sun. Unfortunately this gift doesn’t stop there. The Sun will happily give more and more of this gift until the heat and humidity finally oppress the very plants that were once so eager to reach for it. The squash disappear, the beans give up, the tomatoes slowly droop and rot in a morbid, depressing display. Soon all you have left are Eggplants, Okra, Peppers, and Peas and my goodness I love these things, but eating them everyday can be somewhat of a contributor to the whole “slump” feeling. But wait! There is light at the end of the tunnel. There is hope at the end of the 30th eggplant dish you’ve served up. At some point you get to start preparing for Fall.
And Fall! What a time to obsessively look forward to. Let’s face it, down here in the very bottom of the melting pot, (where many of us live everyday, melting,) the Fall is maybe one of the best times of the year to try and grow food. All of your early summer favorites get a second shot and your Spring season is reborn and then extended into the mild Winter days. The bugs reduce in seemingly size and numbers and the overall temperature of the farm allows for a much more comfortable, friendly operation. Now remember, this is all being said by a farmer in the heat of the Summer. If you ask me about Fall growing this Fall, I will likely tell you about how well that may be going but how much I am looking forward to Spring.
And so it goes. It could be argued that this almost bipolar fascinationg with the changing of the seasons is just one more hurtle for someone trying to farm in this modern world to jump, but that can’t be it. Everything a person who has commited themselves to the landscape achieves from day to day is some form of spiritual fulfillment I have never properly learned to explain. Being in tune with the seasons is to be open to the ongoing romance of the planet. Love is a beautiful, dangerous thing and this world has cycles of life, death, lust, and rebirth to prove it. The changing of the seasons teaches us how to be constant and also how to change. Each season contributes to a maddening love and unconsolable loss, everything on Earth being created from the death of something else. The seasons teach us that there must exist a trade off, you must give to get and sometimes when this equillibrium is disturbed at the farm, we end up giving much more than we get. Our modern society, that has been severed from seasonality, is currently getting a lot more than it gives within the energy cycles of the planet, but it can’t last forever. At some point no amount of giving on our part will undo all the “getting” we’ve added up.
As I am aging, slowly and quickly all at once, I am finding that the health of our societies and the condition of our planet are two things that are too difficult for me to process. From the newest NASA images of the Greenland ice sheet melt to the violent fiction of a man dressed in a bat suit becoming nonfiction violence in our growing world, it all seems like too much to swallow. Meanwhile real, nonfiction bats in North America are declining in shocking numbers due to white nose syndrome; a potential loss of 6.7 Million individuals and the cause of this devastating illness is still mostly unknown. The factory farmed humans locked inside all day, fed stimulants and stimulus can barely defend themselves against a governing body whose greed both concentrates and destroys them like logs in a woodburning stove. We are pushing this world to the very limit for the success of so few that the dream of exponential anything seems like such a crass joke.
But what can you do when all you have is one life, one shot at romance with this unforgiving, beautiful Earth? You court the seasons one by one, relearn the rhythm in the chaos and set some roots in the ground. You look forward to kale while you eat your tomatoes and as the trees drop their leaves, you lovingly lay your ambitions in the field and come inside for a hot drink and a creative heart. Not sure how all that goes down? Don’t worry, neither was I. I probably still don’t quite get it in a lot of ways and I doubt that the entirety of my life will enlighten me to all the great complexities of my relationship with this world. All I know is that Fall is coming soon, it’s time to clean out the greenhouse, throw up the shade cloth and day dream about broccoli and beets.