Farm in winter

This weekend, I went to the farm. It was cold. I knew the kids would complain, so I went alone.

It is so different there when the weather is cold, so different from how I have come to know the place. I have grown so used to the bounty, to the bustle of families, the chatter of friends. I have grown used to seeing baskets heavy with abundance, and to children — children everywhere, splashing in the stream, catching frogs in the pond, snipping flowers and herbs, sneaking cookies from the cabinet, climbing trees.

Usually, I am greeted by wide open barn doors, and a huge rusting metal sign advertising Fresh Bread Today. Instead, only a single barn door is open, and the place looks lonely.

lonely-barn

I am the only one there, and the barn, usually bursting with crates of vegetables and families, feels vast and empty inside:

empty-barn-2

empty-barn

Now, the food is stored downstairs, in the root cellar:

root-cellar-1

There are still some vegetables, but not so many:

root-cellar-2

It is dark:

root-cellar-dark1

And feels as much like a bomb shelter as a root cellar:

root-cellar

The chickens that roamed outside have moved indoors:

chickens

The cows are outdoors, and they seem surprised to see me:

cows

And curious, like, why are you there, and what does your camera taste like?

cow-2

Down in the fields, it is getting dark. Wind is whipping by, bitterly. My hands grow so numb that I literally can’t feel my fingers as I press the shutter of my camera. The few crops that remain — brussels sprouts, kale, are droopy:

droopy-brussels-sprouts

The air is silent — I hear no birds, no buzzing. The hard ground crunches beneath my feet as I peel frozen kale leaves from their stems. Occasionally, a car drives past on the road; no one stops. And in the short time that I am there, the sun goes below the horizon. It grows dark, and the farm, this world, feels even quieter than before, the world around me incalculably vast.

In a few days, it will be Thansgiving. We will gather with friends and family, and children will run wild. It will be light, and warm, and loud. We will gather around a large table, 16 of us, I think, and we will drink wine, and dive in to heaps of turkey, of vegetables, probably a pie or two. There will be laughter, and love, and we will count our blessings — our stunningly beautiful blessings, too numerous to count, even in these worrisome times. And after a long day, we will hug the people we love, and get into our car, and drive away, warmed by the time we all spent in the same place, at the same time, in this moment on earth.

Right now, though, I am alone in darkness and silence, my bag heavy with potatoes and parsnips. As I head back up to the car, I feel like something about this evening is calling to me, calling some part of me that maybe got a little lost in the frantic financial-meltdown-election-season-snark-work-deadlines-children-activities-go-go-go.

I remember reading, long ago, about sleep cycles before there was artificial light. In the days before electricity, most people woke in the middle of the night for an hour or so. This period of wakefulness, blanketed on both sides by slumber, was sacred, a time for deep reflection and quiet prayer. I think it was called “watch,” but am not certain. No matter, the point of it — that silent, dark period when you feel at once lonely and incomprehensively small — feels important somehow.

It feels important now, as a familiar place looks different, as bustle and bounty give way to silence and soul. And whatever it is, this sensation, this quiet, I will hold onto it. I get back into my car to pick up my girls, to take them home to a place where music will blare and dogs will bark and I will listen to pundits talking and the world burning all around me. I will hold this, the darkness, the silence. I will hold it tightly, and in a few days, I will give thanks.

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6 Responses to “Farm in winter”


  1. 1 Anna November 24, 2008 at 4:09 pm

    Living in So Cal, I’m always nostalgic for the crisp cold fall weather of my childhood; thanks for reminding me that while I might not have the colorful chilly fall atmosphere I crave deep in my bones (so I can have an excuse to bundle up or sit in front of a glowing fire), I do have access to a very nice harvest throughout the winter. That’s a nice trade-off for the prolonged warmth.

  2. 2 Vikki November 24, 2008 at 4:25 pm

    This was beautiful, Ali.

  3. 3 Todd Smith November 24, 2008 at 7:16 pm

    Great shots, Ali. You brought me right there!

  4. 4 DiElla November 25, 2008 at 2:50 am

    I just have a small garden in my back yard, but as summer ends and we go into
    winter there is a hugh mental and physical change. Your post describes it perfectly. Almost every night I wake up for awhile and it drives me crazy. From now on I’m going to be peaceful about it and know there is a purpose for it. Thanks.

  5. 5 missysoupy November 25, 2008 at 5:24 pm

    What a beautiful post. We recently spent a couple of weeks on the farm with my husband’s family, and it was an eye-opener for me. The first couple of days I felt unsettled by the stillness. Not that there wasn’t plenty going on, but there was a calm in the chaos. Some kind of a peace that we “city folk” are seriously lacking and yet so desperately need. A sense of community that runs to the core. It made me want to pack up my kids and move there. To raise them in the midst of that place, where they felt safe to run and roam and explore. But, alas, reality awaits. So here we sit in the ‘burbs of Houston. Hurried and harried and…maybe a little bit scared. But…perhaps…someday…we will seek, and find, the stillness that we now know is a reality. (Or…maybe we’ll live here forever, and end up jaded. Eh…let me dream a little, will ya?!)

  6. 6 EAT! November 26, 2008 at 4:53 pm

    Loved your post. I felt like I was with you on the farm that day.


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