One thing you have a lot of time to do on a farm is think. And ponder. And dream.
The October nor’easter hit today. Dad came early to help winterize the place. We drained the line to the pastures and garden, emptied and stored hoses, checked the blue-bird houses for fresh straw, and converted the chicken house into a sort of shanty-ski chalet. The chickens love the little “solarium” at the bottom, made from old house windows.
Just as we were putting the tarp over the chicken house, the freezing rain arrived. Big drops, soon turning to wet, gloppy snow. Dad ran me through how to run the generator and snow blower one more time, and then he headed home to take care of his own place. I called Mom to say he was on his way. I wonder if he stopped at Gotta’s for some fresh-pressed cider on the way?
About 5 o’clock, as dusk approached, I took the dogs out for a quick outing in the new snow. The hush snow storms bring is glorious. Everything is cushioned–the sound of aircraft approaching Bradley field, the sand pit over the hill, the traffic headed up or down the street. All, quiet.
At least, that was what I was expecting. But from all around me came another sound–one I am not accustomed to hearing. The crack of breaking trees.
Two months ago, hurricane Irene swept up the coast. It was an amazing storm to see, the sheets of rain whipping across the landscape like in a “B” movie. That storm brought days…nay, weeks…of power outages throughout eastern Connecticut. It also knocked down a lot of leaves. The maples in the sugar bush in front of the house were almost denuded. And thank goodness for this, because this early-season nor’easter, glomming wet snow onto the leaves, is bending the trees to their very breaking point.
And from every direction, one can hear these trees cracking, breaking, falling. Some like gunshots, others like an exhalation, but most like a rolling peal of thunder. Look in one direction, any direction, and you will probably see a tree fall in a cloud of white powder. This is nature recycling herself, restoring vital nutrients to the soil, reclaiming the land that has for an ögenblink been open lawns and pasture at the whim of man. Predestination, they called it, that [the white] man should conquer North America from the east coast to the west. But here is nature, reclaiming what is hers.
The snow blower starts the first time I pull, which is a miracle. For some reason, I don’t have the strength to pull in the required motion and I usually have to pull several times. But this time, it starts. LOL, of course, the gas is turned off, so I end up having to start it again, anyway. The driveway is about 1/4 mile long and slightly meandering in a picturesque manner. I like to blow the snow in a certain way, leaving the surface of the blue bird field and front yard pristine. I am able to save the chastity of the blue bird field, but alas, the front yard is marred. Perhaps the still-falling snow will hide my blunder by morning.
At the top of the drive, in the crook of the bend, is a lovely tree planted by my grandmother. I have no idea what kind of tree it is, only that the late-season fruit are the size of crab apples and the shape of oversized raspberries. It is a late-season show-stopper and I never fail to smile at its beautiful form when I pass.
Tonight, however, it is in distress. Still fully clad in leaves, each branch bows to the ground, burdened with snow. I fear for the tree and imagine it is in pain. It is mature and its fibers are no longer as pliable as it had been in seasons past.
As I clear the drive way, the heavy stream of slush erupting from the snow blower knocks some snow from a tree branch. The branch springs upward a titch–an inch, perhaps. Just enough to warm my heart and let me know what needed to be done.
An old internet story comes to mind. A little girl is at the beach. The tide has gone out, stranding millions of starfish on the sand. The girl picks up a starfish, and with all her might throws it back into the ocean. “What are you doing?” asks the girl’s parents, “You can’t possibly save them all.” “Well,” says the little girl, “I can save that one.”
Grasping a the end-twigs in my hand, I slowly waggle one heavy branch of the tree from side to side, thinking motion in that direction is less likely to snap the wood. The snow is sticky, and it won’t release from the leaves. A slow up-and-down motion yields the same result. Finally, I try a vibrating up-and-down motion. The snow releases all around me in a crystal cloud, and the branch graces upward, like a ballerina. I may not be able to save them all, but I can save this one. Every branch I can reach gets shaken. Every branch I can reach sways upward with relief. I can save this one.
Years ago, my boyfriend told me the reason he chose our college was because it had a reputation for graduating students who went on to change the world. That appealed to me. One of my core values is to make a difference. When I was younger, this meant making a BIG difference. But in what way, and how? Unfortunately, I am not one of these people who was put on this earth to fight hunger in third world countries or to recreate governments. And as time has gone by and I find myself in my mid-forties, I have come to believe the difference between youth and maturity lies in the ability to forgive one’s own imperfections. I have realized it is perfectly fine to be “average”. Not average as in one doesn’t try, but average in that one is gifted with average abilities and sensibilities. So much pressure is put on children to be the President of the United States, and the truth is, that is simply not realistic. Frankly, it’s quite cruel for parents to put that expectation on a child.
I think about one high school reunion, perhaps the 20th year, everyone dressed to the nines and trying to look as successful as possible. A boy I’d been too shy to talk to in school, who’d probably had a little much to drink that night, was lamenting the fact he was just a company accountant. We’d grown up in this great school system that had us all convinced we’d be successes. How had he become such a miserable failure? I looked him straight in the eye and said, “Oh yeah? Well, I’m a dog groomer, and I love it!” OK, I didn’t tell him I owned my own business and had twelve employees, but that would have spoiled the point. And the point was, none of us was really meant to be King of the World. If it had been so important, he would have done it, or at least tried to do it. He hadn’t, and that tells me something else was more important to his happiness.
So I ask, what is it that makes you happy?
Tonight, the biggest difference I can make in this world is to that one tree. I’ll never be able to save all the trees–nor would Mother Nature want me to–but I can shake up this one beautiful tree, my grandmother’s tree, and make all the difference in the world to that one tree. And that makes me happy.