Coming back to the farm

Coming back.  Coming back, after a week in the woods-- a simple distillation of life into basic tasks, immediate surroundings, present sensations-- was originally difficult.  I covered for Ted on Saturday and over the weekend for irrigation, and I wasn't ready to dive back in.  I hadn't slept well yet, I wasn't used to the sunshine and heat, and my mind was still far away, dreaming of a future in which I can awake to birdsong and meadows rather than trainsong and city streets.  Coming back, until I could resettle quietly into my home and routine, felt like a burden.

There's still- always- so much to do.

Re-bury parts of some plastic mulch that had caught the wind and was gradually ripping away from newly planted zucchini.  Harvest over a 1,000 pounds of tomatoes from the greenhouses (and the field tomatoes are just starting to come on!).  Tackle the sinister forest of weeds that have engulfed our next planting of carrots.  Clean up all the sun-burnt peppers sprawled about in the greenhouses.  Get shade cloth up and over the high tunnels to protect crops in this week's heat wave.  Train more people to wash pallet-fulls of potatoes.  Prep more beds, transplant more babies, keep seeding seeding seeding for fall and winter. 

It keeps coming, and by this time in the season, I start to feel like I've hit a wall-- especially when coming back from a dreamy vacation to face the bittersweet music of the intense time and dedication it takes to keep this all chugging smoothly along.

And then, with the arrival of the Tuesday morning intern crew and a fresh week ahead, a quieting of my voracious mind and a quick decision to sink my heart and head back in the game, the wall started to soften.  I felt it as we greeted one another in the morning, swapping stories and noticing that I was letting myself focus on these enthusiastic, kind people rather than any to-do lists in my brain.  It softened more as I knelt beside Alex and Sophie amid waves of sweet basil aroma, re-calibrating our bunch sizes and offering more tips for efficiently harvesting 72 bunches.  And more as we passed around an ear of corn fresh from the stalk, chomping from different angles, discussing the ripening of this crop that hadn't been ready before I left.  The wall continued to soften as I remembered my strength, felt capable in my job, checked in with Ted and got a more birds-eye view of the farm's path forward.  

 Alex and Sophie harvesting basil bunches for CSA

Alex and Sophie harvesting basil bunches for CSA

 The team in the zucchini

The team in the zucchini

In the evening as I was eating dinner on my back porch, I noticed an small orb weaver spider gliding through the air.  It went back and forth to a little white point a couple times before I realized that it was just starting a new web, suspended miraculously from anchor points many feet away in each direction.  Back and forth, up and down, sliding in and out of that central hub, legs working tirelessly.  She didn't need to think about how to build her intricate web.  She just did it, gracefully and mind-bogglingly quickly.  After securing all the spokes, she spiraled out from her hub, throwing her back legs out to catch and secure the gossamer strand at every intersection.  In less than ten minutes, the web was almost complete.

I was struck by the realization that I had never, in my thirty two years on this planet, sat and watched a spider build its entire web.  I had never noticed how imperfect a seemingly pristine, engineered spiderweb can be: a few spokes unevenly spaced, part of the spiral a bit crooked, some loose strands here and there.  And I marveled at how automatic the process seemed to be-- there was no second-guessing her strokes, no going back to fix that crooked area, no pauses to plan her next move. Without training, prefrontal planning, or a modicum of doubt, a spider can build its means of daily sustenance in the time it takes me to chew up a small plate of food.

When I went back to check out the final product after washing my dishes, I almost wailed.  The lower anchor had been torn, and the web was now a half circle crowded by a wavering tangle of shimmers at its base.  The spider, to my delight and chagrin, was not trying to fix it.  She was hunkering down near what would have been the center of her impossibly imperfect death trap, done with her task for the day, waiting for dinner to fly onto her distorted plate.  Done with her weaving for the day, just waiting.

Sometimes I forget that there is always more to learn and experience, often right under my nose.  And that what feels like a wall is often as ephemeral and fleeting as a spider's evening web.