One Hen’s Special Effort


One of the joys of living on a farm is walking out the back door to harvest what is needed for a meal right out of the ground, or the orchard, or the berry patch, or from within the hen house. 

“Eat local” is nothing compared to “Eat from the Backyard”.

So over the years on the farm, we’ve owned chickens -starting with the chicks under a hot lamp, watching the growing pullets start laying little miniature eggs which,  over several months of hen development,  become full size oval jumbo AA eggs, found warm in a cozy nest under a hen’s breast.   There is distinct satisfaction of a “eureka!” moment anytime a new egg is gathered.  It is even more gratifying when the egg is broken in the pan and two yolks pour out instead of one, a symbol of that hen’s special effort that day.

When our hens were free range, the finding of the nest and gathering of the eggs was definitely a greater challenge than simply opening a chicken coop door.  It required investment of time and ingenuity to think like a hen trying to hide her brood.  I would remind myself that a hen’s brain is smaller than a walnut and mine is, well…. bigger, so this should not have been such a difficult task.

So I keep my ear tuned to the cackle of a hen as she is about to lay, the musical hum she makes when she is happily brooding on the nest, and the feel of her plump fluffiness as I reach underneath her to wrap my hand around that smooth perfect surface.

I break one of those fresh eggs, into the pan, and it is a double yolker.  A hen has made a special effort, just for me.

For Someone to Ride Along


Why do you think birds would be riding the horses our farm? Have they forgotten how to fly? Do their wings and feet get tired so they need to hitch a ride instead?

These are called cowbirds. Not like cowboys and cowgirls but usually they ride the backs of cows, searching for bugs and flies to eat. But since there aren’t any cows on our farm (yet) they ride the horses instead. And the horses like them to eat the flies on their back because flies are itchy and tend to “bug” the horses!

So our horses like giving rides to cowbirds, even if they aren’t called horsebirds!

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have someone along for the ride as you go about your day?

For Grace in the Season to Be Grumbly


photo by Josh Scholten

written in 2003 on the solstice night

We are in our darkest of dark days today in our corner of the world–about 16 hours of darkness underwhelming our senses, restricting, confining and defining us in our little circles of artificial light that we depend on so mightily. Yesterday, we had a sudden power outage at home around 5 PM, and our bright, noisy, Christmas-tree-lit carol-playing house was suddenly plunged into pitch blackness and silence. Each family member groped around blindly, looking for elusive candles and flashlights in the dark, each running our toes and knees into things, and then found that each of us had to share a little circle of light to navigate. Dinner, which was almost ready in the oven, was eaten gratefully by candlelight, and became a sacrament of sorts as we huddled around our advent candles, now burning out of necessity, not just in a ceremony of anticipation.

The light this morning is just now finally coming up in the southeastern sky, blending the gray of the ubiquitous clouds with the mist over the fields and barns here on the farm and over the mountain peaks and waters of the bay in the distance. Even the golden Haflingers are gray in this light. It all melts together with the deep green of the forests and fields–a blended water-saturated palette struck by rays of piercing rosy light here and there, creating alpenglow on the distant mountain snow, and sporadic pools of brightness in our barnyard.

It is so tempting to be consumed and lost in these dark days, stumbling from one obligation to the next, one foot in front of the other, bumping and bruising ourselves and each other in our blindness. Lines are long at the stores, impatience runs high, people coughing and shivering with the spreading flu virus, others stricken by loneliness and desperation. So much grumbling in the dark.

I had a conversation with a remarkable young college student recovering at the hospital this week reminding me about the self-absorbance of grumbling. A week ago she was snowshoeing with two companions in the bright sun above the clouds at the foot of nearby Mt. Baker. A sudden avalanche buried all three–she remembers the roar and then the deathly quiet of being covered up, and the deep darkness that surrounded her. She was buried hunched over, with the weight of the snow above her too much to break through. She had a pocket of air beneath her and in this crouching kneeling position, she could only pray–not move, not shout, not anything else. Only God was with her in that small dark place. She believes that 45 minutes later, rescuers dug her out to safety from beneath that three feet of snow. In actuality, it was 24 hours later but she had been wrapped in the cocoon of her prayers, and miraculously, kept safe and warm enough to survive. Her hands and legs, blackish purple when she was pulled out of the snow, turned pink with the rewarming process at the hospital, and a day later, when I visited her, she glowed with a light that came only from within–it kept her alive.

One of her friends died in that avalanche, never having a chance of survival because of how she was trapped and covered with the suffocating snow. The other friend struggled for the full 24 hours to free himself, bravely fighting the dark and the cold to reach the light, courageously finding help to try to rescue his friends.

At times we must fight with the dark–wrestle it and rale against it, being bruised and beaten up in the process, but so necessary to save ourselves and others from being consumed. At other times we must kneel in the darkness and wait– praying, hoping, knowing the light is to come, one way or the other. Grateful, grace-filled, not grumbling.

May the Light find you this week in your moments of darkness. Merry merry Christmas.

November Gratitude–edging closer for company


The view north (photo by Nate Gibson)

The trees are coming into their winter bareness, the only green is the lichen on their branches. Against the hemlocks, the rain is falling in dim, straight lines… This is the time of year when all the houses have come out of the woods, edging closer to the roads as if for company.
Verlyn Klinkenborg “The Rain It Raineth”

The deciduous trees in our part of the country have all been stripped bare, having come through two rain and wind storms in the last week.  It forces typically leaf-hidden homes out of camouflage and I’m once again startled at the actual proximity of our neighbors.  It isn’t as obvious in the summer given the tree buffer everyone has carefully planted.  Now we’re reminded once again we are not alone and actually never have been.

Even the mountains that surround us from the northwest to the southeast seem closer when the trees are bare and new snow has settled on their steep shoulders.

We think we have autonomy all wrapped up but it takes the storms of autumn to remind us we are unwrapped and vulnerable, stark naked, in desperate need of company when darkness comes early, the snow flies and the lights are flickering.

The view north from the field (photo by Nate Gibson)

The view northeast (photo by Nate Gibson)

November Gratitude–building a bridge


Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer. And let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil and welcome good.
Maya Angelou

On this Thanksgiving day,  prayer pillows and faith bridges are sorely needed.  It can’t just be about overstuffed appetites, serial football games or midnight sales starting in a few hours.

Thanksgiving celebrates a sturdy faith that spans over trouble so gratitude can cross without getting wet.  May we not lose our balance.

November Gratitude–unending breath


photo by Josh Scholten

“Flung is too harsh a word for the rush of the world. Blown is more like it, but blown by a generous, unending breath.”
Annie Dillard

Windstorms are equal opportunity events.  No one is spared.  The power goes out in large houses and small; everyone stubs their toes in the dark looking for a flashlight.  Plenty of things are “flung” in a storm including us.

There is a sense of being pelted by the gales of life in its head long rush to our conclusion.  We want to stop for a moment, face it down,  resist the momentum of it always forcing us relentlessly forward.  We can feel flung into the future, ready or not.

So it helps to think of the progression of our lives less harshly, like an exhaled breath pushing us along even when we have no energy left to keep going.  Such inspiration becomes unstoppable, unknowable, unending and infinitely generous: the power never will run out.

 

November Gratitude–pay in kind


photo by Josh Scholten

One can never pay in gratitude: one can only pay ‘in kind’ somewhere else in life.
Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Some people like to express their gratitude by “paying it forward” through doing “random acts of kindness”.  They might secretly pay for the coffee for the car sitting behind them at the drive through coffee stand, or put coins in an expired parking meter to prevent a yellow parking ticket on the windshield for someone who hasn’t kept track of the time.  These are generous gestures that express gratitude by providing an undeserved gift of momentary grace to another.

Undeserved grace is not momentary in our lives; it is extended to us forever.  It was paid in kind, paid in full, and never ever random.   We can only respond in unspeakable gratitude and joy at the gift we have been given.

November Gratitude–pangs of memory


photo by Josh Scholten

Gratitude changes the pangs of memory into a tranquil joy.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Holidays can be painful for people who remember family conflicts or loss that caused heartbreak, especially when there is supposed to be times of togetherness, camaraderie and laughter.  Even the most difficult memories can be transformed by the balm of the passage of time, by day turning to night and night into day, over and over again, until those memories become a swirling background for the tranquility of thanksgiving.

It is possible to know joy again.

November Gratitude–for interruptions


photo by Josh Scholten

“We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer

So I’m sauntering through life, enjoying the view, appreciating each mundane moment, doing what I think I was meant to do and whammo!~clobbered by a cold wave that knocks me off my feet, chills me to the bone and stops me in my tracks wondering what just hit me and why.  It feels like I’m drowning.

I feel rudely interrupted because I was ill prepared to change course, alter expectations, or be transformed by life’s sudden cold shower.

I can’t think of any situation where interruption initially feels good.  It shocks because it seems unexpected but I chose to be someone who must be rudely interrupted in order to change direction.

God doesn’t just soak me to the bone–He made my bones and heals my fractures.  He doesn’t just knock me to my feet–He offers His hand to pull me up again.  He doesn’t let me drown–He throws me a life preserver that I must choose to grab and hold on to.  Then He wraps me in His warm embrace like a huge towel to remind me where I come from and where I’m heading.

We interrupt this life for a message from our sponsor. 

Please help me feel ready.

November Gratitude–trapezoids of dust


“Skin was earth; it was soil. I could see, even on my own skin, the joined trapezoids of dust specks God had wetted and stuck with his spit the morning he made Adam from dirt. Now, all these generations later, we people could still see on our skin the inherited prints of the dust specks of Eden.”  Annie Dillard

And so I am dust, always have been, always will be.  I am marked with it in the same way the land is marked when it is parched and thirsty.

Thirsty as I am, I am held together by the earth, my insides dependent on that dust covering my outsides.  I drink deeply to fill the cracks and crevices.

And so I am soiled and waiting to be washed clean, always have been, always will be.