Saturday, November 14, 2009

November Time

You don't have to live on a farm very long before you come to terms with
life and death, with the Novembers when you kill the lambs from last spring and
start the lambs for next spring. It's not that you become hard or unfeeling;
rather you become accepting. You know that birth and death are not separable and
that deaths are necessary for the balance of the farm, so that the ratios of
rams and ewes and sheep and pastures will be right, and so there will be
beautiful meat to feed people. On a farm every stage of the cycle -- breeding,
birth, growth, maturity, death -- has beauty and dignity.

The fall isn't the exciting high of spring when the lambs are born and
the daffodils bloom. It's the time of preparation for spring. The dead-looking
daffodil bulbs go into the ground, and the ram goes in with the ewes. The fall
is the time to remember that all nature turns death into new life. The garden
takes last year's cornstalks and fallen leaves and sheep manure and turns them
into next year's tomatoes and broccoli. The sheep are out in the barnyard right
now turning last year's hay into next year's wool and lambs. And who knows what
tasks and achievements, joys and sorrows, our customers will produce out of the
energy from that lamb meat?

It was Gandhi who pointed out that in spite of all the death in the
world, life is what persists.

Donella Meadows, "A time of death, A time of life"

We pulled into Everett two weeks ago tomorrow. The long drive wore us out, and arriving at our old friends' urban home was a welcome destination. So much happens in fourteen days. The crash of trains coupling outside is one reminder that we are no longer on the Ledge in the Olympics, nor in the juniper lined field with the Rescue Ponies "Fancy" and "Dusty." We are in Everett and the voice and cycle of nature unlit and alive is different here in a city. Our internal clocks and my ability to hear NATURE in her unaltered state are shaken. The lights, sounds of industry and the adulterated air are tough on NATURE. All three of us ... JOTS, Pete and I would love to be where nights are dark, stars the brightest lights and air oxygen-rich from the breathing of tall trees. We know the benefit of life with fresh air and recognize the way NATURE can write her story through a mortal life.

Yet it was our decision to pack ourselves and our wheeled home and come to this spot. What is fashioning us now is the follow-up to this decision: the discipline. I was out driving the old Snohomish River Road yesterday, seeking cleaner air and a croissant from the Snohomish Bakery. Scanning the radio dial a snip of a voice was lecturing his captive audience. He sounded a preacher, though I never listened long enough to know who he was. Instead I heard him describe the process of moving from deciding to the next step of discipline. Without the discipline any decision is dreaming. No goal is ever reached without discipline. Now, I am a proud and professed 'dreamer' and for good or ill I invest in the value of dreams. Still the radio preacher had given me something yesterday on my way to a croissant.

Here in Everett, Pete and I are in the process of the discipline. November in the vardo presents us with nature in her cycle of life giving and taking. Fall is set, winter approaches and NATURE moves through a city just as it does on a farm or on the Ledge out on the Olympic Peninsula. Birthing a tiny chemically safe haven for us in the form of VardoForTwo is a very new creature ... a kind of hybrid life that is not yet fully formed. We huddle into the curved roof space at night and enjoy the safety and celebrate our hard work of dreaming it up and with discipline we have a home mostly ready for all-seasons. Winter approaches and we know 'mostly ready' is not enough. November is my birth month, I have a 62nd birthday coming up on Monday. So this season of fall has been a time of reassessment and accounting for a good long time.

When we lived on the Ledge those seven months NATURE was present all the time. It was my greatest gift. I watched the power of her character and saw how quickly her life-giving turned to death. Things, critters, animals lived and died and human intervention was a dillusional activity. Any who moved were feeding on other things that moved. Life and death were visible and we were part of it, too. We learned to be primal and prepared or a 'bliss ninny' and food for the critters.

Life and death comes to all that live and here in the city at this place, the reality of life in its final stages is here for one of our long-time friends. We didn't know this was a November of endings for our old friend. She has aged as we have aged; she is just decades ahead of us. Illness and age or accident and destiny are part the unavoidable season of Fall for us humans. Feelings of sadness and loss accompany Fall and perhaps if I were a farmer or shepard the acceptance of death would be gently. Maybe.

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