One February farmer is quietly carving a new handle for the hammer out of ash wood. The other February farmer is trimming the ragged scraps of a wool coat to make patches for the still functional wool shirts. These are both excellent winter-farmer projects: useful, thrifty, satisfying, sustainable.
And yet. One farmer, generally a quiet, slow-moving, long-thinking farmer, is suddenly, violently overcome with squirrelly-ness, with sitting too long-ness, with thinking too much of all the other excellent winter-farmer projects-ness, with sheer inside-the-house-ness. I leap up.
“I can’t stand being in this house another second!” I holler.
“Wow,” says the other farmer, sitting back a little in his chair. Normally the farmer-always-in-motion, bound-up-the-stairs-two-by-two kind of fellow, he is taken aback by my volume, if not my vigor. “Why don’t you go outside?”
“I am going outside!” I continue at full voice. “I can’t stand it in here another second! How you can stand it?”
“It doesn’t seem so bad to me.” This farmer has already been outside, and is not feeling the least bit squirrelly. He’s fed the horses, watered them, brought firewood over for the stove. “But I’ll go back out. Do you want to work on the tool area in the barn?”
“No! No! No!” The sudden violent, vision of a tool area cram-packed with the buckets and pails and boxes that the nice man at the dump saved for us, knowing how thrifty we are, and containing every tiny imaginable tool or part or bolt or screw or nail or hook or hinge, all jumbled up together, all desperately needing a meticulous, fiddly sorting and organizing and labeling, is horrendous. “I’m taking a walk!”
“Well, good,” says the second farmer, mildly, nodding. “I’ll just keep working here.”
The first farmer stomps out, swadddled in winter coats, hats, scarves, mittens. She stomps through the snow, up the hill. She stomps through the hayfield.
Who cares if it’s twenty degrees out? It’s invigorating! It’s outside! It’s big and open! There is lots of room to breathe! And you have to move or you’ll freeze!
Every tiny detail of insideness, the sitting, the thinking, oh the wool shirts, oh the broken tools, oh all those worthy fiddly greeny winter-farmer sustainable projects, all gradually dissipate as I stomp and swing my arms.
At the very top of the hill, I pause briefly, puffing a little. From here I see everything: the house, barn, greenhouses; the two black horses and the two brown horses finishing up their hay lunch; the gardens and fields, covered with snow.
Then there is the valley where the village lies, the village tucked in so that we can’t quite see it. Next is the valley where the Connecticut River runs, the river also tucked into the folds. I’d sure like to be able to see that wide old river, but at least the cars on the highway make a pretty flash on this no-trees-on-the-leaves sunny day.
And then there are the wooded hills, the mountains, all the way to Vermont. And then there is the sky, all the way to everywhere.
This is good, thinks the farmer. This is big, and I need some big. In fact, this is the biggest, worthiest, greenest, most sustainable project of all, right here in front of me: all this sky, all this land, all this human and animal and plant and element activity, all these realms we might know and see and understand, and all the realms we don’t.
I breathe it in, knowing that what I recognize here is only a tiny bit of the whole world and all its big life. Tiny, but good. Tiny, but worthy. And then I go back down the hill, feeling good, feeling big, back to my fields, to my horses, to my house, to my fellow farmer, and yes, to our tiny, worthy, greeny projects.
Originally published in the Monadnock Shopper News, Feb 20 - Feb 26, 201