Reflections on My First Three Months
Mist over the National Colonial Farm site
It’s a recurring theme in many situations. “What’s your favorite season?” It was used in ice-breaking, get-to-know-you exercises, when new students were thrown into class with each other. The tricky thing about that question is that some of us just don’t have a favorite. I like the fact that I have seasons, period. I find them extremely interesting.
Stop and think about it for a moment…this world around us – the one not made of concrete and glass and metal – has its own way of knowing when to do everything. It knows when to shake off the blanket of winter, little sprigs of bright green peeking their heads out of the hard ground to herald the coming spring. The trees take their cues for when to start turning brilliant shades of red and orange and yellow in the fall without any prompting from you or me. And, in between, the days get warmer or colder, depending on their own schedules and desires. To tell you the truth, I welcome the long hot spells of summer, as well as the chill of winter.
I love a number of different, specific things about each season, but in the end the thing I love most about them is the simple reminder of what they are.
Little, big…changes. They happen every day and we take them for granted, and it seems like most people are only aware of them happening when they’re huge and disruptive. But change isn’t, in itself, good or bad. It just is. And nowhere is change more evident than on a farm or in a natural park.
That has been the biggest change for me, of late. After years of working in a college setting, and then standing on my feet for hours in a coffee shop, I have found myself working at a farm, in the middle of a national park. Granted, most of my days start and end in the administration building, but cows and pigs and sheep and turkeys and office cats still manage to call my attention at some point or another, as do bugs and plants and fish falling from the sky and refrigerators full of earthworms and run-down, spooky museum barns and fishermen on the pier down by the Visitors Center.
There are fresh eggs in the office kitchen. And not fresh as in I-just-bought-them-this morning. I had never had a fresh egg before. I didn’t know that the yolks of hard-boiled eggs are not supposed to be pale yellow, with a ring of greenish-gray around them. Did you? They’re not. They’re a cheerful orangey-yellow. I was taken aback the first time I had one. The shells on the eggs from the little Bantams we have are also thicker than eggs I’m used to from the store. They’re harder to break. Something to remember for the future, if you’re clumsy.
Each morning, I park my car in the staff lot and look out across a field ringed by trees. In just the three months I’ve been working here, I’ve seen it go from drought-touched and heat-baked brownish to the gold and orange and brilliant red of fall, to slightly faded and pale from a heavy frost. There are deer out in the field more times than not, and occasionally grown men flying rubber-band propelled balsa wood-and-tissue paper planes. My car, undoubtedly better suited to city driving, is constantly splattered with mud or covered in dust. Thankfully, the turkeys haven’t singled out my car in the lot yet. I’ve gotten word that they like to peck at their reflections in the dark cars.
The people here change with the seasons. Farm hands and interns and livestock apprentices and volunteers and CSA members and visitors. They come in and out of our office and our park and our lives. Some of them leave bigger marks – like the older man I visited shortly before Thanksgiving. He was sick and unable to make it to the CSA pickup (Community Supported Agriculture, in case you’re interested…not Confederate States of America), and the farm manager asked if I could drop it off for him on my way home. I was tired and didn’t expect to linger too long, not wanting to bother someone when they were feeling ill, but I wound up staying longer than I expected, and didn’t mind one second of it.
I looked in the mirror the other day and asked myself, “When did I grow up?” It wasn’t the exact same face I remembered from my youth. Things had changed, as they have a tendency to do. More than “when did I grow up,” I think I was wondering to myself, “How did life lead me here?” It’s an incredible thing, really, because “here” is a pretty amazing place to be.
I suppose that aspect of life never really stops. We’re constantly re-evaluating our lives, aren’t we? Where we are, where we want to be, what makes us happy and why are we still doing the things that make us miserable. At least, I think we should be pondering those questions regularly, because the never-ending truth is that things change. We wake up in the morning and new people are president, and friends get married, and folks move in and out of cities, and relationships deepen and blossom or wither and fade, and the seasons change, and we grow older. The very essence of our lives is change.
There’s a quote I read about a year ago that’s stayed with me, flitting around the edges of the dusty filing cabinets in my mind:
“All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.” – Anatole French
I understand that sense of melancholy, even as I disagree with “dying” to an entire life before beginning a new one. Echoes of the life you knew stay with you. I see this with the nature of interpretation at the park and the challenges to the farmers here – years of continuous crop production has led to problems with topsoil and drainage and fertility on the farm. The echoes of growing seasons long past have stayed with the land, influencing the new life to come. The farm hasn’t died – just changed.
Our livestock intern, Kevin Breen, luring Bliss back into her pen.
Changes and seasons, in nature and in life. Sometimes they are regular, sometimes they happen when you least expect them. They don’t always synch up with the rhythms of the other lives around you, and there’s a part of us that mourns for what we’ve lost, be it time, innocence, money, or a thousand other things, but change is a tide we need to learn to roll with. It isn’t going to stop, and it’s up to us to decide whether we let it steer us to a new cove, or if we fight against it and let it slowly lap over the edge of our boat, sinking us little by little and stalling our forward momentum, all because we refuse to accept it.