The Mighty Viking

Conquering those things we must, one story at a time

Archive for June, 2018

What did I come here for?

It took 700 miles, and more mountain passes than I could keep track of, but finally, the Wall came down.

I stood, in the middle of an inland sea so old it had run dry, cradled between two vast mountains. And there was not one other person besides myself.

A thin strip of tarmac strung like telegraph wire from one side of this valley to the other. Above, storm clouds played with the mountain peaks, cubs toying with the adults. Their rain squalls fell into the stoic peaks and ridges, and moved on when they could not disturb the stillness.

And so I stood, in the midst of this imperturbable stillness. The petty worries and thoughts of my own invention swirled into its silence, there was no struggle, they were simply absorbed into irrelevance. I watched them go, wondering if my soul would be next, if I would be swallowed into irrelevance too.

With a sudden stirring inside, I hoped I would be.

I wished to be caught up in this Larger Thing, to embrace my own insignificance, to be nothing. And for a moment, staring up at these impossibly enormous peaks, standing in an impossibly enormous valley, I could feel it. I let go of myself.

And then, I wept.

It was an overwhelming relief that came over me. Being swallowed whole into this Stillness And even when once again my head was filled with the rush of wind, and the rumble of machine pushing me along, that Stillness stayed with me.

No, wait. Not a part of me, but rather I a part of it, unable and unwilling to let go. I stayed with the Stillness

This was what I had come for.

First Cutting

The early morning air was quiet.  It was  still, and heavy, slumbering in a cool dew.  The hillside to the west signaled to the valley below the coming of the sun, bestirring life and getting it ready.

And we moved around the barn, readying our machinery there in the farm’s common area.  The tractor, and the trucks, wire and hooks, fuel and water.

And gloves.  We needed gloves.  Well, I did at least.  This was not my usual job, but my work was intermittent, and required travel, and I was home on the farm for the summer’s first hay-cutting.

We were already into the pasture when the sun’s light reached it, climbing above the eastern hills to dry this crisp coastal air, and to dry the tall grass, and to warm our bones.  A mist arose at this warmth, and we tarried a few moments, feeling it’s early-season warmth.

It was a light sun, a light that rested gently, toyed with the living things, lifted scents upward and spirits outward.  Completely unlike the later summer, when crops toiled under a heavier, more intense light, that laid itself down and smothered the plants in life-giving warmth, pushing the plants to grow as fast and hard as they can before the waning harvest season.  No, this was a light sun.  And my spirit soared with the field-hawks looking for breakfast overhead.

The machinery was brought to life, and we lined things up, ready for a task it had been months since we had done.  The mower had been here a few days before, and half the field was cut, and raked into rows.  The other half still stood tall. We divided duties and the baler started lumbering its way into the field.

My son and I worked together to lift the bales into the truck.  The two farmers, brothers who’d been doing this since childhood every year, operated the equipment in the field.  The farm had passed from homestead to dairy farm through 4 generations, but we had only moved to this pioneer farm two years previous, and while I had baled hay as a teen, and last year here, it was my son’s first time out.

The chuff from the grass that had lain drying in the field most of the week stirred up with the baler’s passing, filling the field again with the fresh aroma of life.  All around us was nothing but grass, no road, no trail – just a row of bales in an open field – and it felt good under our boots to tread upon real earth.  We worked fresh muscles against the task of picking bales up, and bucking them into the truck.  I took an especial joy in showing Andrew how to buck, kicking his knee up under a bale almost as big as he was, and shoving the moving bundle onto the truck’s bed.

About the time our morning strength began to wane, a station wagon appeared on the edge of the field, and cautiously navigated across the open grass that wards us.  It was my wife, and in the back of the car she had put a small grill and steaks.  So we sat in the midday sun, drinking our full of water and grilling steaks there in the middle of the field, an honest-to-goodness tailgate party.  Later in life, in times when I needed something to think on to bring me peace in a moment of angst, this moment, the quiet sun shining strong, the light breeze blowing thoughtfully in from the coastline at the mouth of the river, the smell of cut grass and this sense of belonging – that this work was exactly what we were meant to do, the feeling of fitting into the Puzzle of Life just so – it comes to me, and takes me back to the Center of things.

And as the sun’s rays began to climb the eastern slopes, and long shadows lay across the field, our last load headed for the barn.  Andrew and I sat together on the back of the truck with our bales, legs dangling over the side and bouncing tiredly across the field towards the road to the barn.  We took off our gloves, and the earthy smell of sweat, dirt, leather and grass lodged itself indelibly in our minds.  Summer is now here.

The sun finally rested. Our tired muscles were washed, and laid down to sleep.  And a working peace grew into being a part of us.