This I Believe

Rex - Zuni, Virginia
Entered on October 9, 2006
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: nature, place, purpose

Tied to the Land

There are a few of us that hear a silent call that resonates with our fathers and grandfathers and great grandfathers. It is the call of the land. It binds us to the soil as the earth is bound to the sun, imprisoned by its pull. We do not just hear it; it is part of our being, providing the infrastructure for our thoughts and the framework of our memories. Few of us can define this pull that so defines us.

It know no boundaries. It binds complete strangers instantly, this universal force. For those who work the soil are immersed in the natural forces that govern our lives. It creates a bond whether a Texan or Virginian or Kansan. It ties the Nebraska corn farmer to the Georgia peanut farmer to the Wyoming cattle rancher to the cotton grower in Louisiana.

It has its own language. The simple words “too dry” carry a mountain of emotions only those having lived through a drought can understand. They carry the weight of a lost growing season, unpaid bills, unproductive work and a long barren winter. “Too wet” means late plantings, unmaneagable crops, stuck tractors, runaway diseases and a poor harvest. Somewhere in between is a “good crop”. These years sustain us. They somehow erase all the agonies and trials that come with a failed crop and not only fill our bins, but fill out imaginations with what is possible. They enlarge our hope, and my, how they make our winters more enjoyable.

It determines our concept of time. We do no think in terms of days and months, but rather in seasons. Life takes on a certain rhythmic pattern that involves the planting of life, the nourishing of life, and reaping the rewards of life. An intermission follows, necessitated by the climate. It provides a break from our toil to reflect on the past and feed our vision for the future. It grants one the view that things begin and things end, and a new start is not only possible, but is just around the corner.

It reminds us that life- ultimately- is not determined by us. Plan what you wish and work ’til you drop, bur one storm can wipe out completely the work of an entire growing season. And the later the storm hits, the more work it negates. It daily tells us- and often shouts to us- that we are at the mercy of our Maker.

And thus we are tied to the land. It is our brother, our friend, our companion, our mistress. We grab the same handful of soil our grandfathers did, get stuck in the same low places, watch the sunset through the same two trees, and curse the same wiregrass. And count ourselves blessed.