Monday, May 21, 2012
Fifty Acres and a Fool: Rain and Redemption
It used to be I longed to hear it. Especially on weekends, when I had time off to go golfing, put the top down on the old MG, or just generally have fun. Even after I began tending the farm I often looked forward to those words -- they meant that I would have unbroken hours to get the mowing and other chores done.
But this spring I am watching the sky with hope and the dry dirt with alarm. That's because there are zillions of tiny seeds planted in that ground by my friend Dan "Woody" Wood and I. Rain is need to help them sprout and grown. And there's no rain in sight.
We planted the seed at the very end of April. Since then, we've had a little over two inches of rain -- in a month that normally sees 5+ inches. We've had lots of sun, hot weather, and warm breezes. All good and necessary things. But, without rain, the fields that were seeded are drying out. I walk those fields almost every evening, killing poke berry, thistle, and briars and scanning the seeding rows for signs of sprouts. They are few and far between -- and that is a reality, not a cliche.
Late yesterday afternoon and early evening I heard the sound of distant thunder. A friend came to worship and reported that his freshly washed car was rained on while coming there. I was jealous. Not a drop fell on the farm. The tantalizing sound of thunder was like an false-hearted lover's empty teasing.
Finally, in the early early morning hours, rain fell. One-tenth of an inch. Better than none, but still not nearly as much as I hoped for.
As I drove by the fields on the way to work this morning, I noticed that the rain was just enough to help make soybeans sprout in the field next to mine. And I rejoiced in Doug Cook's good farming fortune. But the prairie grasses and wildflower seeds are tiny and temperamental and so far are content to stay snug in their earthen beds.
Which, in made me think -- of all things -- about Quakers and gambling. We've long been agin it -- casinos, horse racing, the lottery. And yet many Quakers spring from farming stock and what bigger gamble is there than farming. Like the lottery and casinos, the odds are against you -- everything has to fall just right (sunlight, rain, growing degree days, etc) if a crop is to come in. All the preparatory work, seed selection, machine fixing, planting, and so forth go to naught if sunlight and rain do not fall at the right times -- or do at the wrong times. Talk about a gamble.
And yet the hope to grow something persists. For some it is more than a hope. It is a need. For income. For feeding a family or the human family. For purpose and meaning, even. It's becoming so for me. The warm season grass and wild flower seeds sprouting (hopefully!) will not positively impact my economic bottom line. Nor will they feed my family or the world directly. But they will provide beauty. They will help cleanse the polluted air from our nearby city. They will provide food for the bees, birds, bunnies, deer and other wildlife. They will provide housing for various wildlife, as well. They will make the world better.
Seeding those fields (and planting tree saplings in others) is my way of participating in Tikkun olam. That's a concept I learned from my little Jewish brother, Aaron Spiegel. Aaron told me that tikkun olam means "repairing the world" or "healing and restoring the world" and is tied to the Jewish belief that we have a shared responsibility to work with God in healing and transforming the world.
We are all called to work with God in the healing of the world. We all have the opportunity to work with God in redeeming the world. We are called to this wonderful that will also, beside repairing the world, repair us. Now planting a prairie or a woodlands may not be everyone's cup of tikkun olam, but it does seem to be mine at this time in my life. And for all my grumbling (and I do plenty of it) about how I'd rather be living in a condo downtown and letting someone else do it, I'm not ready to let go of that call yet.
And so tonight, when I get home, I'll scan the weather channel in hopes of rain on the forecast horizon and then walk the fields and look for sprouts and speak prayers of encouragement to the ground and the bounty of beauty and redemption it holds.
And I will up my eyes unto the heavens, from whence cometh my rain. Or at least I hope it will!