I was born in North Dakota, where winter is long and cold. We knew how to have fun in that dark season … we spent half an hour bundling up to brave the subzero temperatures and double-digit wind speeds. Skating, sledding and fort building were all on our wintertime agenda. More often than not, in spite of our physical exertion, we turned to little blocks of ice within 15 minutes of exposure. We were warm by the time the un-bundling was completed … and more often than not, started the process all over again. As much fun as wintertime brought, I looked forward to longer days.
As a child, I didn’t understand the cause of seasonal day length differences, but I was well aware of the expanded light period in summer. I was also aware of where I saw the sun peek over the horizon, although it wasn’t until fourth-grade science class that a very patient teacher helped put it all together. Ever since that revelation, no matter where we lived, I found myself a sacred place in the landscape where I could hide out, reflect on nature and mark the sun’s progress from south to north and back south again. My “sighting stone” was often a grain bin or silo; trees also came in handy. When I went to college in Chicago, I found water towers atop buildings to help. Here in Kansas, our pine grove makes a pretty nice solar tracking device.
The vernal equinox is now just a few days away. I can’t help but feel vital because the season of life is poised to spring from the earth in an encore performance that’s been ongoing for millennia. We’ve had some hints that the season of life is really coming in Kansas; the lilacs broke bud last weekend, and the silver maples are in bloom. Our garlic is growing in the garden, and greens are sprouting in the cold frame. Geese are flying, ponds are filling and frogs are singing. The seasonal joys are overwhelming.
I believe that we are in the midst of a glorious time. Yes, the economy is less than we would like it to be, but gardens are once again flourishing as nourishment for body and soul. Small chicken flocks are hatching in the most unlikely of places. People are staying put long enough to marvel at the subtleties of nature and to interact with one another as social beings were meant. This is a great time for community action, and for reaching out to help others. It is a great time to seek new solutions and to help change the ME generations into the US generations.
Our ancestors didn’t have half the material goods to consume that we have. They got their satisfaction from hard work and took joy in the small things. They grew gardens out of necessity. They raised chickens and milked a family cow – out of necessity. They cut wood or dug coal to fire their stoves. They played games, worked on puzzles, sketched, painted and wrote. The work of living was hard, but it was oh-so satisfying.
Whether it’s raising your first vegetable garden, building a hog shed out of recycled materials or just being diligent about turning off your lights, we’d love to know what you are up to this season. We’d especially love to learn how you are saving money and having more fun, in these somewhat trying times. If you keep a country journal and would like to share it through a blog at www.Grit.com, just let me know (firstname.lastname@example.org).
See you in July.
Hank Will raises hair sheep, heritage cattle and many varieties of open-pollinated corn with his wife, Karen, on their rural Osage County, Kansas farm. His home life is a perfect complement to his professional life as editor in chief at GRIT and Capper’s Farmer magazines. Connect with him on Google+.