Good Tilled Earth

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The farmer stood staring, not at anything particular mind you, just staring. A hoe in his hands provided support for his momentary loss of purpose, letting him simply take in the aroma of good tilled earth and the sounds of the many birds chattering away around him. The sun was still low in the sky. The cool breeze of the morning was a refreshing change from the heat he knew would come later. A single, small puffy cloud wafted above him with a breeze from the west. He stood in his smaller garden, letting his senses become attuned to the world.

Mechanical equipment heard in the distance was not really loud enough to produce irritation but it did push him out of his meditations. He was not what one would call a man of prayer, but he did feel some kind of profound touch with something higher whenever he stopped and let the music of the fields fill his soul. At these times he didn’t say any words, with his voice or mind, but rather let his response be as subtle as what he felt, his inner self adjusting to whatever his instincts prompted.

The grinding of the small engine echoed over the flat, rolling fields, bringing a reminder he was a man of work. His soul was expressed in what he did; his spirituality seemed to reside in the activity of his hands, the exertions of his energy. Being snapped out of a quiet moment may have bothered some. Not he. He reveled in the work before him as much as he delighted in those rare occasions of respite.

He broke his stare into nothingness and returned it to the turned soil at his feet. The earth was alive to him, breathing, active, giving. It was hospitable, but also demanding. It gave life, but could withhold it at the most inopportune times. The farmer had lived long enough to experience the apparent vagaries of the land, in both its wonderful and its terrible aspects.

Living life so connected raised within him an almost primal awareness of the spirituality of all things. Had he lived many of thousands of years ago he knew he too would have been prompt about delivering the right sacrifices to the appropriate gods at the appropriate seasons. His latent intellectual belief in the Christian God kept him from this descent into blatant paganism, but did not restrict his oft-unorthodox private prayers and borderline pantheistic faith. He knew not to share too much about his own understanding of the Divine. The times he did he usually regretted, and was never forceful enough to really bother trying to convince anyone of his vague, yet determined notions.

It was not a philosophical faith he possessed, but an instinctual; that faith all people have at some level, if they choose not to argue with themselves about it. The farmer was an intelligent man, an insightful man, indeed even a surprisingly well-read man, but he was not a philosophical man. It wasn’t that he disagreed with the learned expositions of Scripture, or the well-crafted expressions of morality and theology. He simply had no connection with that kind of thought. It spoke of a different God than the one he knew, though he would admit that it was more a matter of different aspects of the same God. But, this fact kept him from any real passion about his church, a lack of which he knew often subjected him to direct and indirect comments from the more dedicated members, including his own wife. He was fine with the occasional slights, it was not before them he was going to be presented.

His arms worked, the muscles contracting and expanding, his powerful legs giving support and balance as he leaned into his task, the continued rasping of the distant gas-powered equipment only slightly bothering him. Even though this garden was his own personal hobby, rather than the work on which depended his livelihood, he dedicated himself to its fullness as much as he did the rest of his fields. This was his creativity, his explorations into a different world. Seemingly similar to others, this garden was art to the farmer’s soul. There were herbs and tomatoes, carrots and sunflowers, as well as other plants, useful or just lovely. He took pride in its bounty, and took delight in its beauty.

Because of this artistic aspect he let the work of this garden be more complicated and difficult than it could have been. Long ago he decided to forswear anything mechanical or noisy in this sacred space, leading him to make even his own tools for their special use in the garden. The methods he used were those which had been passed down for generations innumerable, relying on dedication, rhythm, discernment rather than on chemicals or technology. Here he kept to tradition, traditions which reached past history itself.

The farmer did not impose himself on this small plot of earth, but rather learned to work with it, to understand its nature and being, to let the land itself take the lead, with only his suggestions giving definition to the eventual result.

A small house sparrow landed on the post of the fence nearby, glancing about looking for food or friends. It uttered a small little titter, then took to wing. There were many, many other birds about, but they were lost in the wider fields around him, heard but rarely seen.
Within the sound of the constant gasping of the distant motor arose another noise. He raised his head and looked across his golden fields, the wheat high and waving in the breeze. There was a car driving down the road, a gray sedan of some kind, a newer model, driving more quickly than he would have preferred.

He kept his eyes on this car as it slowed down around the bend and stopped in front of his garage. It was distant, but the farmer could see the driver get out, then the passenger, both in dark suits. His wife was home, so he did not feel an urgency to greet these men, though his nature would eventually prompt him to lay down his hoe for a time and give these men the grace of his hospitality, for whatever reason brought them to his treasured land.

Continuing to hoe, but with only half a heart, his eyes stayed on the men, the curiosity somewhat more than what he would have expected from himself. Before they got to the porch his wife opened the front door and walked outside, greeting the men in the way the farmer knew she would.

The three of them began to speak with seriousness, he could see. His wife’s hands moved to her hips, always a sign of her focus. She turned after a couple of minutes and walked back into the house, leaving the men standing on the porch, looking around at the fields of waving wheat, the large barns, and the simple but beautiful flower gardens his wife maintained.

A ringing at his own hip started him for a moment. He put down his hoe and withdrew his phone from its holster.

“Yes,” he answered.

“Honey, could you come back to the house? Some men came by just now. You need to hear what they have to say.”

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