Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Morning Clouds 3-31-04

Monday, March 29, 2004

We are now well into Lent as well as Spring, past the halfway point with the Paschal celebration in sight. As usual, I have accomplished less than intended, kept the fast less well than I wanted and live no less comfortably with my many faults than I did before. Still, without the annual discipline, what state might I be in? I don't have any deep thoughts about the season. For that I would recommend a work like Alexander Schmemann's Great Lent. There are great treasures in the services and the disciplines of the Fast. Still, for me it is more like one of our more mundane chores here on the farm, walking the fencelines. Sheep, like my thoughts, tend to wander off from their own pastures with small respect for boundaries or even their own health and safety. We fence them in with posts and fence rails, mesh wire, barbed wire, old stone walls, whatever is available. Some things work better then others. Even the best fence fails sometimes. Tree limbs fall at inconvenient places. Gullies wash out under wire fences leaving escape tunnels for fugitive sheep. Every so often, we need to walk the fencelines, repairing a tear here, removing a fallen tree there, piling rocks or logs to close a gap under the fence. It won't keep the sheep from trying. It won't even keep a few from succeeding in sneaking through. But, with luck and a little grace, it does keep us from waking up and finding the entire flock chewing it's way to town down either side of the blacktop. Likewise, the disciplines of Lent may not have made much of a dent in my own wayward nature, but they do remind me of where the fences are.

We are now a week into Spring, and the only signs so far on our Hillside Farm (besides the flock of disgruntled robins hopping around in last week's snow flurries) are the green spears of new grass in the pasture. The equinox is a time when light and darkness are in balance. Our weather is oscillating between warm and cold, dry and wet, perhaps seeking a balance of it's own, a kind of climatic equipoise.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Gideon Strauss put out a call last week for "Manifestos", those great declarations of principle and purpose that signal some person or group's intent to shake the world. I am, I confess, not a manifesto kind of person. Between a law practice and farm chores, I have enough to keep me busy. If you add in an ongoing effort to absorb 2000 years worth of Orthodox teaching and spiritual life, it leaves me hard pressed to figure out how I can fruitfully meddle with anything I am not directly responsible for. Since I have no crusade of my own to charge off on, here for Mr. Strauss' reading pleasure is a Manifesto from one of my favorite authors:

The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

by Wendell Berry

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.

And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.

When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something
that won't compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.

Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.

Listen to carrion -- put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.

Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.

As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn't go.

Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

It has been well over a month since my last update. We hover on the verge of spring, warm days see-sawing with cold. Lambing is not quite over. The Hampshires in the purebred part of the flock are still greeting us with surprises in the barn every few mornings. I had intended a gala blog update on Sunday, but discovered that one of our ewes had presented us with not one, not two, but three lambs. Some ewes can raise triplets on their own, but by and large, sheep who can count to three seem to be a rarity. This ewe presents a particular difficulty. Only one of the two teats a sheep comes naturally equipped with is functional on her. With three customers, demand clearly outstrips supply. We left the largest lamb with her and fostered the other two out with a neighbor.