So many words, so many thoughts in my mind. Can I get them down before they flee forever?
I am currently sweaty, faint, panting, and likely covered with the dust of many years ago. I have just pried out, in two pieces, a log that was the foundation of a former barn on our property. While I dug and pried and wrestled with logs and rocks and dirt and the grass, raspberry canes, and nettles that have used the rotting logs for their nourishment, blackflies circled my head. They buzz in my ears, smash into my eyes, always erratic in their flight so that I can do little but flail my arms about while they mock me. I wave my hat and get a moment’s reprieve, but as soon as I strain at the shovel they return.
But the thoughts: there is something about physical work that gets me thinking in a certain way. It is not concentrated thought, but it often has insights I never get elsewhere. It’s not so much a train of thought as a pogo stick of thought, bouncing, always bouncing, from one topic to another. Sometimes I’ll bounce in one place for a while, but the topic can change as quickly as the blackflies’ return after my hat-swatting.
Thought process #1 was on my weekend. Mother’s Day is tomorrow; I love being a mom and love my husband and my kids. My favorite sort of Mother’s Day involves little except that I don’t have to make dinner. So, with leftover bbq chicken from tonight for lunch and some pre-cooked lobster waiting to become supper, things are looking good. The five of us on the farm after church tomorrow, working together. The blackflies are not invited.
Thought process #2 was on the fact that I have spent a lot of time in prayer these past few days, and pretty much all of it for people who are not me or in my household. The days have been like an open line with God, just talking and asking Him to take care of people who are sick, mourning, scared, frustrated. Asking for Him to comfort, to heal, and generally to be extra nice to these people. Then I thought: isn’t this the point? It’s not about me. Love your neighbor as yourself. But wow, does it feel fulfilling to be having others foremost in my mind. It makes my own petty concerns fade away to their proper perspective. The fulfillment isn’t at all my motivation; I’m not seeking to earn brownie points with them or with God, not going for the gold star on my record, not trying to produce warm fuzzy feelings. It’s just a bonus, and a cool one at that.
Thought process #3 was a more farmish one, and came as I pried the log out. I was removing what someone who lived and died long ago had cut and hewn and laid into place. Whose hands last held it before mine ripped it out? When it was put there, it was not the end of the cleanup of something falling down but the beginning of a brand-new barn. It was fresh wood, not rotten and powdery and covered with grass. It was planned and measured, not pried and yanked. The farm was the family’s sustenance, not a hobby that might make a little bit on the side. Planes didn’t fly overhead, cell phones didn’t ring, and the hundred-mile diet wasn’t a fad: it was what everyone did, and more the ten-mile diet at that. What were they like? Was my barn-builder happy? Was his life a drudgery? Was he a poet at heart, who saw beauty in the sunrise and the swooping sparrows as he went to milk the cows? Did he wonder about the people who were there before him?
The log removed, I found a hinge and part of a latch in the debris and felt vaguely like an archaeologist as I brushed them off and set them aside. Clues, I always look for clues to the history of this place. The story will always have holes in it.