It happens every year, but there’s no telling exactly when. Surely it moves like a rippling wave from South to North as the season progresses.
This is the time when all of us with large gardens or small farms go slightly mad with the season’s work. There is no rest. There is only more do-ing to be done. Everything needs to be planted, transplanted, hoed, mulched, trellised, caged, staked, weeded, and maybe hoed again, right now.
I was curious to see how it would be this year, as we continue to scale back our growing operation and reduce the financial pressure on the garden. But it’s not much different. We’re still more or less nuts. This seems to be a package deal that accompanies late Spring in our chosen lifestyle.
On contemplating this, with a hoe in my hand, which is really the best way to think these days, I received a distinct impression about stirring biodynamic preparations.
When we stir, we place a small amount of the “prep” – whichever material we’re working with at the time: clay, silica, or composted manure – in a crock of water, and stir. First we stir in one direction, round and round until the water forms a vortex and the the spiral tip reaches the bottom of the crock.
Then we break the vortex by thrusting our arm, or stick, or paddle, into the water and going the other direction.
The order is broken. There is chaos. Jumbles of water and air and bits of preparation collide. And then, as we continue to stir, they re-align and begin to form a vortex going the other way.
The way to change direction is through a period of chaos.
Of course, we could just let the water slowly come to a rest, to a period of stagnation, then gently turn it the other way. But that’s not the instructions. We’re told to mix thoroughly, and in that process, we make the chaos.
I wonder, glancing down the row of galinsoga weeds, already blooming beside our cabbages, if part of the wisdom of that practice is to help us cope with the way things are? Maybe we can begin to understand ourselves as particles in suspension, too.
Winters slow down. It’s natural. Our days go at a different pace. And so Spring starts from there. We’re conditioning ourselves as the days grow longer, the warmth of the sun stronger. We feel the pull and get more and more engaged with the quickening pulse of life.
But something happens, about this time each year. It gets wild. The waltz we were doing before doesn’t cut it. We have to boogie now. And then the tractor PTO makes a bad noise (if you don’t know what that means, be contented to know that it’s not good). Then the lawn mower starts choking itself in the tall grass and won’t even clear its throat in the lawn. Then the twenty or so turkey eggs that are due to hatch starting tomorrow get eaten by a hungry raccoon. Not to mention some damage to the mother hens’ tail feathers. One of the hens gets deranged about her spoiled nest and strays, leading our much-loved old tom over to the neighbor’s farm where he gets mauled by a dog and then disappears. And then there are potato beetles to pick and grass sprouting in the rice seedlings. All of this seems to happen in one very long day, on top of the million other things that must be done right now, which includes feeding and schooling the kids and doing the dishes (please don’t ask about the condition of my windows and floors).
This is chaos. It feels unsustainable, and it is. The good news is that it never lasts. In a few more turns, we will be swimming in stride with the new direction of summer. There won’t be less to do, but we’ll get a rhythm going. If we can keep loose, and keep moving, the dings and bruises of this transition will somehow expand us for the journey ahead.
Of course, the rhythm doesn’t last either. We will transition again, and again, through these periods of order and chaos. There’s no choosing one and sticking with it. That would only lead to stagnation, which is worse then a good dose of chaos.
Writing this helps me remember, helps me hold on and believe that this period of agitation with it’s varying degrees of grief, frustration, and exhaustion will pass. Maybe it can help you remember, too. I hope so.