It looks like spring — wisteria is dangling over the ditch dropping small petals under the tires of passing cars. It sounds like spring — birds are trying to out-sing each other in the branch. It feels like spring — breeze like a whisper is tossing my hair into my eyes.
I’ve been to my first baseball game and eaten my first strawberries. I’ve pulled out my shorts and repeatedly refilled the bird feeders. I’ve taken my car to the car wash for pollen removal (a useless task) twice.
Call it faux. Call it fake. Call it false. It’s still spring.
Except it’s not. Not really. And I can’t help wondering if it ever will be again.
The farmers in my family have retired and for the first time in 50 years, the fields that surround me have not been and will not be broken. They won’t be harrowed or planted. Irrigated or sprayed. Plowed or harvested.
I will not wake up to the sound of a tractor’s diesel motor in the field outside my window and I won’t go to sleep to the sound of an irrigation pump’s diesel motor on the other side of the pond. I won’t stand on the front porch and murmur prayers of thanks when the rain comes or smell the peanuts as they come topsy-turvy out of the ground.
When I was in fifth grade, we got our first chance to join 4-H. In filling out the application, we had to indicate if our family had a connection to farming. It was a multiple-choice question with three possible answers: (1) I do not live on a farm. (2) I live on a farm; my parents do not farm. (3) I live on a farm; my parents’ farm.
My father was an insurance agent and my mother was a seamstress. Obviously, my parents did not farm. We did, however, live outside the city limits, which, in my 10-year-old mind, felt like the country, and our house sat on three acres, which was much larger than the subdivision lots where most of my friends lived. I can remember to this day how badly I wanted to check number 2. It was as if I somehow foresaw the destiny of my family, as if my 4-H application was some kind of prophetic proclamation that the day would come when we walked into the life that had been waiting for us. It was as if I had always been a farmer’s daughter.
And now, that life — having been equally hard and good, equally frightening and comforting, equally frustrating and tender — is changing. And so are we.
I walked outside the other night a couple of hours after dark. The air had already gone moist and heavy and I could feel it descending slowly onto my bare arms. Above me the thinnest sliver of moon floated in the sky. Below it and to the right pulsed two brilliant lights — Jupiter and Venus. I stared for long enough that they turned into a drop earring – two diamonds dangling from a curve of gold, something an elegant woman would wear to a fancy party.
What I have learned standing under this sky, staring out over these fields for the last 50 years has made me who I am. It has taught me to see earrings in the moon, to hear symphonies in bird song, to open my arms and embrace the entire world. It has forced me to face fears I didn’t know I had and celebrate gifts I did not know were mine. And I realized, with my chin upturned toward the universe that has no end, it still will.
Spring will always come and I will always be a farmer’s daughter.