Reflections

The Fourth Sunday Of Lent

All of the impetuous young folk who ran to the gardening centers and nurseries and loaded up on annuals and vegetable seedlings and then straightaway planted them in the March soil are ruing their decisions right now. A frigid system has brought wind and sub-freezing temperatures to the mountains, and the impatient gardeners will either have to cover & protect all their plants tonight, or they will lose them to the bitter bite of April’s beginnings.

I walked the fields and woods tonight and looked again for the bull about whom I have worried and prayed. I didn’t see him, and so I will leave him to the One Who gave him life. Silly old sentimental man that I am, I can never promise that I won’t fret anymore on these pages about the small creatures who are so often battered by the winds of this life. But I won’t write anymore about this particular bull. May he be resting now.

I haven’t scratched the soil outside and placed any plants in it just yet, but my wife and I have been making our gradual preparations for the spring planting. She has tomato seeds planted in window boxes, and I am getting ready to do the same with some bouquet peppers. On impulse, I picked up a packet of catnip seeds. The dramatic reaction of cats to catnip has tickled me all my life, and I thought we’d try raising our own, instead of resorting to the marijuana-looking dried variety they sell in stores. I’m sure our elderly indoor cat and our rambunctious barn cat will be pleased with the crop. I have often found myself wishing that there were a substance that has the same bewitching effect on dogs that catnip has on felines. Come to think of it, there is. It’s called poop. But that’s a different blog post.

The catnip seeds themselves were a marvel to examine. Smaller than poppy seeds, the catnip seeds were about the size of a fine black pepper flake.  I found a small wooden box and filled it with potting soil, and my wife made little furrows in the bed and sowed the seeds. We misted them, covered them with a thin layer of soil, and misted again. Squinting at the seeds, I was again impressed at the power of life-force. Each seed, as small as the period at the end of this sentence, contains a miniature nuclear reactor, an engine of life so powerful, so vital, no scientist in any lab has ever nor will ever be able to replicate its delicate force. Nor will any human being ever be able to control the life-force contained in one catnip seed. We are blase’ about murder and lying politicians and nursing home neglect and tomato seeds because we have come to expect them and we take them for granted, bad and good.  We have become a society of Pilates (as in Pontius, not the faddish exercise regimen). We continually bleat, “What is truth?” And when truth is revealed to be standing right in front of us, we put it to death and then lave our manicured hands. We are unimpressed with and uninterested in mystery. But mystery is here. It crouches hidden within every seed.

***

Like many men who have reached an advanced enough age to begin to geeze or codge or duff, I dislike change unless there’s a really good reason for it. I have read The Old Farmer’s Almanac for years and years, and my favorite part of it has always been the little homespun observations on the agrarian life and the natural world each month’s section. The editor in decades past had a distinct “voice,” like the hushed narrator in a documentary, a calming way of describing and informing. A few years ago, I noticed a clear delineation in the narrative flow — the editor has been changed, and I would bet cash money that the new editor is a young woman…or a team of young women. Where the monthly entries before were measured, placid, contemplative, the new ones are chirpy, breezy, and superficial. They read like a transcribed conversation one would hear while standing in line at an overpriced coffee shop. Gone are the musings and meditations of a soul who has worked and observed for long decades. These observations have been replaced with gardening “hacks” and references to laptops and wi-fi and numerous descriptions of “cute” and “adorable” things. I imagine a gardening shed filled with pink pruning shears and pink trowels and perhaps sacks of pink potting soil. Gone is The Old Farmer, and here to stay, apparently, is the Old Farmer’s Transgressive & Edgy Great-Granddaughter.

I am become Curmudgeon, Naysayer of Change.

***

However, I do harbor a deep regard for certain types of change. I watched a film about Dorothy Day last night. Despite the things she said and did with which I disagree, I admire her courage and her strength. Most of all, I respect her for seeing a need and then dedicating her life to answering that need. In my greener days, I had dreams of changing a small corner of the world, but I have squandered time and opportunities beyond counting, and it may be that now, in the autumn and winter of my life, my Father may withhold the chance to do anything significant. I think of Dorothy Day and I wonder if ever there will arise a champion of the elderly, of the nursing home residents, someone who will not be content to agitate for government reform, but who will actually confront the system and the society which supports it. Someone who cares enough to burn out his/her life in pursuit of confrontation and change.

***

This past Friday at work, I was listening to a Catholic radio station online. A quiet song came on and I leaned into the speakers on my desk, enjoying the melody and the lyrics. The song was “Peace At the End of the Day,” by Welsh singer Aled Jones. I found the song online and was mildly surprised that it was not a purely Christian song at all, but rather one of those compositions into which the listener may read various meanings. For me, I choose to associate the “you” in the song with Christ the Lord. It is a tune with soft edges, and what could be more lovely than a wish for peace at the end of the day? Just now, I looked for the song again on Youtube so that I could include it here, but it has apparently been removed. How very odd.

But I wish you, reading this blog at this moment, peace at the end of your day.

~ S.K. Orr

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