Did ya ever wonder why you take the endless warmth and long, languorous days of the season of easy living for granted?
|The morning sun seems to feel good on their faces following a coolish night.|
Well, maybe I shouldn’t make that assumption. I have no way of knowing whether you take those days for granted. Maybe you do, maybe you don’t. I sure do.
|"Hey," says Nona "put that thing away and let's herd us some cows!"|
I call the April-October High Plains growing season “the season of easy living.” For some, the growing season means more work. That's not always the case for the farmer or rancher.
From my perspective, the April-October living is easy. Sure, there’s work. Physical work. It’s part of life, and there’s always plenty to do, winter, spring, summer or fah-all. Warm temperatures erase snow and ice and thaw the ground and allow plants to grow. When this happens, I don’t have to:
- Don and doff coats, hats, boots, and gloves, dress in layers.
- Warm up the pickup, scrape ice off the windshield.
- Engage the four-wheel drive, risk getting stuck.
- Get stuck, dig out, or slog out.
- Plug in engine heaters, add fuel conditioner.
- Chop tank ice, feed cattle.
- Close up the house, fire up the furnace.
- Plug in waterline heaters.
- Buy fuel oil, pay higher electrical bills.
- Slog through snow, slip on ice, stumble on frozen ground.
- And so on and so forth.
I love all the seasons, and each one features upsides and downsides. But the hard physical work is simpler and easier during the season of easy living.
I always take it for granted. Until autumn arrives, anyway.
|The shop doors can stay open in the easy livin' season.|
When the days get shorter and the plants begin to senesce, when the green fades to brown and the shadows get more north and south, when the cattle and the dogs hair up and the leaves begin to turn and tumble, then I begin to embrace each easy, lingering day with the appreciation it deserves.
|Annual sunflowers. Where has all the yellow gone?|
Soon enough the frigid north winds will howl across the prairie, bringing arctic temperatures and driving before them stinging snow. The easy hard work will, once again, become difficult hard work, and that’s just the way it will be until spring.
|These sunflower seeds will feed birds and small animals through the winter and provide new plants in the spring.|
But these last days of the season of easy living are superb. Long and fat and sweet and golden.
|The last stand of the curlycup gumweed.|
I’m abundantly blessed to be what and where I am and to do what I do. I need no pumpkin spice to remind me of the seasonal change. I get to live it and breathe it, see and touch and taste and smell and hear nature as she goes about closing up shop for the year.
|Autumnal light and shadow.|
As I sit here writing in the waning afternoon the outdoor temperature is just touching 75 degrees. Outside my window the trees have changed their crowns from deep green to yellowish and orangish and brownish. It’s not New England color but it’s pretty. As I watch, leaves fall, a score or so at a time, and rustle as they tumble in the soft, sun-kissed breeze. I smell the aroma of the backside of late summer/early autumn. There are still hints of stinkgrass and gumweed but they’re faint and fading, overpowered by the smell of chlorophyll degrading and cellulose decomposing. Much of summer’s scent burden is going or gone; there’s precious little pollen left in the air, no volatile plant oils left to vaporize, and the cooling yet still warm soil wafts less and less organic matter into the atmosphere. With so many of those ubiquitous scents fading or gone, the air takes on a crisper, cleaner smell. In some sense, perhaps, an emptier smell.
|Light, shadow, iron oxide.|
I’m awash in the good fortune of living a life which allows me to actively mark the changing of the seasons. This has been, for me, a particularly sweet and delightful season of easy living. The rains came early and often, reassuring me by ensuring grass production. The season never got too hot or too dry or too windy. The cows and calves grew fat on nature’s bounty and her abundance was so great that the thought of taking too much never even entered the equation. All of nature’s non-domesticated life forms had a near-perfect season of easy living. Except for some of the rabbits, which ended up squished on the road. Still, the grasses and forbs and trees flourished, providing abundant food and habitat for fauna galore.
|More autumn light. It feels Mediterranean to me. Did it feel this way before I sailed the seven seas?|
And now we’re nearing mid-October and it seems that the season of easy living will linger yet awhile. There’s a sense of reprieve in this lingering season, almost a sense of reward. I’d hate to make the mistake of thinking that I somehow deserve this bonus time of ease and delight, but perhaps it’s okay to take especial pleasure from nature’s present largesse, having long since learned to savor and appreciate her harsher gifts. My Grandpa Wilbur used to say “endure the hard times and enjoy the good times.” I’ve endured drought and flood and hail and tornado and blizzard and crop loss and cattle death and financial shortfalls and reverses and all manner of hard times. S’cuse me while I enjoy the ebb and flow and fading of a wonderful year.
|Light and sky and working iron.|
The rest of this, I'm afraid, has turned into a bit of a rant. It's optional, of course, so feel free to skip it and linger in the fading glow of a glorious year.
Of late when I venture into town or otherwise too near a grouping of cold and timid souls I find myself in the midst of horror and terror and impending doom. This morning in the hardware store a pair of self-emmaculated local officials were pontificating on the looming end of the world as we know it. The environment is a shambles, the ecosystem failing, children are being poisoned by their food, antibiotic resistant disease is cutting people down in the prime of their lives. The government, according to those luminaries, represents our sole remaining chance to save the world. “Not us,” they hasten to add. “We’re just little officials in a little town. We’re not the real government.”
Ah, what do you do? Despite the fact that each official has sworn an oath to support and defend the Constitutions of Nebraska and of the United States, I’d be very surprised if either of them has ever read those documents or understands how or why governments are instituted among men. To be fair, these fellows didn’t just appoint themselves officials. They were elected.
A simple 20-minute stroll with eyes open and mouth closed would ease a lot of fears and reveal much. But even here in rural America where nature’s reality is impossible to miss, so, so many choose to hide, to cloister themselves behind walls and locked doors and drawn curtains, to cling to the thin sustenance flowing from a propagandizing idiot box. So many seem to believe that they are apart from nature, that they can control and customize reality to fit their desires. Or that the government can.
I feel an honest and abiding sorrow for these folks and what they’ve done to themselves. I also feel a little stab of guilt at my good fortune. Would I succumb to the same siren song if I lived a non-agrarian life? Could be. I’m certainly not a different or better form of human being. What I am, again, is blessed.
Some of you are old enough to remember Andy Rooney, who closed out a long career in journalism as the curmudgeonly old guy on 60 Minutes. His tag line was “Did ya ever wonder why?” That line was always followed by an exploration of some aspect of the silliness of modern human behavior.
I was never a big Andy Rooney fan, and even as a kid in the early 1970’s I instinctively loathed the 60 Minutes program. It’s never been anything more than modern day progressive yellow journalism.
But I remember Rooney’s tag line. Today when I watch so many of my friends and neighbors unquestioningly supping from the shallow and sensation-weighted news trough, I get the urge to use Rooney’s line.
Did ya ever wonder why?
Why there aren’t 20 billion human beings on the planet? In 1970 the media and demographers confidently and gleefully predicted that there would be at least 20 billion humans overcrowding the planet by 2020, stripping Earth of all resources, destroying the environment, and leading directly to the end of mankind. Today the same people (or their descendants) are still cheerfully predicting that the end of mankind due to overpopulation is nigh, even though they have to keep revising their numbers downward. Looking at the real numbers and data you have to wonder why on Earth anyone would believe this nonsense.
Why there are still people living in Great Britain? In the early 1990’s, when the BSE (mad cow) hysteria took off, the media and epidemiologists confidently and gleefully predicted that Great Britain would be depopulated by the disease. Because BSE was transmitted to humans who ate contaminated beef, and because all Britons had eaten contaminated beef, and because the incubation period was many years, it was inevitable that the entire -- or very nearly the entire -- population of Great Britain would succumb to the disease, which each Briton carried within their body as a horrible ticking time bomb. Today BSE is still claimed to be an existential threat to humanity, despite the fact that only about 30 people in total ever died from the disease, and despite the fact that the hypothesis linking Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy to human variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease has never been proven. Looking at the real numbers and data you have to wonder why on Earth anyone would believe this nonsense.
Why the doctor still treats you with antibiotics when they are needed, and why those antibiotics still work? Indeed, why you haven’t been killed yet by antibiotic-resistant disease? I’m sure you’ve noticed that the media and politicians and the CDC continue to confidently and gleefully predict that antibiotic resistant disease is a deadly threat to life as we know it. In the last year, state and federal legislative bodies have passed more and more rules and regulations to fight the deadly scourge, despite the fact that cases of antibiotic resistant disease have been falling for more than five years and continue to fall at an increasing pace. Looking at the real numbers and data you have to wonder why on Earth anyone would believe this nonsense.
Why there are still glaciers and polar ice caps and polar bears and small islands? Why there is still food in the stores and flowers growing and clouds in the sky and rain? The media and most politicians and nearly every government agency confidently and gleefully predict that global warming/climate change is anthropogenic (man-made, mostly by American Men) and is going to kill us all. My goodness, glaciers and ice caps and polar bears will all be gone by 2010! Guaranteed! Despite the fact that the planet’s climate has been doing exactly what it has always done for the last three billion plus years, and that there’s exactly zero evidence that it’s doing otherwise or that mankind has now or has ever had any significant effect whatsoever. Looking at the real numbers and data you have to wonder why on Earth anyone would believe this nonsense.
Why the media and politicians and bureaucrats never admit to exaggerating and distorting and sensationalizing, why they never acknowledge failed doom, why they only screech and howl about the approach of deeper peril?
Why on Earth so many believe such nonsense and look only to the doomsayers for succor?