I glance out the window. The Alleghenies disappear behind a slate blue curtain of summer storm. I hurry outside to bring in the laundry. It comes off the line a little stiff and sweet-smelling, clothespins snapping into the basket.
From the window, I watch as the blue fades to white. I can see the storm moving across the mountains, gusting in puffs like smoke. The pale tendrils slide down the northern slopes. The highway disappears. For a moment, a perfect white calm settles over everything.
The wind picks up, cool and wet, carrying the scent of rain, and moments later, the first drops strike the windows. My six-year-old watches, bright-eyed. When he was a baby, I rocked him in his cradle during summer storms and taught him to laugh at thunder.
My child’s wonder, my frantic dash for the laundry, the sight of chickens in the rain–all these things offer a little glimpse of what it used to mean to live in this world, at its mercy. Once upon a time, we were awestruck, vigilant, accepting. Now, we are climate-controlled, hermetically-sealed, and we grumble at the weather.
Chickens, honeybees, and plants perform a humble alchemy that transmutes inconveniences into blessings. Blazing sunshine means bees can return home thickly dusted with gold. Torrential rain means plants can stretch their roots and drink deep. And the chickens go about their business in rain or shine. I haven’t figured out if they’re stoic, or just blissfully oblivious. In either case, I have a lot to learn from them.
I love the mad scramble for the laundry, the fussing of the chickens, the hum of the bees, and the dirt I brush from the vegetables because they remind me of where we come from, how we began. They offer a sense of connection, a sense it’s all too easy to lose inside the boxes in which we spend so much of our lives. I think there’s something in all of us that longs for that connection to the rhythms of the earth. The things we used to do to sustain our lives and our families’ are now hobbies–gardening, hunting, fishing, raising animals.
A thousand years ago, there was a woman. She lived on the same earth, beneath the same sky. She nourished her body with the work of her hands, her arms, her strong back. She is my ancestor, but I’ll never know her name. I wonder what she would think of my life, of all my little boxes. The box I live in, the box I travel in, the box I stare at, trying to make the words come. I doubt any of it would make much sense to her.
I turn away from the screen to the window again. I fill my lungs and smile, because I know that she would understand this–this breath of evening air, laced with birdsong and sweetened by rain.