In The Morning Light

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When I walk into the morning light of the field, the grasses below are soft and succulent, of green. Hundreds of grasshoppers shimmer a flash in jump as though they are peeling the seas as I amble through the pasture. Their scattered hops sound of rain as they land newly leafed elsewhere. Ragweed leaves sag with new found jumping companions and blades of grass are made iridescent with the winged creatures weighing them heavy.

There is a persistent purr of chirps orchestrated by all of the bugs of September. The sound that is here today, with errant cricket songs, is the one that will be blanketed by the white of winter. (And there will be joyous rest in that silence, too.) I am taking note of the fertility today as I feel the seasons changing, and I am writing it as a reminder that I reveled in these seasons. I drank the nectar day after day and I continue to sip from the well of great fertility and grace.

A buoyant field of goldenrod gently bounces with the breeze and with the sun it makes gold layered upon gold. This morning I woke to the proud stalks of goldenrod and sunflowers and I wept. A human could not dream a more beautiful life than what is presented here in our days on this beautiful Earth.

The trees are changing ever so slightly in color, with the cottonwood seeming the first to layer its yellows and lose its leaves, gently shedding each day. Much else is still lush, green, and giving. Warm pears are plucked from the trees and in so a bowed branch is released upward again. Worms are delighting in each fallen fruit that comes to them sooner than to my hands and they rejoice in the plenitude, as do the chickens. My kitchen smells of homemade apple sauce and simmering pear, and my grandfather’s concord grapes scent the September air, sending me back to my youth and I am waist high all over again. Except this time, I am taking steps in becoming my mother and grandmother. Each gift in the grape they have instilled into me I practice now to pass onto another, waist high or otherwise.

I will be singing of the morning light and the evening light long after I have returned to the soil and come again in the golden morning. Each thread of day, of year, of season, of moment, is a golden bath unto its own. And here we flicker in the jubilant seas like the grasshopper iridescent in the rays, shining long into the day, pretend alchemists to the already gold.

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If you walk through life with one eye wincing, consider all you may be missing.

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Basking in a now cool June evening, pale pink lengthy silk night gown, bedded chest of lace, and a long slit thigh. Feeling pretty to see my curves, and the way the silk follows. A stained glass lamp is stuffed between pillows to keep the light tall to see to write. Though as I scrawl my pen hand makes a still significant shadow.

The sump pumps are churning their fourth evening after massive amounts of rain. In the field and home this week I have begun to feel a farmer’s fear of rain, in recognition of its great capacity lying in the flood plain of the Rock River. The force of weather rang its reality like the winter day I learned wind is an equal force of fire, and oh, how not one can control her will.

Though still I sit with a good belly and chest of breath. Breathing is easier, comfort from within is True, and to feel so is hopeful and secure. How much more calming to breathe in and say, “Things are good and will be good,” than to meander in the mire.

To look myself in the mirror without judgement and see and say…

This is where you are.

Right now.

And it’s beautiful.

There comes a smile felt from the heart, knowing it is true. In that space of contentment we feel it is useless to pine for any moments that are not yet ours, draining from the moments that are ours. Right now.

Longing for future realities denies us of the ample abundance of current beauty. It can rob us of opportunities to learn, to recognize love as it is before us. What we commonly view as mundane or in the habit of normal, a commonplace act, is often a treasure in plain-sight. An every day event we have become accustomed to can be rippling with beauty should we turn our vision towards it.

The statement does not have to be, “I feel better now that the bathroom is blue,” with a swift motion to eradicate the the task from the list.

What lead the tincture to happen upon the wall was quite a glorious moment, a gem of the commonplace unfolding unto its own lush existence.

A hot and humid Sunday brought a dear friend to town for a visit. She wanted to see the farm, share friendship, and help me in any way she could. We decided against field work due to rain, but we would paint inside the house for certain.

She would do the cupboards in the kitchen and I would adorn the walls of the bathroom. Dividing and conquering, our work was cut out for us. We gathered our supplies, turned the music on, and began to transform the space.

The air was wet, looming with humidity, and we took our tops off. Our chests were free to catch the air below our breasts. I painted in an airy skirt with one side hiked up my thigh to further cool my skin. She was bare with laced underwear. Our breasts moved the most naturally and mine jostled to open the paint can. There was no cloth to limit the truth of their movement. I saw the curve of her back, A Woman’s Back, which in a glance sent me further appreciating her strength and my own. We were not too much, or not enough, but two whole women, creating atmosphere.

We went to one another’s painting zones checking on progress, commenting on different room feels. I was surrounded with sisterhood and freedom. I resounded gratitude that I left this activity to accomplish with a dear friend because it made the making of my home much more rich and memorable, texturing the hue a color specific to my eye.

And so considering our riches comes with a tuned lens. The wall blue, the chore complete. Or the wall is ripe with kinship of sisterhood, Good Love, Good Will, hope, inspired hands, and a refusal to hold back.

The desire to make a difference and the execution thereof lies in strokes upon the wall.

Should we desire for abundance we have yet to encounter, may we only steep ourselves in the present and begin to lose track of our primary source of pining as we see, with the glory before us, illuminating the otherwise monotonous, task-checking mindset we can fall prey to.

And that feels Life Full.

No need for more.

The greatest dangers lie in the resistance and lack of recognition of where we are. For in doing so, we demean our presence, the gift of our current days. We undermine what is to be gleaned on our path and we belittle the inherent knowledge of nature’s truth of change, becoming, and the cycles of our own seasons – how there is a time for everything, be it not now, or be it some other time.

If you walk through life with one eye wincing, consider all you may be missing.

Abby Rodriguez – June 16, 2015.

Spring is here, Spring is dear!

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Today is the first day of Spring! Little sprouts of green have begun sprawling along the fields. All that was dormant and all that was dead is now enlivening. This is the beautiful stage where budding trees color the horizon first with red, umber, hazes of yellow on willows, and pale lemon fuzzes about branches before the grand explosion of greenery. The color is an amalgamation of hibernation unfurling and it is just the very beginning, like a birthday, a new start, a baby.

The picture window I once looked out of at snow covered fields has now melted its last pile of white. What used to be a mountain big enough for myself and a child to sled down is now melted down under, its waters preparing a bed of flowers to come, or some vegetable to feed. The bees are again buzzing, flies are awake and in search of muck, and the overwintered lady bugs of my home frazzle at the window wanting out. These are the days of everything changing. These are the baby days wherein we stare out at this blank canvas and we have hints, hunches, so many dreams of what we intend to paint, but what those fields will look like come July we do not yet know.

But we hope, I hope. And I dream. And I believe.

I believe in the fertile fields, in my own sweat and hard work, and the helping hands of community and family, in the grace of the land and all of the possibility that lies within her soil. I believe it is my job to make this world a better place not by schmoozing with political figures or taking my angst to the streets but by putting my hands directly to the Earth and planting food for myself, family, and community; sowing the seeds that will unleash the greatest flower foods for the bees, and making a field for the butterflies to thrive within. My greatest goal is to make the nectar for us not to simply subsist on, but thrive – to get better with, to heal with, to go beyond with, to bring joy.

Today is not only the Vernal Equinox, but it is a new super moon, a solar eclipse, and a day of fertile menstruation within my own body. The capacity I hold within my belly is reflected in the fields. This day I bleed makes room for another cycle to take its rightful place in my body and actions. The seeds that have begun will continue to transform and grow, and the ones not yet sown will soon to be germinating, and it is the beauty in these teeny tiny steps that transforms a life, a world, a body, a day. The now minuscule leaves, or the unseen steps of germination, are the very ones that will aid in someone’s celebration, birth, grief when they come into bloom. They are the tiny steps that will feed and nourish a body, whose succulent leaves of green will fill the belly during another cycle, or feed the baby of a woman who has new life growing within her own womb.

Isn’t life the most amazing gift?

To think we can take our own hands to the soil and effect change in so many ways, to bring joy to our neighbors and partners in life, to bring sustenance, hope, and proof that what we do today impacts our tomorrow, our children’s future, and the health of our Earthly companions.

And the rest of the world will whirl on in its gruesome activity saddled with glorious miracles. And my heart will still be soft and attentive to what makes me hurt within the happenings of the world; the injustice, the inequity, the harmful and the dark. But this is the best way I know how to seed light – to take in all the harsh realities of the world and still grow a petal, craft with my hands, listen to the soft wind, the changing song of the world within the seasons and try to make better in some shape or form. This is the cycle that has no end and it truly life’s work. I lend my heart and warm shoulder for those who may need it and I will devote my time and days working with the Earth to make her, and her inhabitants nourished and joyous, heard and felt and supported as much as I can.

Within all of this lies a belief in time, belief in our time alive. I believe that our lives matter and that our days matter. I believe that what I do not accomplish this year there is room for next year, and this is where growth lies as well. No one is ready for everything at once, and so here is where I stand right now. The field is still crispy grey-brown and taken over by the looks of old daisy flea bane. My kitchen has no ceiling or insulation, the bathroom floor is sagging with rot in some locations, and the old slate siding is muddied with some vegetation growth and stains of years striped upon its exterior. But this is my sacred shelter, the place I will call my home for years to come, where I will have little babies running around. I am eternally thankful for after more than a year of floating about in different people’s homes and years of rental properties that I finally have a home where I can settle and grow. This is still something I mutter to myself on silent nights outside as I take a look around at everything that surrounds me, “I have a Home. I have a Home,” as though there is something in me that hasn’t quite settled yet out of disbelief of its reality. But here it is, my home, my field, a place for me and the babies that I have promised them, and a place where we will all grow according to our own speed. They are out with their noses to the ground, nibbling little mouths moving so quickly catching the freshest greens as they sprout from the soil, grateful to be in new season – returning from the season from whence they came one year ago. They changed my life.

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I am happy where we are. And as scary as it can be to sit in so many unknowns and so much newness, I have faith in us and faith in this place. I have faith that the field I see now will be fertile and show signs of my hard work come July. I have faith that despite whatever hardships will come I will find a way to learn from them and work through them. I have faith in all possibilities, my wild dreams, and the hands and hearts of everyone who has risen to help me along the way.

May your seasons be kind and may your seasons be bright. May there be joy in your hard work and praises within your day. May your muscles throb with the pleasure that you have lived a day with the vegetation and dirt in your bones. May you prosper in the good Earth with healthy animals, healthy family, and healthy children, and may you prosper with joy and vitality. And when you grieve, as grieve you will, may you remember the feeling which comes with the look of the still yellowing willow and hazy budding trees that possibility is bred not just at new beginnings of seasons, moons, or cycles, but in the daily steps of our in-between. Whatever ails you will eventually, like all things in nature, cycle and unfurl into something new.

Whatever the outcome, let us all join hands and bare witness to one another and this beautiful Earth, in all of the seasons of our lives and days. For what greater way is there to live than together in joy, grit, and hope?

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The Day I Picked Your Flowers

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Under the waning leafy canopy of the poplar
Stars unfurl as a laced umbel of the prairie.
Cows breathe to my back among the choir of night.
Frogs and crickets voice a percussive air
While the atmosphere crisps into a dew,
Beading in the lamb’s wool.
Evidence I’ve lived pulsates through my body,
Each venous throb a reminder of the day.
The husk cherries pulse.
The zucchini, the greens and beets,
Asters and amaranth.
Resting soft lips on warm sheep’s horns,
And the little boy who fancied himself as a ram.
Laugh-crying in the field
With harvest companions.
Dancing in the carrots, feet bare to dirt.
The monarchs ambling in pasture tune,
Goats sunbathing in a sea of golden rod and lingering Queen Anne’s Lace,
All of the wild aches within the knees.
The new crescent moon curling its thread above,
My bath of sediment where the day washes from my skin.
My dawn began with a hen revealing under breast and wing
Chicks singing that Mother has Warmed them into Living.
A testament of all to come nestles
Among a satisfied belly of what has been had.

Abby Rodriguez (September 2014)

Death on the Pasture

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There were two ladies at the homesteading conference on the way to the potato line with me who said, “Are goats always dying? She was talking about goats always dying so I don’t really know if raising goats is right for us.” In my mind my first thought was, “Well, that’s just part of it all…you have a homestead, you’ll have a lot of death.” My first week on the farm led me to a dying chicken who was egg bound with liquid seeping from her mouth, her breast still warm, her breathing slow. Her cause of death was revealed with a bloody egg which could not pass; her attempt at life was the end of hers. There was a dead baby goat that fell pale against a wall; we had only hypotheses as to how he could have died. His body was still warm but his baby body hung limp.

I was buzzing with life and inspiration during and after the conference. I came home prideful to do all of the animal chores, letting the family know they could go celebrate and eat together while I held down the fort solo. The sun was setting low and reflected the emotion vibrating within me, the clarity of being and the clarity of my direction forward. Questions were answered. Knowledge was stirred and passion discovered. Soul enlivened. Perspective gathered. Gratitude peaking. I was feeling at home in my animal body’s place in this world – feeling quite calm surrounding what Is. I was open hearted and minded, at peace in the pale yellow grasses as the stars began to curtain down the night.

I delighted in the view of the sun lowering behind the walnut trees. I gave extra flanks of hay to all of the goats as I would rather their bellies be overflowing than baring scarcity in the moonlight, crawling with hunger. We all made eyes at each other, my love widespread and direct, sharing my gratitude and appreciation for their very selves. I chunked in a flake of alfalfa in a feeder that is between the sheep and the goats. The sheep always love to gather at this feeder because they enjoy stealing bits of alfalfa which is missing from the simple grass they receive in their troph within their section of the pasture. I got one flake in and below the feeder was a dead sheep. Her horizontal eye was pale with a grey gelatinous coating. I palmed her belly to see how stiff it was. Ungloving my hand I felt the coolness of touch on the fat of her belly. I moved my hand to her heart and found warmth near her chest and shoulder. It had not been too long; the movements of her bending knees and limp neck also indicated a narrow amount of time since last breath. I tried to pick her up and fluid dripped from her mouth and the dead weight of her body proved too heavy to cradle in my arms and haul her to the barn.

I went into the barn to find an old sheet that I had used to help our ailing llama, Katy, to stand up. I dead lift her every day from her back end and hoist her back into standing position. Once Katy falls she cannot use her back legs to get up. She is paralyzed of sorts. On a bad day I lift her 6 times before the end of chores in the morning. When she falls it is like seeing a giraffe take a spill, or watching a foal walk for the first time, a baby deer, a baby cow. The difference is that watching Katy stumble strikes a grim feeling in the heart because her wobbling is not due to new tender steps. Her difficulties are born of an illness due to meningeal worm that she has not been able to heal from. I know she will die. And soon. But, I lift her and I hold her until she can get a steady stand, her back leg trembles against my palm, and I tell her I love her. I dig my hands under her bottom in a pile of pebbles and urine soaked straw and dig my heels deep and lift with my back and my core trying to make her vertical again. When I absolutely cannot lift her, I tell her that I am sorry. I am sorry. I place hay in front of her because she cannot make it to her feeder, despite how much she swivels that long neck or tries to scoot with her front legs. I think if all I can do that time around is to give her a snack to keep her content, then I have done my job, and I have loved deeply. Tonight her shadow on the wall looked like a child’s shadow puppet up against the plywood; the one where you rest your middle and ring finger on your thumb, while raising your pinky and your pointer. Cobwebs draped where her lashes might hang. The shadow looks like Katy the llama. When I help to bury her, I will rest knowing I at least loved her in the ways I could. I have honored her in her days.

I took her sheet which was already doused in the grit of care. I took the white cloth back to the field and lifted the sheep onto the sheet and proceeded to tell her I was sorry, too, and that I hope she slept well. I soothed her forehead and tried to relax her lid down over her gummy eye. The lid would catch but would only rise again. I folded her head down in a way a sheep might sleep, relaxed on its own.

Later in the pasture I thought to myself how much my initial impulse of thought in conversation with the ladies at the homesteading conference indicated a piece of healing surrounding the issue of death which has been looming in my brain and life experience repetitiously over the past year, aching deep within me, a fear. Part of my reasoning to farm and homestead is to lean into that fear instead of turning an eye – to more deeply immerse myself in the cycle of nature. I came not just for the beauty but the realities which are less soft in our world as well. I teetered my rubber boots through mud clumped paths and rolls of mole mounds, like caterpillars thigh wide cusping out of the earth.

My heel rolled into the softness and I thought of the peace I felt about death, thinking of the sheep’s eyeball and how I could not get the lid to shut. I looked out among the chilled sunset behind naked rows of a walnut grove and thought of the eyeball dancing above the trees, spirit of the sheep. We have to accept this body which fades but we can always love the essence that is a soul when we know it and honor it; how our minds and hearts can enliven that, how we never have to let anything become completely dead, though we must simply learn to let go. Over, and over, and over again. We will get better with it in time; it will destroy us some of the time; we will feel it more difficult sometimes than others; we will repeat patterns and let lessons fester until we truly learn from them; we won’t always get a chance to fully heal from things, or understand them, but yet we still have to let go.

A beautiful component of death is that our physical selves, our meat and our bones, are recycled back into the earth as we pass. I honored her spirit in the field while also accepting that I took her into the barn office because she is going to become nourishment for our sweet guardian livestock dog, Lucy. The spirit of the sheep has passed and its eyeball was roving elsewhere, but her meat will become part of another creature and sustain her life, too. Lucy honored the sheep already; when others gathered nearly tromping over the sheep to get to the alfalfa, she roared and told them to all get away. She knew what I was doing, it seemed. Lucy knew it was a moment of honor, and she chased away those who were not echoing the sentiment. Last weekend Lucy hovered over a newborn baby goat that was rejected from its mother, and she hunkered down over the kid in protection and care. Birth occurred just on the other side of the sheep fence, not even a full week ago – she was harboring life. And tonight, as the sun faded and the stars crawled, she alerted and honored death. It will cycle through her and give her longevity. Until she is physically gone, too.

I wrapped up the sheep and tied it so that I could pull her through the field and to the barn. I sailed her through the muddy patches. We coasted on bumps. We dragged on through the mole mounds and caught on the linoleum when we finally arrived to the office. I opened the sheet again to try once more to close her eyelid, unsuccessfully, and so now she sleeps peering. My high feelings fell somber, but with acceptance. It is part of it all.

I had to continue on. Many other living mouths were hungry and many more eyes were enlivened and in need. I treated the pigs to some whey byproduct of making mozzarella. They squealed and ran around the mud castles with white whey beards and snouts. Corn and oats peppered their noses as they chortled through the field; all was right in their world. In this way, you continue to care. It is important to keep caring, to not let your care die. You accept you cannot care for that particular eye any longer, but you turn to all of those that you can, and you do, and you let it fill you with joy and you let yourself feel the vastness of different types of joy. Even in the face of death, you find the smiling pig.

I struggle at times because my heart is so open and I pour it out to those who cannot accept it, do not want it, and my impulse is to withdraw my care as though my emotions have been spilled into a gelatinous eyeball. These days are teaching me to wrap that heart up with the same honor, let go, and let that love cycle into a new heart home for another who is robustly waiting to receive and reciprocate. When I speak my heart, living and loving with intention, it is the way I honor a life which neglects regret. Despite the pain of love fallen pale, or finding a cold body in the pasture, I would always rather honor my truth my giving my full self than to fall silent, unmoving, apathetic. It is within me to quilt what has fallen and thread anew in the life cycles which prove themselves throughout every grain and body of nature.

I came in to nurse my babies, scooping up their little bellies which have grown over the week. Their contentedness and health is a source of my pride. Little Maya makes a gentle snorting breathy sound as she nurses, as though she will never tire from suckling and each pull of the teat is as good as the last. Her doe eyelids flutter downward, contented with the warm milk, and I kiss her behind her eye and before her ear as she eats. I pick up Louie and watch him reach hungrily for the teat, his mouth agape and gumming like a turtle reaching for cantaloupe. He sucks vigorously and I kiss him all the same. A tail wiggles between my breast and armpit, another flicker in thanks of nourishment. It is part of it all. Their towels went in the wash and I replaced their soiled crib towels with fresh warm ones to nest in for sleep before they would wake me in the night for another nip at the warm milk.

As I put them down for the night they each took one more suckle at my chin. Despite the death before me in the night pasture I felt my swelling love recycle anew for the little babies at my breast, feeling at peace that there is a place for me here and now to pour from me that of which flows as generously as the sap from our neighboring maples.