You can’t walk past a flowering bud on a warm spring day without being in awe of the cycles in life. If there is anything more predictable than the process of the changing seasons, I have yet to meet it. I must have hundreds of photos I have taken of the same trees wearing their April outfits year after year. I see my own growth and aging reflected in the birthing of baby birds and the sprouting of wildflowers. It is hard not to get sentimental and reflective on a warm spring day.
Easter at our farm is no exception to the practice of remembering and commemorating life and death. A pair of Canada geese has nested on a tiny island in our small pond for more than a dozen years. Their annual ritual has never varied much. They fly in on a cold day in March, scare off the other geese, bed down to lay eggs and then concentrate on incubating them for about 30 days. Mama goose diligently sits on her rough nest through wind, sleet and hot days. Papa goose stands as a sentinel on the bank of the pond or grazes in a nearby field. This year, on Easter, little yellow, feathery balls crawled out from under the protective wings of Mama and followed as they were led down to the water for their first swim.
A friend and I followed this new family hourly as they strengthened their legs by walking in the high grass pecking at dandelion seeds. We had binoculars trained on them constantly because they stay in the nesting area for only a day or so. Soon, they take off for a safer pond away from the predators which had been stalking them for weeks.
Why watch geese so intently? Well, there is no denying that the babies are cute and the parents are regal. But I think there is something else going on here between man and nature. We feel a natural affinity to the whole web of life when we observe the actions of birds, animals and plants. I think we all have a hankering to see ourselves as part of the ongoing cycle of life. We want to be connected to the interdependence of all living things. And we can learn ways of coping, surviving and flourishing from less developed living forms. It gives us a sense of security and at the same time, the excitement of variety and change.
I am in the midst of producing a television documentary on rural preservation. I have been pondering words and photos to explain why I have spent time and effort to restore and preserve an old log barn on our farm. Sure, the barn is a great old log building but is probably of minimal importance in the overall scheme of things. But, to me, the barn is a symbol of man and nature at its best. The logs grew out of the combination of sun, rain and earth. The pioneers, needing shelter on the frontier, felled the trees and built barns to help provide a livelihood. The barns thus represent that eternal linkage of man and his environment and the process of birth, death and rebirth. There is something in the whole system of rural life that we benefit from. In this day and age, with technology separating us from actual hands-on experiences with the basic elements of life, we often hunger to feel like players in our own destiny.
We in Southern Indiana live amidst a lush and beautiful land that harbors a bounty of plants, animals and people. Why save this way of life of ours? Why save an old barn? Because they help us know we belong to a big, interconnected, eternal thing we call life, and IT IS GOOD.