Thursday, July 22, 2010

Pots of Gold

Last weekend a quick and violent summer thunderstorm blew through the Interlaken plateau. Thunder cracked, trees bent, and one electrifying snap of lightning fried our modem with a loud "pop!" The rain lasted about 5 minutes. What followed this outburst was one of nature's most impressive phenomena. Through the green haze and puffy clouds came the rays of the sun and a rainbow, brilliant and majestic. One end of it illuminating a corn field to our south, and the other a field of grazing cows. Would our good fortune double--what does the folklore tell us?-- if we found both pots of gold?

After taking advantage of my first full year of AARP benefits (I turned 50 last summer), I am accepting the thought of retirement. Not retirement from life, but retirement from a full-time, work-for-somebody-else job. Our bed and breakfast is doing great and we love it. I'll need something else, however, to help keep it all going. Learning a new skill which can take me into my retirement (where ever that place may be) feels like the right choice.  So, beginning in January, I will be starting a new journey. It begins at the Finger Lakes School of Massage. 

I'm going back to school to become a Massage Therapist.

All the papers are in place, and now I am about to write what may be the most important prose of my adult life: A tuition scholarship essay. Writing this blog has been good practice. I've learned to collect my thoughts, create a story and put it on paper (well, e-paper), and find my voice. But I've never in my life asked for financial assistance, or had to affirm myself, my existence, my contribution to society, or ask for recognition. It is unnatural for a practical, efficiency-minded, do-bee like me to talk about what makes me special, or what sets me apart from everyone else.

I keep thinking about that rainbow and the two pots of gold. A shimmery, fading glimpse of the past and spark of the future. A reflective and colorful bridge between two careers and two phases of my life. The highs and lows, the graceful arc of a happy, productive, and fruitful life. Hmmm...maybe I just found a theme (somewhat hokey I know) for my essay. Or, perhaps I'll just point the scholarship committee here to read my blog because this, after all, is me.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Hay Fever!

The smell of hay is the scent of summer. For the past couple of weeks, we've seen an epidemic of hay fever.  Anyone who keeps livestock (or grows alfalfa for people who keep livestock) is baling hay, loading hay, and transporting hay. Alfalfa is agricultural perfection. It is raised and baled on the farm, fed on the farm, and spread as manure on the farm.

Watching the weather (make hay while the sun shines!) becomes an obsession because one good rainfall, at the wrong time in the process, can destroy the crop. Rain is a blessing and a curse. Timing is everything. There's so many acres to cut and only so much time to cut it before the first rain drop falls. The sky darkens. The clouds threaten, and still they cut. They windrow. They bale. They sweat. They plow in the dark, headlights (if they have them) illuminating the clouds of chaff, methodically and deliberately until the last bale is loaded onto the wagons. The filled wagons dot the landscape in every direction. 

A conventional baler throws the tied bales into slat-sided wagon with a powerful thrust machine called a kicker (or maybe that's a thrower?) and are piled up every which way. The bales in the Amish steel-wheeled wagons (which are flat and open-sided) are stacked neatly then pulled to the barn by a team of draft horses, creating a rumble that you first feel, then hear. As our neighbor's team quickly turns the sharp corner into his driveway, I've never seen him lose one bale. One of these days I'm going to help make hay, and Elam's offered to let me lead the horses--they know what to do, he says. Can you imagine me out there in the blazing sun driving the team? I've never even been ON a horse!

During this month's hay-making season, we have cows grazing in the field next to us. At night, by starlight, you can't always see them but you can hear them crunching on the grass, the young bull wailing in the night for no one's apparent pleasure but his own.  Perhaps he has hay fever too.