The horse's pasture to the East...

Thursday, August 6, 2015


" If the worm don't like it, then you shouldn't eat it." When I was just five, my Grandfather took me out to stay at the farm with him and Grandma. I was the only little girl in a family of brothers and boy cousins and uncles, so my Grandad was a bit puzzled about what he was going to teach me. Boys were easy. You teach boys how to fish and hunt, how to work in the fields and repair a car or a tractor. They like to be dirty, loud, busy. But girls? Well, maybe I would spend my time with Grandma learning how to cook and mend, can produce and gather eggs.

I never was very good at following other people's expectations of me. I wanted to learn how to run a tractor, milk a cow, groom a horse, feed the pigs. I do admit that I wasn't too fond of shooting animals. I liked shooting a target. That was a game. I love games, enjoy challenging myself to see if I can do better than the last time. But shoot a cute fuzzy rabbit or Bambi, he wanted me to shoot Bambi? Nope. That was a line I could not cross.

My first job was helping to harvest corn, not seed corn but sweet corn. His produce was so good that when he drove in to town with a truck load, people would follow him to buy a bag. I was very excited. I was going to help him pick it and put it in to bags for folks when they bought it. My brother and cousins had all helped with this job. It was a right of passage in my family. 

But I was horrified to discover worms at the end of each ear of corn. I thought we were going to have to throw it all away. I cried. Poor Grandpa. All of that work for nothing. When he asked me why I was crying and I told him, he hugged me and then opened an ear for me, shucking the leaves off and showing me the rest of the ear. There it was; sweet, plump, a rich yellow and cream color. It was so ripe that you could eat it without cooking it. He cut off the tip, where the worms were, and took a bite. " Yup, it's ready. If the worms don't like it, then you don't eat it. " 

All these years later that phrase pops in to my head for more things than corn ripening in the field. Whenever something is out of balance, politics, religion, environment, weather, his wise approach to the world makes sense. You see, worms serve a purpose. They show us when the fields are ready for picking, and bring moths and butterflies. They're really the essence of living a life in a Zen way, with the yin and the yang balanced. You have to have a worm to know where the sweetest corn is. It's soft and hard, sweet and sour, good and bad, light and dark. How will you know where the sweet things are if you don't have a worm to show you? Where is the light if the shadows aren't there to set it off?

Everything serves a purpose, including change. In the year of 911 we lost nearly everything when our business and store closed. I'm a fighter so I threw all that I had in to saving a sinking ship. It happens and it's survivable. In retrospect the worm that took our little business with it set me on to a better path, the one I had somehow fallen off of when I decided to focus on business. I'm an artist, a story teller, and I live for my family and, weirdly enough, never buy retail myself. I was out of place in a store front, off my track. A worm, a really big worm, took a giant bite out of it and when I got finished shucking off the old path, the new one showed up, sweet, ripe and ready. 

We found a place to lease in the country. There was an old horse left behind, needing a family. And the house was a refurbished barn with crookedty floors, windows at a slant and the old barn fan to cool it in the Summers. Fields needed to be cleared, fences mended, woods cleaned up and tended to. And room to grow our own corn and tomatoes. This was our butterfly.

But things never stay the same for very long, especially when it's time for a change. I recognize the worm this time for what it is, an open door that lets the light in. A part of our family is in Virginia. We only get to see them once or twice a year. That's not enough. Time is swift and takes it's toll. I'm alright with that but I want to have more of it with visits to see our family that take only an hour or two to get there, not weeks of preparation and a plane flight. 

We're ready for new fields and fences, sweet Virginia grass and the ocean a short visit away. Our herd is getting older and is ready for a quieter time in their lives where trail rides and gentle ground work, family and children can come to visit. We'd like to have a place where we can leave a bit of land to our children and their children, a place to grow their own truck gardens and keep horses in the paddocks. We want a place that we can call home and to remember the history of the people who were there before us, adding that to our Thanksgiving stories. I need new landscapes to paint and photograph, new muses to help me carry the story forward.

I want to peel the outer leaves of this life off to find the corn that is ready for a new life, in Essex County, Virginia. I'm ready to plant a new garden, tend fences and live under a fresh sky.

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