In the spring I do, in the autumn I think.
We are an urban people now who reckon time passing by the changing of decorations in stores and the types of sales offered by retailers.
As a woman who grew up playing, observing, and walking amid overgrown fence-lines, that I like to think of as hedgerows, I try to keep seasons alive in the old way of knowing I learned through experience that the climate, weather, and seasons guide our lives and activity.
I am a bridge. I embody and represent a connection between generations and lifestyles. My parents were 41 and 42 when I was born in 1957. I ride along the top of the demographic wave, the bell curve, that is the Baby Boom. My mother would celebrate her 100th birthday next month if she lived.I do not remember there being no electricity or plumbing in the house, but my brothers did. They remembered using horses to pull farm equipment. Modernizations came after WWII and before I was born. Our central heating was a coal-burning furnace in the basement. These facts shock my coastal and urban friends. But in the midwest and intermountain west the Rural Electrification Program was a big deal and farming communities saw their cities and major highways have power lines run along them in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Electric pumps allowed water into houses in the same way we know it today. A few houses, ours included, had gravity fed baths and sinks, supplied from attic-based tanks.
The contemporary urban migration and expansion into the agricultural hinterlands began in the 196os bringing factory and office workers into previously agriculture-based communities. My favorite book as a child was Virginia Lee Burton’s The Little House that presented this change in the way wee ones could understand.
The the time and length of the evening progression of waining light was noticeable and the night skies were dark. Living on a farm, we spent lots of time out of doors for work and relaxation. Some of my favorite memories of being a little child are from being outside in the backyard with my dad after dark. He would point out which lights were what: a pole-light from a farm a mile down the road, a satellite, a star or planet. Echo was the first satellite he pointed out to me. I remember him making sure I knew how to find the North Star. He also wanted me to memorize Longfellow’s poems about American History; The Song of Hiawatha, and The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere were favorites of his.
I grew up in the midst of a vanishing lifestyle. The small, mixed crop, farm of the late 19th and early 20th Century had already given way to the small corporate family farm of the mid-late 20th Century when I was small. A man, one tractor, and land he owned and farmed was extremely old-fashioned when compared with the multiple, rented farms, big equipment, and incorporated businesses that were what most of my friends from farming families experienced as kids. I think of this during autumn when so many living systems become dormant in the temperate and Northern latitudes. Some will come to life again in the spring, and some will not.
The fall is harvest season. There is deep-seated satisfaction about seeing the rewards of spring and summer’s labors gathered, preserved, and stored for the coming winter. Though I now live where trees stay green the year around, I feel the pull of learned ways to harvest and prepare for long winter months. But there is no longer a need to do this, so I sit on the patio, warm breezes and hummingbirds keep me company and I ponder other times and the old ways that live on only in my memory. Sometimes I feel like the last passenger pigeon must have felt one hundred years ago.