Monday, February 28, 2022

The other day I was talking to a dear friend about what it is like this time of year on the farm, or rather, what I am afraid it could be like. When I was a teacher, the first day of school was so distinctly different from any other day. I prepared for weeks ahead of time, but then there was a date on which the halls filled and we rushed into a new year. It so distinctly held the makings of a new beginning.

Farming isn’t quite like that, winter projects bleed gradually into the sudden business of Spring, which flows unaware into the absurd and seemingly constant rush of Summer. I was lamenting to my friend that I am worried that one day in August I will look up from the chaos and realize that I’ve been treading water all season, my head barely above the surface.

She had a fabulous suggestion to host a birthday party for Hidden Penny Farm, a distinct day each year that marks the birth of a new farming season. In a way it feels redundant because we already have the equinoxes and the solstices, distinct reminders throughout the year to acknowledge the change of season. However, in an effort to be evermore intentional and focused this season, I am searching for a marker of the beginning that is unique to Hidden Penny. And so, we celebrated the third birthday of Hidden Penny Farm this February.

This birthday is an intentional pause of recognition among the ever progressing momentum of the seasons. There is no way to stop time, but there is a way to mark its passing, and in turn perhaps slow down our perception of it, and give ourselves the time to soak up the most meaning.

On the third birthday of Hidden Penny, what a joy to reflect on all that has changed, and how I have changed because of it. As the owner of a new business, I am forced everyday to make decisions that reflect what I value, and so I must know what it is I hold most important. The farm has evolved to reflect my passionate and gentle land stewardship, my desire to preserve farmland in our region, my commitment to our local community of farmers, and our community of eaters. I care more about this town and its ability to sustainably foster the livelihoods of all people. I have a renewed love for seed sovereignty and what it looks like to empower people to grow their own food and take ownership of their health. I am more aware of how the health of a community is intrinsically linked to the health of its land and the decisions we make to protect and tend to it. Above all, I am aware of the deep joy that comes from doing what I love every day.

I’d also like to pay homage to the beginning of the season by recognizing some other markers of change. We have recently emerged from the Persephone Period, the time of year when we receive less than 10 hours of daylight each day. As daylight increases we begin to see growth again. I am witness to it as I watch our fall planted cover crop begin to put on lush green growth. Since moving into our home three years ago, I’ve begun to recognize the change in shadows across our walls as a sign of the seasons. We have a handful of bottles that line a window in our kitchen, when their shadows are cast into our hallway around 9 in the morning, I feel the stirrings of Spring. Along those lines, when I can again see the grime on the windows that was previously hidden by winter’s darkness, I know that the daylight of Spring is returning. Perhaps this is why “spring cleaning” falls when it does!

And finally, the undeniable significance of any beginning, whether is it a farming season, or the first day of school! We are often quite afraid of beginnings and the unknown that they may hold, perhaps because they can feel out of our control. It seems that beginnings often go one of two ways: we are either thrust, unaware, into a newness that we never imagined, or we sit and perseverate on something new for so long, that we create our own fear before we even embark! I want to acknowledge that there actually is a comfort in beginnings. If you have brought yourself this far, trust that each beginning holds what is next and right for you. One of my favorite poets, John O’Donohue says, “Beginnings often frighten us because they seem like lonely voyages into the unknown. Yet, in trust, no beginning is empty or isolated. We seem to think that beginning is setting out from a lonely point along some line of direction into the unknown. This is not the case. Shelter and energy come alive when a beginning is embraced.”

And so, at the beginning of this season, on this third birthday of Hidden Penny Farm, I would like to take a moment to embrace this specific beginning. To move forward into the season with curiosity and openness, and to remember that while unknown, there is comfort and shelter in the awareness that we are all always beginning again.

For a New Beginning

John O’Donahue

In out-of-the-way places of the heart,
Where your thoughts never think to wander,
This beginning has been quietly forming,
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

For a long time it has watched your desire,
Feeling the emptiness growing inside of you,
Noticing how you willed yourself on,
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the gray promises of that sameness whispered,
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,
Wondered would you always live like this.

Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plentitude opening before you.

Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life’s desire.

Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.