Dawn is an active office, a time for movement and chores, a time when reflection and observation are often drunk on the go, when dark gives way to light and to shadows. Dawn begins the dutiful time of day, when the role of husbanding demands an attentive service. It is a time of rivers.
The back door shuts, a noise, carried to the barnyard as a signal to the ram. He rises and the bell around his neck wakens the flock. They stand and gather together with expectant murmuring, awaiting my arrival. An open gate, a shaken bucket of feed, and the river runs forward, eddies around my legs, erodes my stability, before flooding into the fresh grass: a flock experiencing the full pleasure of an early spring morning. The chickens mirror in lesser volume the actions of their sheep sisters. They stream out of the coop and into the sunlight, bugs and scratch high on their list of priorities.
Below the farm, down the hill at the road, the world of man has begun to reassert a misshapen dominance. A rising water at flood stage, threatening to overwhelm, the road is quickly engorged by the tributaries of commuters in cars and trucks flowing into its main channel. Among them, a school bus moves in and out of the road current, accumulating children, eventually depositing them like a debris field after a storm, to be trained in the finer points of boredom and disengagement.
After an hour or two, the morning flood will subside to a trickle before the mystery reverses itself in late afternoon. In the meantime, my path is a well-trodden one of scheduled rituals, starting with the giving of first food then water to all who need it. I end the dawn office leaning over the paddock fence, watching with pleasure as the pigs enjoy — as only pigs do — their early morning breakfast. A pause in my activities, a quiet few minutes to review the day to come.
I turn from those in my care now fed, the initial flow of morning chores observed, and return to the house for my own breakfast. Overhead, the fine blue sky is now streaked with half a dozen contrails, sad evidence of our misplaced search for wonderment.
Reading this weekend: Wendell Berry and the Given Life, by Ragan Sutterfield
This is another in an eight-part series entitled a Farm Breviary. A breviary is a printed liturgy of prayers. Although not a particularly religious man, I am drawn to the idea of a meditative life. So I purloined the breviary idea to put some order on a series of observant posts. For me, I do like the idea of stopping work for periods of reflection; a beneficial idea regardless of one’s religious or philosophical inclinations.