This is the first 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.
The night office, midnight at the top of the hill on a cold March night. The hour opens on the long silence of deepest night with the taste of snow in the steady wind. The few lights from our kith down in the valley seem more intimate for their distance. Signaling the presence of a modern life alone, they are connected and affirmed by the grid of powerlines humming a feeble supremacy on the far edge of the pasture.
Overhead, in gaps in the cloud curtain, the sharp clarity of winter stars is visible in the night sky. Remote intelligences communicating in a winking semaphore the unwelcome message of humility and insignificance. From my chair, my feet firm on the pasture, I hear behind me what must be a rabbit breaking cover, pursued by my dogs, conveying in their own language a place and hierarchy.
The owls hoot from the 20-acre wood beyond me a song of plausible deniability as the rabbit escapes under a fence and back to ground. On a nearby ridge, coyotes yip a prayer for sustenance. The hens squawk a nervous call and response, moving around on their roost, a sound of apprehension carried up the hill to my ears. The world in acts, some played and some still being written, surrounds in this hour. The challenge comes in a quiet listening beyond my own thoughts.
I break the hour and pick up my chair and return down the hill. My boots make small crackling sounds on the frozen ground, and a few swirling snowflakes accompany me with a delicate dance. Each step brings me closer to home and further away from my reverie.
A last glance skyward, before I enter the house, finds the semaphore code broken as the clouds shutter the sky. The world is once again close in and yet remote, both knowable and unknown. The link now only a thread, I open the door.