If I had a blog, today I would write about making hay. On my way home this afternoon, I passed two big pickups, stacked high with beautiful bales of hay. In an instant I was transported back thirty years, to our first farm and my first summer making hay. Since our family credo was: “Why be practical when you can do something the hard way,” we didn’t use trucks and tractors to make hay, we used horses. Actually, it was exciting to a Laura Ingalls Wilder fan to follow in the footsteps of my heroine. It was hard, hard work, but what comes to mind when I look back is not the sweat, the aching legs and back, or the long hours; what comes to mind is beauty.
I remember those early summer mornings, going out to the barn at sunrise, helping Dad harness our Suffolk draft horses. All Suffolks are chestnut in color and in the summer, their coats shone like copper. I would groom one of the mares, inhaling the pungent fragrance of horses and sweet-feed. The leather harness was too heavy for me to lift onto the horses’ tall backs, but I loved the way the worn leather smelled and the sound of the trace-chains jangling like bells calling me to chapel. As we drove the girls out of the barn and hitched them to the mowers, the sun was just touching the dewy grass on the High Downs and even at the tender age of thirteen, I knew this was a sacred moment, one I needed to keep with me, to give me strength in the years that lay ahead.
J.M, Barrie, the author of Peter Pan, wrote “God gave us memories that we might have roses in December,” and my memories of those soft summer days are just that. When I call to mind the light, the fragrance, the color of the air and the kinship with my horses, I am there. I am able to live in those rarefied moments no matter how cold the weather of my life may be. Memory is a gift we often take for granted. Our lives get so busy we forget to look around and make note of what’s going on around us. Those things, the song of the wood-thrush as sunrise,, the sound of the wind in the trees, the tiny frog sitting quietly on the porch, are the sustenance our souls need. If we’ve denied ourselves these simple gifts, we will find ourselves without resources when the rainy days come. So, we must resolve to follow the advice of 14th century writer John Heywood: “Whan the sunne shinth make hay. Whiche is to say. Take time whan time cometh, lest time steale away.”