There are a lot of paths, out here at The Open Gate Farm. We have one that goes to the greenhouse where, during the snows of winter, we can smell the hope of spring. We have one that goes to the main garden where in the promise of spring the lettuce is green and the beets are purple. We have a path that goes past the orchard to the back lane where on sultry summer days loaded blackberry brambles lean out to grab you, begging you to pick their juicy fruit. And we have one that winds past the fir tree down to the chicken and duck house where all year long we go to greet our friends and their new day in the morning and tuck them in and hear their prayers at night. And this is the one worn deeply into the sod after years of care giving.
Everyone’s life is full of paths, full of directions they go over and over again. But we’ve found that we can only go down one path at a time. Oh, we’ve tried to do more than one at a time, but it doesn’t work well. We wind up straddling too great a distance and falling down and, well, it just doesn’t work. It does not get us where we want to get and generally leaves us making a mess of things. We can’t walk to the orchard and to the rhubarb at the same time. It just doesn’t work. Just like the other paths, the paths of life.
We have also found though, that the best paths are the ones which make us happy in the going. That as we head down the ducks and chickens path to the tuck them in, we go past the big fir tree and remember summer picnics in its shade. We go past the rhubarb field and remember the yummy crisps and pies of spring. We walk over the lane and admire the tractor tracks and remember the fun of driving Ol’ Grey that afternoon. Then we go through the chicken’s yard gate with its home made hinges and latch and feel good about our thriftiness in making them. And when we finally get to our quacking and clucking friends in their tight and tidy house, we’re feeling pretty good about life. So are they.
Their day of whuffling through mud puddles or pecking at worms and slugs is over at last. Their tummies are full, their feathers washed off (at least the ducks are), and they are ready for prayers and bed. And they all feel safe, knowing their farmer will be locking the door to keep predators out for the night. It’s a good life, they say, and they are right.
Then when we head back up the dark path to the lights in the house, we know it’s a good life too. It’s a good life because all the paths here at the farm lead to peace. Oh, some lead to projects. The pond needs cleaning out, the woods need some downed trees removed, the gardens need a bit of weeding and the greenhouse is full of plants which must be transplanted. But those are all peaceful tasks.
They say peace is not the absence of tension but the presence of justice. Probably so. But it is also knowing that you are safe, that you are valued, that you matter. Whether it is mattering to your poultry or your partner or your kids or your cow, peace means that you make a difference. A big difference. Peace is going down one path at a time to the place where we can touch a life and know that our touch is life giving. Peace is getting to the end of the path and discovering there is joy in taking care of others. And in the caring for others, we pass some peace along.
At the end of the path to the chickens and ducks, there have never been any chores. At least we haven’t found any. We find a feeder to fill, a water can to top off, a bowl of oyster shell grit to reload, but no chores. We have only found peace and kindness. And that makes us always eager to go down that path, eager to see our friends and hear them tell us about their day in their words. No, we don’t always understand the details, but their contentment is clear and they share it with us.
So on this blustery evening as spring is getting ready to launch the new year of crops and community, we’re hoping you too are finding some paths of peace around your place, that you too are discovering that caring for others does not need to be a chore.
Jon and Elaine, the peaceful farmers, Snickers the generally peaceful dog, Mystery the peacefully sleeping cat, Harley and his peacefully roosting hens, and the good Parson Dudley Brown and his flock of peacefully chatting ducks.