The Red Ranger

She’s not much to look at on the outside; bare bones on the inside; stick shift on the floor; no cruise control; no heated seats; no automatic nothing. On her tail gate are two bumper stickers. I’M A VIETNAM VETERAN and NO FARMERS. NO FOOD. What she lacks in appearance appeal is made up in the heart that pounds under her hood.

“She” is a red 1995 Ford Ranger, Reggie White Signature Edition, complete with floor mats bearing the Green Bay Packer “G” emblem. Reggie White played defensive end for the Green Bay Packers football team in the early 90’s. He helped the team win Super Bowl XXI with a game-ending sack. Green Bay, Wisconsin raised his standing in the community to sainthood after that.

I’m borrowing her from my brother Eddie while my daughter is home from college during winter break. She was fortunate to have the opportunity to earn money during her time off but we unfortunately are short on vehicles. Thanks to my brother’s generosity purchasing another vehicle can now be put off until spring.

On the first morning behind the wheel, I spilled most of the coffee in my mug trying to find the cup holder. Its awkward position almost completely under the dash and behind the stick shift on the floor created the dilemma. No worries. When I tried to wipe it up I couldn’t tell where the coffee spilled. I found it’s quite difficult to drink coffee driving a manual transmission anyhow. Every time I reach for a sip it seems I have to shift.

Adjectives to describe the complex interior aromas cover a wide range of essences. The prominent odor emanates from the three-inch long, one-inch round cigar stub balanced on the edge of the ashtray. I don’t think they put those in vehicles anymore. Do they? I love the scents that swirl around inside an old pickup. The Little Tree air freshener dangling from the rear-view mirror is long past its freshening stage. I was a little sad. I wondered what Black Ice X-tra Strength smelled like. My brain is constantly deciphering the potpourri of airborne wonders wafting past my nose. One deep breath in and all those cherished childhood memories bumping around with my Dad in his pickup truck were revived.

A two-inch round chip in the windshield with an uncanny likeness to a bullet hole, lines up squarely between my eyes. Highway speeds give me a palpable feeling of vulnerability as my body slowly slouches down into the well-worn hollow of the seat on the driver’s side. Seventy mph seems like I’m exceeding her engine boundaries so I keep her five miles under the speed limit. Traffic passes me; make that everyone in the slow lane behind me, with an aggressive attitude. I notice their vehicles roll slightly from side to side from the sharp steering maneuver to cut in and out of the lanes at Nascar speeds. “How rude of them,” I think to myself. With a quick glance from the passing lane they think they know where the Red Ranger and I stand in the world. I take her daily doses of humility to heart.

I’m going to genuinely miss driving her when Sophie goes back to college at the end of the month. I didn’t expect the driving experience to be so fun. Her energy was more zoom zoom then chitty chitty bang bang. She’s slowed me down and sharpened an awareness with my surroundings. Every shift in our lives, up or down, is impeccably timed to slow us down or speed us up. On the winding road of life freewill may be doing the steering but a higher power is working the clutch and stick shift. Getting us where we need to be. When we need to be there. We are all vehicles of Spirit.

Beginning Fields

An excerpt from Sweet Wisdoms….

Tractor fumes mingle with the sweet scent of freshly turned hay. The sickle cut close to the earth. Tall proud stems and blades laid and dried by the breath of the sun. A steady parade of bulging squares marched out of the baler to be stacked in an orderly fashion on the hayrack, and following each, a cough of fine chafe that stuck to beads of sweat draped across my brow. Bald fields void of lush green begin again.

When the daylight is extinguished I’ll rest, my forearms speckled with tiny cuts from the stems of hay, my fingers swollen from plucking taut twine. To know that this labor keeps hunger from winter’s long reach and squeezes the throat of drought gives my soul temporary satisfaction.

Next summer, I’ll begin again like green fields.

Summer’s Dream

My summer dream is here! The air is heavy with heat, the sun high and still. Endless ribbons of golden light flow through the cloudless sky. In the garden, the green promise of this season’s abundance dangles from every vine and stem.  An early morning surprise greeted me in the blueberry patch. I popped the plumb blue nuggets in my mouth, bursting the sweet pleasure between my tongue and cheek. Maybe tomorrow a few will make it beyond the patch boundaries to the house—maybe.

Having the first crop of hay tucked away in a quiet corner of the shed is the crowning achievement of my hot weather farm duties. Summer’s green fills the pockets of my heart with gratitude and contentment. It’s a priceless feeling of freedom, knowing you have enough.

This time of sun feeds more than the body. I’ll stow away the memories of these soft days to warm my spirit when the landscape turns hard and cold. Summer unfolds life before us, constantly and gracefully, each day a birth of possibility. The dream she has for us is to release our unlimited potential and prosper. May summer’s dream awaken and grow within you.

Manure Meditations

Caring for farm animals means you are stuck in a perpetual poop cycle. For the most part, what goes in one end comes out the other. I’ve done my share of pitching and piling in this life. The tedious task effortlessly takes my quieted mind into a manure meditation.

We don’t give a second thought to the negative connotations we associate with various expressions for crap but I hope I can make you question that perception. After much poop pondering, I now look at the mound of manure accumulated over the long winter and see it as a pile of potential. Once composted, the nutrient rich organic matter will be worth more to me than money in the bank.

In nature there is no want beyond what is needed. Nothing is wasted. In one way or another, the sustenance taken from the earth is eventually returned to her. Single stream recycling at it’s finest. I doubt Creator wants us to feel or think any part of our life is wasted either. Those crappy (less than desirable experiences) have value. If we do the dirty work of decomposing the drama, we enrich our understanding on how to transform the trauma. It’s a way to build long term emotional resiliency. To understand those deep-rooted feelings that no longer serve our highest good. We want next seasons seeds to fall on good ground.

Through the process of integration (composting) we gain a wealth of meaning from the negativity coming into our life. It’s how we grow our soul; not away, but from those experiences that have depleted us. Rich fertile soul soil to cultivate a positive perspective.

In a manner of speaking, it matters how you look at sh*t.

Barn Raised

The weathered grey skeleton stood proud against the farm country’s bluebird sky. The iconic brilliant barn red painted boards stripped nearly bare of color by the hands of time. The crumbling fieldstone foundation slowly being consumed by a Virginia Creeper Vine, a lone piece of rusted bent tin on the roof flapping in the wind like a lover’s perfunctory wave goodbye. The barn’s door left open for a generation, hangs by a single hinge at the top, I love the stories old barns tell. They hold on to their majestic beauty and charm to the bitter end. Age comes to them with dignity and pride.

I can say with pride and privilege that I was barn raised. Growing up on a dairy farm means half your childhood is spent in a barn. Created inside a barn is a world of its own making. You sense the unity of family, the separation of seasons and the guidance of spirituality, a universe of swirling scents punctuated by the sharp freshness of clear thoughts. Chores become a meditation.

The rich textures of rural life are vanishing along with the old wooden barns. Farming and barns have evolved with technological advances. There is a haunting sadness that one day they will all disappear, taking their sacred stories with them.  Oh how I wish barn boards could not only talk but write.

The barn of my childhood has been repurposed several times and its breath no longer smells of those scents from a past I remember, when cows called the stalls home and playful bawls of calves echoed through the center aisle. Still the feeling of protection and shelter lingers. Being barn raised build my body timber strong, taught me family included the livestock, the weather, the soil and the seed. The old barn was my church, my dance hall and my sanctuary. You can take the girl off the farm, but you can’t take the farm out of her blood or the barn out of a heart. 

“Man, despite his artistic pretensions, his sophistication and many accomplishments, owes the fact of his existence to a six-inch layer of topsoil and the fact that it rains.” ~John Jeavons