I realize that though I only lived on a farm for about four years total when I was a child, that time took root in me and grew, invading my psyche in the most positive way. Wandering the land, those wonderful endless Canadian prairies, and exploring without many restrictions, nurtured my imagination, allowing it to spread deep and wide. There were so many areas to investigate.
A grove of trees next to our house was an ideal place to play. Light and shadow chased each other, giving me a retreat from the otherwise sun-drenched, wide-open spaces. My playmates, birds and squirrels and other tiny creatures, made their home there. Near the barn, our beehive kept us supplied in honey, and I spent time watching all of this activity.
I also rode calves and sheep inside the pens, imitating the way my stepfather broke horses. And then there were the discoveries I made while roaming the fields: dead animal carcasses crawling with maggots; squashed snakes, their guts streaming from their bodies; baby kittens abandoned in rain barrels that I rescued; lizards whose tails I cut off because I’d heard they would grow back and I wanted to watch the process; animals giving birth. I never felt bored.
Along with the freedom to roam and play at will, I also had responsibilities. If the cows weren’t milked, they would dry up, a good metaphor for what happens if writers don’t have an ongoing relationship with their projects. Similarly, if we didn’t gather the eggs each day, they would rot, leaving a mess in the hen house and also creating waste. They lay eggs; we ate them. They lay more. We were as dependent on the animals as they were on us to feed them and provide a safe environment. Again there’s a parallel between the artist and his/her creation, how interdependent they are.
We also had to tend our garden, the vegetables we canned in the fall our food supply for the winter. The life cycle was visible and insistent, a pattern that could be followed. That realization has stayed with me.
My days have a rhythm of waking, dispensing with the night by making my bed, dressing, and embracing a new day, open to what it brings but also aware of the give and take, the back and forth of household/garden chores, teaching, writing, and other rituals that shape my days.