I was beginning to worry about my friend, the Ordinary Lady. Circumstances seemed to be getting her down. Whatever line she got into at the checkout counter turned into the "wrong line"; her dishwasher was leaking and would cost $85 to fix; someone had backed into her parked car at the gas station; the rain was frizzing her hair and boring her kid; even her nose wouldn't blow. I suggested she pursue the papers for spiritual uplift or at least evidence that "it could be worse." They were full of the usual murder and mayhem. You need to go away, I told her. Get thee to a farm. Now, I think she's going to be all right. Here is her report:
Saturday afternoon, we went down to the farm. We rode the hay wagon past the newly planted fields to the river. Two scarecrows -- a man and a woman -- stood a lopsided guard over the green wheat and spring oats. We stopped to turn up our noses at the skunk cabbage, got out and went spotting for crayfish hoels, May apples, and arrowwood viburnum. Its straight branches were used for arrows by the Indians who lived here 400 years ago.
There is news to report. This past winter, a beaver moved in to the marsh.
There's a raccoon family living in the hollow of that tree. Impossibly delicate wildflower bluets dot the base of their home; no need to put out the window boxes. Minnows scoot around in the stream. The blueberries have disappeared from the bushes, pilfered by unregenerate birds and deer. One tree has been sliced down the middle by lightning, another hacked in half by the high winds of a tornado. A maple looks like it was riddled by machine gun fire thanks to a "friendly" visit from the yellow-bellied sap sucker.
Over in the barnyard, there are signs of growth. All of the cows are ready to calve. There is still Billy goat with his wizened eyes and flowing beard; we greet him with hands full of corn kernels. That bristly, grunting pig mired in the mud is definitely not ladylike. But Gertie's a nice girl -- her mother was an old devil. The tufted, woolly sheep still nuzzles against a little boy's out-stretched palm. To the pen wriggling with squealing, spotted piglets, the boy announces, "Corn on the cob coming right up!" and flings a few ears to the ground. "See why they're called pigs," says his mother.
That gray and white farm cat licking herself in the late afternoon sun scampers under the stool for a little squirt while Mabel is being milked. The other cows -- solid, docile-looking, complacent -- sit in the barn chewing their cud or hay. "You mean when they grow up as big as they'll get you'll kill them and eat their meat?" a little girl asks the farmhand.
Up in the hayloft, everything is still. The clean haystacks smell like strong tea. Light seeps in through the chinks. A perfect place for farmer's daughters -- or daydreamers -- to spin their flax into gold. Suddenly, the air is split by a small boy's cry. Look! Up in the sky! It's a bird, it's a plane, it's . . . "Superman to the rescue!" he shouts and jumps -- for a moment, flash-frozen in air, his arms reaching toward the high, vaulted ceiling of the barn -- and collapses in giggles on a bed of soft, new hay.
Down in the henhouse, the sign over the door reads "Home Sweet Home." The children thread their way through the clucking, red-crowned hens, searching for brown eggs. The girl gets one that is still warm. We visit the baby animals, pausing to pet the bunnies with pink eyes and pink-tinged inner ears and little, twitching noses -- their soft white fur still feels like angora.
Up over the hill, where a child can roll down without stopping to the wildflower-strewn meadow below, is a panoramic vista: the symmetry of neatly furrowed fields, cows grazing and, beyond, the river. The boy is busy stroking a sleek black horse, long tail rippling in the breeze. The gentle rhythms of the farm hum around me. If I squint into the sunlight, I can just make out the Capitol dome 15 miles to the north.
A word play dances across my mind. There is news to report from the farm. There is nothing new. The hubbub seems very far away.