A November Story
The early dawn is casting a rosy veil across the sky,
and golden light is painting the cottonwoods.
Winter has arrived in Sabinal, New Mexico
and I am here with my sister Beth on her small farm.
Making my way through the field to greet the chickens, my cheeks tingle with the bite of frost, the crisp smell of dew & earth awakens all my senses. Releasing the hens from their night's roost, I understand why one might keep so
many chickens: every morning they burst out,
skipping like innocent children,
a spontaneous morning parade
to lift the spirit.
If you look closely in the center of this photo,
out the window you'll spot a baby chick, only a few days old. She escaped from the brood and we know that a baby chick rarely survives without the warmth of siblings, mother, water, and food. And now it is freezing at night.
But there she is, she shows up feeding alongside the sparrows, then quickly disappears beneath the sagebrush. Each day we look for her, so happy to see she is still alive.
Back at the field, the seventy-five hens are gathering
to scratch at the morning meal and there is
a din of contentment and clucking.
The neighbor's Chevy is warming up
on this frosty morning, the engine roaring.
Even then, my sister suddenly points high,
high in the sky,
her head tipped up
and heart open wide:
she can hear them,
the sandhill cranes
in all their magnificent glory
She hears them.
To my city ears, their cry is muffled
by chickens and engine.
Her ears, however, finely tuned,
have been waiting all year for their return.
I think, "what is meditation, what is mindfulness?"
if not this, her keen attention
to the annual return of the sandhill cranes,
calling to us with the assurance that life goes on.
Life on the little farm is beautiful - and hard.
And right now it's a one-woman farm.
We tend to idealize country life,
and focus on its pleasures -
the peace, the quiet, the fresh eggs,
the gardens and bees and honey,
the numerous creatures and gifts of the earth,
the labor that satisfies -
But then, as with all of us, there are surprises:
the truck needs a new transmission,
Finn needs the vet, the lettuce patches
beg constantly for weeding and water,
and now, how does one cure sweet potatoes?
The old adobe walls are cracking and need repair,
a chicken died today.
The list is long for making candles, soap
and all the tasks for sustaining the farm and life.
Later in the day we look outside
for the baby chick. The clouds are heavy this morning.
We scatter some more cracked corn on the ground.
Perhaps when the sun warms the earth
she will emerge from beneath the sagebrush
where we suspect she is taking shelter.
We wait. We watch for her.
* * * * *
After a few days the time comes to leave,
and there's a tightness in my throat,
the leaving, the wishing
I could do more to help her.
We turn onto the country road
in opposite directions.
She heads toward the elementary school
where she teaches music.
I turn back toward the airport.
A sparrow hawk flies overhead.
What is the hardest thing?
It is the simply being human.
Finding a way into self-forgiveness.
Now I have returned home to tend to my shop.
And the little chick?
I know that she is there somewhere,
that brave baby chick.
She is there in my sister.
She will always be there
in my strong, warrior-sister,
who has weathered the storms of sorrow,
and the cloudiness of grief -
who sings from her heart,
cares deeply for the land,
and who always reaches out to others
with a generous hand.
She is an anchor for her children,
an anchoress in this country community.
I pray for her,
I pray for all of us
that in our humanity
we may find ways
to simply love ourselves
and one another.
- Mary 11/5/15
* * * * *
A customer favorite for many years, this fragrant healing balm is made by Beth at the farm. I brought home a new batch. Anoint your forehead each morning and breathe in gratitude for another new day. Anoint another for healing, for solace.
The little rosewood container is reminiscent of Mary Magdalene's jar, one of the most common attributes of the Magdalene in art. It is the symbol of the eternal feminine, the container of both life and death, both the source of healing and the recognition of our human frailty. It is the vessel of feminine consciousness, of the interior self where one encounters the sacred as silent mystery. The "jar" is the receptacle of the spiritual life, the innermost sanctuary of the heart full of faith and charity.
Sagrada also stocks Beth's beeswax tapers,
"blue corn" candles, and handmade soap.