Letter October 2000
As a teenager I
used to do seasonal work on local farms in the West Country.
In the days before "pick your own" I picked them for you,
filling great big punnets of plump Somerset strawberries which made their ways
to local tea rooms for the rapturous consumption of tourists.
Later in the season the work was pulling up the cloches - my least
favourite job of all time I think. I
always seemed surrounded by bullying wasps drunk on the fermenting leftovers of
that was the worst, then haymaking was the best. My job was going into the field that had been cut and bailed,
loading the trailer with a partner, taking it back to the farm and stacking the
barn. The days were long, and hot
(aren't all the summers of your childhood?) and however many bottles of squash
we took we were always thirsty. I'd
come home with blistered hands and aching shoulders from throwing the bales to
the top of the stack with the pitchfork. My
favourite bit though was sitting on top of an immense wobbly pile of hay as the
trailer made its way to the barn. They
were moments of great peacefulness, looking out over the Somerset levels as the
tractor slowly made its way along the lanes.
went to Church in those days. I
wish I had. It would have completed
the circle somehow, to acknowledge the incredible fruitfulness of the earth as a
gift from God. I think I felt in my
heart that sense of wonder and thankfulness, sat atop the trailer cross-legged,
looking dreamily across hedgerows into stubbly fields.
I wasn't sure if there was a God out there, but at times like that it
seemed there just might be, and that He'd really made quite a good job of His
years, even the years since my own childhood, the harvest has changed quite a
bit. Huge circular bales of
black-bagged hay now sit in the fields around us, and health and safety would
have a fit at my acrobatics on top of a trailer. Other things haven't changed, it's still hard work!
work in the harvest anymore, but I do lead the Harvest Thanksgivings.
I hope in some way that if Jeff-from-25-years-ago came along he would
find what he was looking for: Somewhere to celebrate his hard work, and a chance
to express wonder at the incredible fruitfulness of our rich earth.
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