One of the skills that I've begun to learn since I came to the farm, is pruning fruit trees. I know only the most rudimentary principles of pruning, and spend at least as much time being perplexed about what my next cut should be, as I spend in the actual work. Yet already it has become one of my favorite springtime chores.
It's a slow, thoughtful, deliberate job, just right for a day when the sunshine is warm and the breeze gentle. As I work, wielding my clippers and handsaw with a mixture of trepidation and satisfaction, I think what a timeless job it is. My New England predecessors have been doing the same job, with the same tools, for the last century or two. Certainly my grandfather, who planted these trees, has often enjoyed a warm spring day in the same way. They nurtured trees that would outlive them, looking forward to the day when their grandchildren could enjoy the fruit.
And here I am, fingering the rough bark to see which wood is dead, standing back with my head on one side to see if I've missed any tall sucker shoots, and balancing on the top rung of the ladder with the exciting knowledge that I'm specifically disobeying the sticker on the ladder that says "Not a step". But more than that, I'm thinking what a magnificent privilege has been given me to spend a couple hours in something that's so purely delightful.
The air is very still, and that is one of the most beautiful things. I've come to appreciate the silence of nature in a new way. The alarms and clamor that surround me at work are far away now. No voice, however beloved, breaks in upon my resting neurons to cause ripples of thought and perplexity. The only thoughts are those that have been waiting for silence in order to surface, thoughts arising from a full heart and happy mind.
And yet it is not completely silent. For, like my mind with its pleasant thoughts waiting to be enjoyed in silence, nature has a music that is not heard until everything else is still. Here and there birds twitter sociably, and water trickles gently out of the pond. If I listen, I can hear the muffled sounds of my feet on the grass, the neat slicing of my clippers, and even my own quiet breathing.
No one enjoys lying down to rest like the one who has worked hard all day, and can feel each knotted muscle relaxing one by one. In the same way, I enjoy the leisurely, useful hours, feeling each part of my person soak in the beauty of the day. Just as my ears exult in the silence, my eyes drink in the beauty, my nose enjoys the sweet smells, my skin basks in the warmth of the sunshine, and my whole person delights in this moment of utter rest.
In my future, I may live in a war zone, or dwell in a crowded city or village. Something may take away my physical ability to enjoy the view of the world from the top of a ladder. Perhaps I'll live in a desert or a city, alike in their lack of trees and songbirds. Any number of things could happen to prevent me from pruning trees another springtime. And so I take these hours as a gift to enjoy and remember, moments of pure happiness in which I am strengthened and refreshed for the work that awaits me.