Treasures of the Land

There was much to do around the farmyard this morning, it being one of those days when the air had enough chill to remind me that it’s January but the sun warming enough to tease me with a spring morning’s comfort.

I’d been out the previous night, gazing into the winter’s stars in wonder of what riches the coming year might bring. Most such clear January nights have brought crisp and deep cold to our rural countryside and my spirit, but that night gave in to allow yesterday’s warmth to continue visiting for a spell.

The morning invited me to the barnyard for a lean against a fencepost to visit with the cattle, them nodding their heads in silent agreement with the weather, the silence interrupted only by an occasional clack of a hoof against a clumped piece of frozen barnyard sod or by the crunch-groan of the cud being ground by a cow’s circling jaw. The cattle and I were getting along fine when I felt the sun starting to gently run its fingers up and down my back, settling onto my shoulders to start a deep massage into muscles knotted by days, months and years of life’s give-and-take.

The cows disappeared onto the other side of my eyelids as I allowed the sun to lure me with its touch. And then, the sun leaned around to my ear and siren-whispered, “take my hand and saunter with me; I’ll show you the land’s treasures.”

My spirit fell prey to the invitation, and together we sauntered along our beloved northern Driftless Area ridge. I wanted to know what more treasure there could be here, me believing the treasure already being in creation allowing this area to be untouched by glaciers. Such breathtaking vistas were given for us to tread upon and gaze down into the coulees below.

“The treasures are great,” the sun whispered again as we strolled shoulder-to-shoulder and arm-around-waist up the ridge’s road. “Look and seek; its wealth will be yours.”

The road’s stones crunched in musical rhythm with each step as my eyes roamed high into the deep azure sky and then down into the treetops. Art was on display all around the land’s winter gallery: in the deciduous trees’ leafless nakedness, the birches’ white brightness contrasted with the darkness of oaks, maples, and walnuts, and against the evergreens’ green hues. Grasses of winter’s brown or still holding onto greenness poked through the smatterings of snow in the woods and fields. Broken corn-stalk reminders of gardens and fields reflected in the morning’s brightness.

And then, there in the oaks I noticed the reflections from the bronze-gold leaves that refuse to let go from their branches through the winter, me seeing a hint of treasure the sun’s siren-whispers invited me to see.

“Is that the treasure?” I asked.

“Some of it,” she whispered. “But there’s more. Much more awaits your eyes.”

I looked more deeply within the trees. Among them, I saw grasses I knew would be bringing new life in the spring; I saw hints of the fallen autumn leaves’ colors that are replenishing the duff’s investment in future growth.

A bird’s flitter in a roadside apple tree caught my eyes, the ice-sweetened apples still hanging from branches providing winter riches in energy for the many birds that would flit their way through cold air to find refuge among the branches.

I felt the sun’s hand moving up and down my back to offer some knowing comfort.

“I think I’ve seen the treasures,” I said.

“Not all of them,” the sun whispered through its warming smile. “There’s more. You must see the land in all ways.”

But what more could there be? And where would I find it? I’d looked high into the sky and then to all the land around me and already seen so many treasures.

Where else could I look?

I sought solace and answers in the rhythmic crunching of the road’s small rocks under my feet. And there, I found the day’s most special treasure.

Trees’ shadows were laddered across the road, providing my feet a lift while I made my way up the steepest of the ridge’s hills. Frost left from the night’s dampened darkness covered the road with white, the sun choosing to allow it to remain for my eyes and spirit to behold.

It was there that I saw the treasure of the previous night’s stars having fallen to the land for me to see – guiding my path with sparkling brightness as I’d never known. No earthly gems created by the land or the creatures of its soil could match the beauty of their treasure.

I followed the path they marked for me until I reached the highway, where human life interrupted nature enough for the treasure to again hide itself. But when I turned around, I saw that the sun would allow me to see the treasure of such value as it guided me back to the farm.

The sun pulled me into its arms and held me closely as I started my saunter toward home, gently pressing its face against my cheeks in sensual warmth. I felt its heart beating against my chest and then work its way into my chest, where it wrapped itself around my heart to hold it in the perfect way.

We loosened our embrace as I arrived at the farm, the sun’s hand tickling my palm as I stepped into the buildings’ shadows.

“I’ll be here, waiting to show you more treasures,” the sun said, leaving its warm kisses on my cheeks.

Some might say the siren sun’s offer of treasure was empty – that it showed me no treasure of real value and which couldn’t feed us, house us or warm us. But those riches fill me in ways that go beyond any material form.

The treasures I found while sauntering with the sun filled my spirit in ways only those who’ve known the soil can understand. Such treasures have been on this ridge since the beginning of time, and fortunate are those who understand the richness in finding them.

— Scott Schultz

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