That night’s rain and dew made the soil cry teardrops beaded on the May morning’s grass. Thick fog that had hidden in the night’s darkness was exposed by the morning light diffused by the fog on the eastern horizon.
No tractors disc harrows, grain drills or corn planters would massage the northern Driftless Area’s hillside farmland that day. There would be no din that’s the rumbling of trucks hauling fertilizers and herbicides.
There would be no smell of freshly cut grass that day, because no lawns would be mowed under such conditions; the tulips and dandelions would hold their petals closed in wait for the sun to find its way through the fog.
School playgrounds likely would be empty of joy, their normally enthusiastic clientele remaining within indoor climes with warmth and dryness the outside air wasn’t providing.
Even nature’s voices were muted by the blanket draped low between the soil and the sky – songbirds ever-present and recently arrived not finding the notes to brighten the other creatures’ spirits.
There was no spring morning bounding-for-joy prance in the calves’ legs as they rose to suckle their dams in the pasture, their approaches instead dutiful strides.
The air, that blanket of fog and haze pulled over us from Osseo to Trempealeau, seemed to be closing in to stifle and suffocate all that’s May.
But then, something seemed to change in what the day was bringing to me as I crossed the farmyard and entered the creaky old house here at our Eimon Homestead farm. The feeling of being stifled and suffocated shifted to the feeling of being lovingly hugged.
It wasn’t one of those hugs that old friends give after long separations, those that threaten to break ribs and most often include hands pounding on backs; it wasn’t that sort of head-spinning hug of passion that entangles lovers.
The hug I felt was more like that of a mother comforting her young son after he skins a knee; the hug was loving trust passed between a long-married couple.
It was a hug of comfort, telling me all was safe.
The feeling made me smile as I went to my office in the southwest corner of our house, that place where I’ve long felt safe to allow words to pour from my fingers. There, I looked out at the farmyard and at the old willow while contemplating the newly realized feeling of that foggy blanket’s hug – ignoring echoes of my parents’ long-ago admonitions that I shouldn’t think so much about such matters.
I considered how I’d so often been finding such reassurances in this corner of the Driftless Area, whether it be while looking over a lock-and-dam on the Mississippi, sitting beside a spring-fed creek, meeting with folks at the café in Whitehall, snacking on chicken gizzards in Independence, strolling the shore of the mighty Pigeon Pond, getting my hands dirty with a few hay bales or in this ridge’s soil…. Oh, so many times I’ve felt such reassuring hugs from this land and its people, whether it be night, day, cloudy, sunny or – as I’d learned that morning – under the heavy comforter that was a foggy blanket.
My contemplation was broken by a bright flitting around one of the bird feeders near the office’s window. It was a newly returned oriole making the season’s first appearance.
And then, there was another oriole – and another and another and another. An entire little flock of them were making their much-welcomed return to their old summer home.
Moments later, I glanced up to see a hummingbird sitting on one of the feeders we keep on the house’s eaves. Undoubtedly exhausted from such a long migration, he seemed to inhale nectar while the words “welcome home, my little friend” crossed my lips.
By the end of that day, I’d feel the comfort of having our entire Eimon Ridge family all within our farm’s safety. I hoped all felt the place’s and land’s embrace as I was feeling it.
The hug continued and has yet to set me free. There might be times when a spirit might feel the need to be released from a hug but, for me, this hasn’t been among those times.
I needed such an embrace, that of the sort different than those given by those with whom we share the greatest love. The sort of hugs given by this place and its land reach into you and love-spackle any chips and cracks life has left on your heart. Knowing such a slight difference between the warmth of human hugs and the land’s hugs is like knowing the differences between a lover’s hug and a mother’s hug.
Comfort comes in many forms.
It’s taken me longer than it should to realize that, around these parts, warm and comforting hugs of safety are easy to find even within what might seem like the most dreary days. Though not always quick to remember that, I’m certain to find reminders when I look at the comfort it gives wife Dee and all those creatures come home.
— Scott Schultz