Land Symphony No. 1

A somewhat strange work schedule had me awake well before the sun rose on that Sunday morning in early May.

Though my schedule often has me working that time of the day, the work doesn’t normally allow me to stop and appreciate the seasons’ early mornings as I should. We should, after all, take every opportunity to pay homage to the land and all life that’s with it.

That Sunday morning, I filled a mug of coffee and went out for a seat on one of the resident Leopold benches. The countryside around our farm was still, but for a bit of breeze that would splash sounds of imagined seas through the budding leaves on the trees in the woodlots and around our farmyard. A trusting cottontail rabbit ignored my presence and then casually departed as I took my seat on the bench.

And then, a moment of hushed air followed by the songs of the peepers in our valley’s creek, and then the song of a robin and then of another robin ad then another. A cardinal joined in, followed by a mourning dove and then a wren.

Their songs built a mixed cacophony of the orchestra warming up for the symphony to greet morning. A purple grackle’s “caack-caack-caack” was the conductor’s baton tapped on the land’s music stand; the music slipped into a more organized prelude.

The curtain cracked open the slightest to the east horizon, a dull glow of light bringing hope of a show worthy of standing ovations and unending encores.

The slight breeze rejoined the performance, it carrying a beautifully subtle fragrance I knew the land was sending to calm my spirit: A neighbor had planted corn in a field across from our farm, planter-coulters having split the soil ever-so-slightly to allow perfectly measured seeds into the dirt. I’d also started work in one of our gardens the previous evening; together, they gave me the meant calm.

I closed my eyes for a few moments to listen to the symphony’s slowed second movement and to inhale the earthy perfume in the air. My mind drifted to the earliest days when I’d known such a moment – that while on a tractor pulling a three-bottom mouldboard plow through sod at our family’s old Veefkind farm, the tight soil cracking open under the old Farmall’s groans and emitting a burst of its perfume as I sat quarter-turned on that tractor’s seat.

That latest Sunday’s perfume-soil was much gentler than the beauty of those earlier times, but it reminded me how I needed to be in the theater to be part of the morning’s performance.

The light was turning the east horizon grapefruit golden as the bird-and-land symphony turned to its minuet movement, and all around me – the branches, the birds, the grass and the water on the creek in the valley below joined in dance. My pulse picked up and the pace of the rising light quickened in dance with the morning song.

And then, the symphony’s sonata with the sun having fully risen and all senses – that of mine, the land, the sky, the water, the plants and the sky – having fully opened to the day.

I took in the day’s new brightness over the small swirl of steam rising from what was left of my coffee, and then rose to track through the dew-glistened grass to check on the garden I’d tilled the previous night. My hand reflexively reached to the soil and I gathered some in my hand.

The hand rose close to my face, and I inhaled its perfume before tossing it back onto the garden.

The performance had been perfect for what I needed on that Sunday morning. The performance again helped the land’s spirit land fully onto my soul.

I stopped at our farmhouse’s front door and reflected a bit before reaching to open it. In that moment, I scolded myself for not having remembered to partake more often in such morning symphonies.

That will change, I admonished. The land won’t let me forget.

Bravo, dear land. Bravo.

— Scott Schultz


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