catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 11, Num 7 :: 2012.03.30 — 2012.04.12


A crop of kids

“Mom, what can I do for this assignment?”

For my two middle school age children, this question is the new version of, “What’s for dinner?”  Now don’t get me wrong, I love that they go to a school with vision and passion.  I love that their teachers push them hard, that they read Newsweek articles about Joel Salatin, that when I read them Wendell Berry’s “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer’s Liberation Front” as a possible poem for this latest assignment they both recognized it from class.

“Hey, Mr. Wilson read us that, or he quoted it, I don’t know? But I’ve heard it before.”

They don’t remember that I read it to them as toddlers.  Actually I was reading it to myself, out loud.  In truth, I shouted it out as a way of finding meaning in those difficult, dark days my friend Steve Garber calls the “Valley of the diapers.”  Four kids in five-and-a-half years is a tough row to hoe, but my, my is the garden bearing fruit now: four kids who ask questions, long for answers, value justice, fight with each other and then gang up on me to wrangle in an extra 20 minutes of screen time.  14, 12, 10, 8 like steps on a stair, boy , girl, girl, boy.  They are the best thing we ever grew, even surpassing the unexpectedly gorgeous, mouth-wateringly wonderful cantaloupes we cultivated on a steep hillside front yard here in Pittsburgh a decade ago. 

These children are growing into future “mad farmers,” thanks be to God.  If you haven’t read the poem, read it.  I actually recommend reading everything by Wendell Berry.  I had the privilege of hearing him read some of his work here at the Carnegie when he received the Charity Randall award.  A group of us went to hear him, many of us pretty star-struck to be within spitting distance of our hero.  (I am certain that Mr. Berry would not approve of our fawning, but how can we help ourselves?)  Anyway, we sat raptly, enjoying each self-deprecatingly delightful word.  At the end, a friend even snatched his unopened bottled water from the podium as a memento, not holy water, but something durn near close.  We Berry-wannabes — all of us valuing our elder, valuing faith and truth delivered straight between the eyes — somehow want to change the world by doing some small, faithful thing well.

So I am growing children.  I am remembering that these days are rushing by and that this season will not last.  When they were all small and no one could tie his own shoes, and every snow storm was a torture of snow suit, boots, mittens, “I gotta go the bathroom!”…I didn’t believe it would ever end, but it has, it’s over — no diapers, no training potties, no booster seats, all done and gone, my friends.  I am now faced (and I mean they are looking me square in the eyes) with these proto-people — people who are beginning to think and speak independently, to see the world unveiled in all its difficult, beautiful, awful glory and I begin to see the fruit of a thousand little efforts by my husband and me.  “Be kind, don’t fight, share, always wait for your sister, look at me when I am speaking to you…” Day in and day out, weeding those little lives, fertilizing those minds (with Wendell, and C.S. and so on), loving them without respite, and we will never see all the results.  They will continue to challenge us and change us, and I hope grow beyond us.

So I say along with all the other mad farmers, and with credit to Mr. Berry,

Our main crop is the forest
that we did not plant,
that we will not live to harvest…
We will practice resurrection!


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