It is a morning in September. The sun won't be up for a while, and the house is quiet, save for the burbling of the coffee maker. The kitchen windows are open, and a light, cool breeze sifts in. Cool enough for a hoodie. It is my favorite time of day in my favorite time of year. The air is so pleasant after the summer's heat.
As I walk past the window, farm dog Winnie sees me and lifts her head. I hear her tail thump against the deck where she lay just outside. Winnie's about ten years old, and starting to show signs of age. I hate to see that; a farmer spends a lot of time with his dog. There've been days she's been my best friend.
It's tough being a farm dog. Winnie's got a shed to go into with blankets. But Minnesota winters wear any creature down, and another one of those is coming around. As she lifts herself up to greet me, I can almost hear her bones creaking. I can relate this morning. I've been walking soybean fields for a part-time job I have, and my feet and legs reminded me of that when I pulled them over the side of the bed.
A little achy, but all in all it's a beautiful early morn. I start to think it's just about a perfect one. Things seem good for Pam and me right now. The kids are all in a pretty good place. The oldest has just started her career. The middle one is loving college with a world of possibilities in front of her. The youngest is settling into school and a new job in town. I said to Pam the other day, all the heavy lifting of parenting is done. Now it's prayer, moral support, and help with tuition.
The stress in my life is the fields I'm supposed to inspect at the same time that I want to harvest corn. The only solution is a series of 48 hour days. But even the urgency of that seems far away as I listen to the coffee and the dog's tail. The moment's perfect, and I want to hang on to it.
I can't, though. Every moment in our lives is sand slipping through our fingers. This moment will not last. I wonder about Winnie getting through the winter. This sand is slipping, and change will come. Perhaps there's better moments out there, perhaps not.
As I sit down at the table with my coffee and yesterday's paper under the kitchen light, a sadness comes to me. I start to think about Janice Guldan. I bet she loved similar moments. Maybe her favorite days came in spring when all the seedlings were taking root. Maybe her favorite days were in the fall like this one.
I didn't know Janice well, but I have several friends that were her friends. She was one of those people I just figured we would sit down at a wedding or church dinner someday and compare notes on life.
Last March, Janice sent me a short e-mail about these efforts. It said, "Denny & I enjoy your Weeds column and yesterday's really hit the nail on the head. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Janice." Ironically, that column was about health care and its costs. I replied to Janice, thanking her. And I made a mental note to talk to her about that topic when I ran into her.
But I never got to have that talk. I said ironically, because Janice was diagnosed with cancer in July and passed away on September 7th.
Janice and Denny run a vegetable farm. While that is different than our row crop farm, there is much that all farmers share. From what I know of Janice, we also shared a commitment to a community and a school and a faith. It was a different community and school, but the same faith.
From the stories I've heard of Janice, she touched those around her in a thousand little ways. Being a good wife, mother, and friend is not that much different than being a good farmer. They are seldom called to grand acts that bring attention. Rather, they are called each day and each season to go back out there and do the best they can. You are only a good farmer, or a good friend, over a period of time. You have to do the work.
That note she sent me was one of her thousand little ways. It was also a reminder to me how a tiny effort can bless someone.
I thought about Janice as I sat at the table on my perfect morning. Part of me knows that it is perfect where Janice is now. But part of me wishes she could have had more mornings at her kitchen table. As I sit there, I want there to be more for me, more with Winnie thumping her tail out on the deck. How many more? I don't know, I just know I want more. We are like little children in that way. "How much do you want?" "I don't knowmore!"
Of course, we are children, children of a God who loves us even more than I love my son who will soon be waking for school. Even more than I love my wife who will be coming down the steps in a while. He gives us these glorious mornings. We just don't know how many.