“Religion, philosophy and science have become a part of our developing earth-concern. We discuss the waste and conservation of our natural resources, the need of green areas, farms, breathing spaces, parks, and wilderness. Distressed by urban sprawl and the decay of cities and the alarming decrease of space for solitude which man inherently requires, we begin to understand that responsibility to earth is inseparable from man’s search to know himself.” — Rachel Peden, “Speak to the Earth: pages from a farmwife’s journal” 1960
The frost stretches across the open farmland this morning, so harsh a frost that, on first glance out my upstairs window, it appeared to be snow. The pastures are as placid as a painting, and the sun is rising over the horizon to cast a golden glow over it all.
I fell asleep last night reading Rachel Peden’s writings, an Indiana woman whose lifetime of writing was ending just as mine was about to begin. I have wished so many times that I could have met her.
An Indiana newspaper columnist, Peden wrote from her farm, sharing keen observations that many had not yet given thought, let alone voice. She died in 1975, age 74, and many of her insights seemed far ahead of her time.
Long before we completely grasped the damage we humans had done, Peden writes, “Man, as he now exists, is a menace to earth as it now exists, and if unrestrained in his manipulations, he would probably destroy it all…Fortunately he fails in some efforts and may thereby gain time in which to mature and reach a better understanding of his real relation to earth. Fortunately also, earth is resilient, more durable than any of its components.”
Peden was constantly observing, studying with a sense of wonder, which is what true life-long learning is all about. “Looking closely at the commonplace things of nature that are found on almost any small family farm, one becomes aware of a quality of miracle and infinity about them.”
As I grow older, I realize what a gift it was to be raised on a farm where nature was given its due respect.
When I read Peden’s words, “The effort a farmer makes to understand his domestic animals and the wild ones that share his farm keeps his sense of wonder fresh,” I think of my father, who pointed out nature’s footprints in the snow, identifying each track, and left shelled corn behind for the wild animals to help them get through a brutal Ohio winter. He commanded respect of all living things, and discussed water, land and conservation of natural resources long before it was expressed on the world stage.
This morning, the chill of winter remaining even though the calendar insists that it is springtime, I hear the faint whistle of a song bird. I catch a quick glimpse of a beautiful pair of Cardinals, the color vibrant against the gray landscape.. Nature’s seemingly simple gifts come drifting in, a gentle reminder the world is unfolding as it should.