Looking around, the skyline changes


“Why do we love to gaze on the blue canopy of the summer sky, the many-colored flowers of the spring, the beautiful faces of innocent children? Why do we love to listen to the symphony of the orchestra, the music of the mountain wind playing with the pine trees, the mighty voice of lonely waterfalls?
…Because the same self which is in the color of the sky and the sea, in the fragrance of the flowers, and in the rhythm of poetry, is also in our hearts. There are many things, many forms, many names – but one life.”
– Sri Ananda Acharya, 1917

My friend Wendy once told me that there was nothing quite like gazing on the big, blue sky of Montana.
“Coming back here, our sky seems small. I guess you have to see it to understand why they call it Big Sky country.”
We made big plans to travel out there someday because she wanted me to see it for myself. All my life, I have been fascinated by the sky. The vibrant, clear-blue sky of summer, the steel gray skies of autumnal beauty with huge, white, dramatic clouds can cause me to stop in my tracks and just take it all in with gratitude.
Look up. My children will tell you that my whispers have awakened them more than a time or two, inviting them to step outside with me to watch the shooting stars on a clear summer night.
We have always turned it in to a party, complete with sleeping bags and puffy pillows and steaming mugs of hot chocolate. I have always realized that this blessing comes as part of the gift of living in the country.
City dwellers simply cannot see that much of the sky at any given time, as high rises crowd the skyline and night lights choke out the vibrance of the night sky and the show it puts on for free. It is truly an amazing part of Mother Nature’s bounty.
This time of year. I can remember in Octobers past, lying atop a hopper wagon of shelled corn with my sister, making angels in the corn just like kids do in a field of freshly-fallen snow.
We stared straight up at that autumnal sky, feeling like we owned a part of the universe. We could pretend to be anyone, any where, as the world fell away from us, the only sound the hum of the combine as we waited for our dad to finish filling the second hopper wagon.
The scent of that shelled corn is something that stays with a person – there is just nothing quite like the fragrant smell of autumn harvest on a grain farm. The feel of that cool, damp shelled corn is something that stays with a farm kid, too.
A different time. I realize how different my childhood is from my children’s almost every single day, as farm chores taught us so much more than just how to work. It taught us to enjoy the experience of being alive as we waited for the next chore to come along.
There was simply nothing else quite like being the corn hopper kids, our job the easy and enjoyable one of keeping that shelled corn moving down toward the hatch, in to the pit, where the auger would take it up to the drying bin.
As always, we made a game of it. We had learned, from very young on up, how to make work fun.
Here, as everywhere, we are watching farms turn in to housing developments, and I realize I don’t have the power to change the course of any of it.
It is the children of today and of the future that I know will lose out on the experience of farm living, an experience that cannot be measured any more than we can measure Montana’s Big Sky and the experience of standing beneath it.


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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, and three grandchildren.