I touched the earth this weekend, opened it wide to feed my family and nourish my soul, walking through the circle of life to take my place in the heartland, my fingertips grazing the ghosts of prairie women past.
With my own hands I plucked feathers from my flock, gripping the feet of a still-warm bird in the deafening silence of the yard, cicadas and the flapping of a thousand wings orchestrating my first butchering experience. As I shook damp down from my hands, a butterfly alighted on the plucking table, her languishing wings dipping gently in the breeze. She stayed there a moment, then fluttered off, leaving a breath of thanks with the chicken I held.
This wasn't an easy experience for me, I flinch at the sight of roadkill, avert my eyes when my husband and his brothers show proud pictures of their hunt. I do not like to hurt animals, but have felt a driving need to be able to bring things to my table that we have cared for ourselves, that we have nurtured and selected and weeded and plucked. I do not want my children to grow up in this land of agriculture thinking that their meal comes in wrapped styrofoam, resplendent with antibiotics and growth hormones and mega-syllabled chemicals.
I thank the earth for her bounty. I thank her as I tease the stubborn grass from the onion shoot, clearing a space around the food so that it can breathe. I thank her as I separate the squash from the vine and again later as I slice it with my baby onion to feed myself and my children. I thank her as my son's sturdy hands find hidden green beans, plucking them in a joyful scavenger hunt. I thank her as the wind rustles through my corn like a friend hiding. I thank her for my land, my water, my sunshine, and my life.
I thank her for being a place to teach my children about their place in the vast universe, their place on our postage stamp farm, in our food chain and as caretakers of the earth to come.