Above: Long shadows on the bare pastures of Winter
An overwhelming silence has settled in here at the farm. The constant buzz and energy of spring and summer has suddenly evaporated. The daily busy, sometimes frenetic schedule we have become so accustomed to is in abeyance.
Rather than the usual constant kaleidoscope of movement it is stillness that I see. The bright glare of long summer days has dimmed into days that are increasingly shorter, grey, and overcast.
Surrounded by this wintry farm scene I begin to feel sensations similar to those from my distant past when the rhythms of theater were so central to my life. The farm and theater, such different worlds but also so similar.
Both worlds seem to start from virtually nothing, gradually take on an intensity of being, an intensity that rapidly builds to a crescendo, and then abruptly return to a kind of nothingness.
The stage is empty and dark, the actors not yet characters, the costumes and scenery not yet designed, the play simply words on a page. The director must will all of this inertness into life, give everything shape and form. And it must be accomplished in a matter of weeks.
The farm, after a long winter, sleeps brown and bare, denuded of vegetation, the ground raw, ready for planting, the seeds still alphabetically arranged in packets, the brooder houses clean and empty readied for the arrival of chicks, ducklings, keets, poults, and goslings, the barn awaits the dropping of lambs. It is up to Mark and me, together with our farm crew, to bring all of this back to life, a life that will last only a matter of months.
At the beginning as one begins to engage in the theater and farm worlds the outer world still exists in the sense that there is still time for friends and family, for reading, recreation, and leisure. There is the sense that it is you who are in control of the process, not it of you. There is a balance still possible between your engagement with theater or farm and a larger, fuller life.
But very soon and very quickly a conflict sets in as the engagement in the activity begins to overpower all of one’s consciousness, narrowing one’s focus, sucking away all of one’s energy. At first there is an attempt to resist, to preserve some kind of balance but inevitably the demands of the activity, its fascination, and the pressures of time draw one into a world, intensely turned in on itself. If only the activities of a theater production and the running of a farm could be spread out evenly on a daily basis over a year’s time the way most human activities are, a more balanced life might be possible. But rehearsal periods and farm seasons are short and highly deadline oriented with the result that one can very quickly be consumed.
Maybe the following anecdote best sums things up: One of my best actresses a number of years ago, after working with me on a few productions, said “I have the motto for you”, and then presented me with a framed single line from an e.e.cummings poem which reads: “damn everything but the circus.” It still hangs in my kitchen. It perfectly captures the place I inevitably find myself in both worlds.
But thankfully we now approach the winter hiatus; the curtain comes down, the pressure eases, and a larger life resumes.
Well, maybe not . Maybe not completely as we still have seventy some sheep to feed and care for, as well as around fifty layer chickens, and two pigs. And there is the big job of selling off all of the produce and meats we have produced this past season. Please help us with that, dear friends, by scrolling down below.