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Fire in the soil

Early in the morning of the winter solstice, with the cold winds still whipping around the corners of the house and the rising sun and setting moon facing each other on opposite horizons, I stand at the door waiting for the dogs to return from their early morning run. There are small patches of stubble beginning to break through the snow. A good sign.

The air is full of heartfire smoke from the neighbors just beyond the thick of the woods. You know they too are stirring. It is light now and time to begin a new day. Yet here in the land country, there is no bit or bridle. We distill our disciplines from the earth and the needs of our environment. There is no center, no special focus, because it is all center. Living here, we have been weaned from the emphasis on the rational and rely on the intuitive self. Working with the soil reduces man to certain tests. What and how he responds to different situations and different demands on time, effort and patience.

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I sit down at the table with a hot drink and look out the window at the light now beginning to streak across the fields.

The wind is an absolute now and branches bend and wave as they feel the force. The dogs lying on the floor near my feet watch and listen. The wind speaks of spring and I suddenly want to get out and walk the land, plan the garden. I put on a coat and walk out, leaving the dogs. I stride through soggy earth and cross the brook over the little bridge I built last year. Standing at the edge of the woods now, I look back and feel a vague quickening at the root of the maple and a new strength in the sun's angle. The key to intelligence is consciousness, not skills, or manifold knowledge. The charm of loitering in the woods, feeling the wind sweep down from the hill, like the large sweep of a hawk's wing as it bears down close to the ground, brings a greenness of thought, and we sense the energy of the soil beneath our feet with its infinite cycles of transformation. Our dreams are tamed, our aspirations made responsible and reliable. Maybe it is the fragile quality of the larch that presents itself on my path now, but the self is wrenched away from played-out modes of living and we believe there is more durability in this lithe tree than in all the security of material values. There is a fire in the soil that liberates us from the tyranny of the small and splits open the placid facade of our lives.

In the woods you stand in a corridor of echoes. We move with them as they speak to us. Suddenly society is not real. It's an abstraction that gets between us and the nature of things that really are. Land is indeed food if you plant and harvest, water if you dig, firewood there for the cutting. There are quail and pheasant and endless potential for living with wild berries and edible weeds. Which reminds me to return to chores, for I am employed by the soil and find it a very natural heritage.

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