Saturday, March 19, 2011
Somewhere in the bible, I know it is Deuteronomy, there is a verse that says something like this: ... "When the fig tree begins to sprout and the green leaves are visible, summer cannot be far away." I suppose in the hills and valleys around Israel, this is a good sign to go by. And, my fig tree has indeed sprouted leaves and even a couple of figs directly on a branch. Here, there are an abundance of signs to read.
When the red maple buds and its scarlet leaves appear, one knows that the cooler nights will soon pass. There will be some days that are cold, at least Northwest Florida cold, and the evenings will still be worthy of coat or sweater. But shortly after, the early flowers of spring will arrive. In my yard the daffodils open up, and sprinkle my yard with vivid yellow color in direct contrast to the resting grass, clad in light browns and grays.
Reading the signs was part of the farmer and woodsman's way of knowing when to begin to plant, when to resume the cutting of certain trees in the forest. It gave these people a schedule to prepare for the coming spring and summer. In north and central Florida, the signs would give the fisherman an understanding of when the speckled perch, or the shell cracker sunfish would bed on the gravel beds or in the deep holes along large creeks, rivers, or lakes. Coming upon a shell cracker bed there is a smell, a fish smell that is unforgettable. It is the by the nose and the bottoms of the waters of that part of Florida, the fisherman read the signs. From those signs, he or she supplied their family with meat for the table.
Today, in the society we live in, signs are not read so much. Our food comes to us packaged and unrecognizable from it's origin. Oranges are often dyed orange. In the grove many oranges are light green and brown, or yellowish brown when they arrive at the packing house. They are washed, sorted, sized, and treated so that they are much more appealing to the consumer. Oranges depend on cold weather, just the right amount of cold weather, not too cold, not too warm to set up a chemical change in the orange. The sugar content has to be just right before the orange is picked. It is the signs, the coming of cold weather, announced by the cirrus clouds that feather out high in the crystallized atmosphere that tells the tenders of the orchards when the time may be right to pick the oranges. They measure the sugar content of the orange and when it is right, the pickers, or picking machines fan out and take the golden fruit from the trees.
So much that was done in an agricultural since was and still is measured by the signs, the weather, the soil temperature. In the past, when the red bud bloomed, or when the paw paw brightened the forest with its brilliant white show told the hunter or the farmer when he or she could ready for the spring, or slaughter the farm animals. It was a fundamentally more natural life style, without technology that one could speak to another across a continent or look onto a country thousands of miles away.
Maybe deep in our DNA, we miss these signs, these rhythms of life. Maybe, we need to look out the window a little more and watch for a bloom,or notice when a green stalk peeks from beneath the soil for the first time. Our own internal clocks rebel against our world of schedules without outcome. Last night the moon was large, maybe 15 or 20 percent larger than usual, it was much closer to earth, and in an odd way, it felt closer, when gazed upon. Earlier this week, we had 12 hours of sunlight, and 12 hours of daylight. Inside all of us, there is a mechanism that tells us when to sleep. This need for sleep has nothing to do with the watch we wear, or the television ritual many of us have in our evenings.
Being attuned to life around us takes a different kind of an awareness that we use in our daily work life. Our ancestors rarely lived as long as we do now. They worked hard, and when the day of rest came, many of them were worn out, their bodies used up. They may not have had the advantages we have today, such that some of them are; but they knew a lot more abut what was around them, and with that the people around them. I'm not so sure we can say that today. It must be a sign of our times.