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Friday, December 28, 2012

Growing Old

Friends of mine live on a farm not far from my home. They enjoy growing their own food so they know it is without pesticides and the land is kept free of harsh fertilizers. My friends spend their days deep in meditation even while working their fields.
I visit these friends as often as I might. Unlike most people I know they rarely speak even when spoken to; instead they nod their heads and smile as if they already know of which I speak. And of course they do.
In my youth I recall how there were a number of acres of bottom land on the farm, full of rich soil and blessed with abundant sunshine all day long, but it had a tendency to flood when the rain came. A creek running through the valley invariably overflowed allowing the water to collect in stagnant pools drowning any crops that had been planted. After losing their harvest several years in a row my friends thought it best to simply let the land lay fallow.
One sunny afternoon I took a walk through the hollow. I liked walking alone there. My friends seemed to sense this and so often left me to myself. Seeing hundreds of stones embedded in the creek bank I wondered if any of them contained fossils. I managed to dislodge several of them but they were merely round rocks devoid of any vestige of former life. By chance one of the stones rolled down into the creek; though it didn’t stop the water from flowing it triggered an idea.
Going into the forest I found a stout branch that I broke off a fallen tree. Coming back to the creek and using it as a pole I began dislodging and rolling more rocks into the creek one by one. Gradually as the day progressed into night I built up a small dam.
The following day when I came back to the creek I saw that a small pool water had begun to form behind the rocks. The water flowing over the rocks seemed to sing sweet melodies to me as I added more stones to the heap.
Stopping to wipe the sweat from my eyes and looking up from my labors I noticed one of my friends helping me stack the stones. I hadn’t seen him arrive nor had he announced himself. He must have seen me working and rather than asking me what I was doing he just started to assist me in my endeavor.
The next day when I arrived there were six people there before me, all of them toiling happily in the early morning sunshine as they worked silently at wedging stones from the ground and rolling them into place on the top and sides of the ever-growing dam.
The pool of water behind the pile of rocks had by now become a small pond. I had never before built a dam. I silently wondered how much force the mass of water would produce as it gathered behind the stones. But my friends seemed to have anticipated that eventuality as the higher the dam became they built it three times wider.
Now I have grown old. Fifty years later when I visit that farm my friends feed me fresh fish they have caught in what used to be useless bottom land. Only the elders recall a time when there was no lake. The younger ones speak seldom even when spoke to. When they gather around the campfire at night I tell them that the lake began with a single stone; they smile and nod their heads as if they already know of that which I speak. And of course they do.
My friends have no tractors on their farm. They have no machinery of any kind. When they are thirsty they pull their water from a hand-dug well. When they are cold in winter they chop wood to burn in their stove. When they harvest their food they do it all by hand. The food is plain and filling. Their clothes are well mended; their home is secure.
My friends never travel far. They take death seriously and use it to guide their lives. They have an old truck but it is kept in a garage; they never use it. They have canoes but they are stored in the barn loft. They have weapons but they keep them hidden away.
There is no television there, no Internet. They have no phones. There are no electric wires there to run any of it anyway. They light the wicks of their oil lamps at night. They have no books, only scrolls from the old days. They are happy to live their lives in this manner.
The neighbors are within sight of my friends’ farm and from time to time while visiting I will hear their dogs barking and cocks crowing. But they leave each other in peace while they grow old and die.


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