Yesterday I spent an hour driving a litter of weaners to a farm on the confluence of two rivers. The farmer was a guy I know casually and have taken a liking to. Last year, just around nightfall, his neighbor’s barn caught fire and he raced over on his tractor in the failing light to help. About halfway there he ran head on into a low hanging branch and crushed his face. He was seriously injured and almost died, but thanks to the attention of the volunteer rescue guys, the love of his family and his own grit and determination he was able not only to survive that horrific accident, but get back up and back at it. He met me at his barn with his tractor and we dropped the piglets off at a hoophouse where they joined the last litter I had delivered. The Maremmas came bounding out with the older pigs to investigate and after we dropped the trailer gate the piglets poured out to check on their new digs.

As we headed back to the barn he asked me for my advice on a logging project he was doing to connect two pastures and preserve an old stand of sugar maples. We walked through the snow covered hillside and talked about his plan, the health of the trees, the projection for his use of the land, the history of the sugar production and a hundred lesser things. I pointed out the difference between the ruined trees with rotted cores and the vigorous factories of sugar production with their ancient burls and furrowed lightning scars. I gave him my advice and my encouragement and we both shared our mutual belief system in preparing for things in a future neither of us will live to see. Both of us wish for our children to follow our calling but there are no guarantees — someone will be there, that much I believe — and they will prosper on the labor and foresight of those who took the time and the effort to plan for the future regardless of the present.

My friend’s face bears the scars of his accident prominently, but to me they look like the lightning tracks on the old maples, evidence of great strength and fortitude. Rather than diminish the man, they prove his character and serve as a reminder not only of his past, but of his future. Resilience and forebearance are not traits commonly held in these venal times, but they are the ones that will allow us to emerge on the other side of what is yet to come. He thanked me for my time and I thanked him for his and we both went back to what we had to do with smiles on our faces even though it was Sunday.

As I write this there is just enough light outside to see the snow covered fields and the cattle jostling each other as they make their way to the feeder. I have a lot on my plate but I am not the only one so even when I work alone, I am in the shadows of everyone who went before me.

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