This morning I was drinking coffee and scrolling Facebook. We were up a bit early so that Russ could get some chores done before we headed to Estevan. Russ, Morgan and I were registered to attend a Beef Summit hosted by Co-op Agro. We were heading in to learn more about forage, about what we grow to feed our cows. But first, I had a warm cup of coffee to sip, a creamy one with a whipped up surface, thanks to Russ and his special recipe. He makes me a coffee and delivers it to our room every morning and it allows me a very gentle start to the day. I appreciate it alot. While sipping away I read a story that came across my newsfeed, posted in a group I belong to, there are 324,000 members of this group and on its pages I found a story featuring my home city and a man I had gone to school with. It was quite the thing to stumble across. My newsfeed also alerted me to the invasion of the Ukraine and very quickly the morning felt far beyond the ordinary.
We were late leaving after chores didn’t go perfectly, (I mean they rarely do when its -30 out), we had a good visit in the car. We talked about things we had seen on Facebook in the last day or so. Russell had seen a post by a friend defending the use of picture filters that allow us to look different than we are in person. He asked me what I think. That was an interesting conversation. The thing about the filters is that they allow a more polished or perfect image, but in the end you still have to go out in the world as you are. I have never really understood it. They make me kind’ve sad, because while I celebrate the chance for people to play with their image and perk up their look, I think the absolute ideal scenario would be to experience self acceptance and have peace with where you are at. If you use filters to make yourself more acceptable to yourself, don’t you deep down know that it isn’t the truth? Doesn’t that just give the voices in our heads fuel to say “you aren’t really pretty.” I find the self critical voice in my head needs no extra ammunition. The comments I made reminded Russell of a movie he loves. He said, “Kathy, you need to watch a movie for the ultimate monologue that sounds like what you just said. Kevin Costner, in The Guardian, is a coast guard rescue guy and he goes into a bar and the woman bartending is awesome, she tells him about how she got all her wrinkles, you gotta hear it.” Then he pulled off the highway for a minute, before he got out I picked up my phone. He could tell what I was up to. “Don’t start playing the clip if you find it before I get back,” he said. I couldn’t find the clip but I found the quote and here it goes
“Hell, I’ve always been old, Ben. You know what though? I don’t mind. I mean, if my muscles ache it’s cause I’ve used ’em. It’s hard for me to walk up them steps now cause I walked up ’em every night to lay next to a man who loved me. I got a few wrinkles here and there, but I’ve laid under a thousand skies on sunny days. I look and feel this way, well, cause I drank and I smoked, I lived and I loved, danced, sang, sweat and screwed my way through a pretty damn good life. Gettin old ain’t bad man; gettting old – that’s earned”
The conversation made me feel a little bit better. I posted a picture of Morgan and I earlier this week, when he was a baby, it was so obvious that I have aged in the fifteen years since it was taken. After this conversation with Russ I had a fresh take on how to feel about the difference the years have brought. I thought to myself, if this is the price I pay for the experience of raising these kids and living my unique life, I will pay it. We are here to live, not play a game about tricking time.
We kept rolling down the highway. I got to tell Russ about the post I had discovered earlier in the morning. How it led me to look up the profile of the woman who wrote the story, how I had read another story on her post that I found touching. A woman teaching at a school in the far north received terrible news moments before her students arrived for the day. When they arrived they surrounded her in a circle as she told of her loss. The cultural differences, the fact of suicide, the fact she was still a new teacher to them did not deter them from drawing near. Their culture and their values meant a response of care and compassion. Russ fought back his tears as we approached our turn off to get to our seminars. We needed to hear about cultural divides being bridged for the sake of compassion. We needed to hear about solidarity in the face of suffering.
We found our way to the conference room at the Days Inn where we would spend the day. We were late and that meant the only empty table was front and center. The presenters could see every line on my face! Not that the lines mattered, just drawing the earlier story into the current one! The distance mattered. I was not super keen about attending the event, they can get boring and often there is much discussed that I just can’t get a hold on. My background in agriculture is very sketchy and that means a million facts swim around and I get overwhelmed. So in my head I was thinking, “when it gets to be too much I can zone out, I will work on the sermon for Sunday.” However, when you are 12 feet from the presenter zoning out is not an option. I felt guilty for answering text messages let alone writing a sermon, in my head or otherwise. I was on. I was listening. I took notes to keep myself engaged. And I learned! I learned fact stuff like our next planting of forage seed might best be accompanied by a rye grass called “Big Bang” versus the oats we have planted for cover crop before. Exciting right!?!? But I also learned in a bigger way that alot of the professionals working in the industry really want to help us producers. Russ and I both went away saying, “we will call that guy Ken anytime, he was so approachable.”
At one point I caught myself being a big faker. A man from Brett Young Forage was speaking, he was really easy to listen to and follow along with and I was with him. He made comment about clover that went something like this, “you want to be really careful, sweet clover and white clover are different” and he looked to us listeners to affirm that with him, or so it seemed to me. There I was, wanting to give the message that I was following, and I found myself nodding my head like a true believer. That was immediately followed by a sharp awareness that I was faking it and I am not sure why. I don’t know a ding dang thing about clover, I had no business nodding about anything. I caught myself with a question I will never know the answer to, “who would I be if I actually knew this?” Who are the women that sit around conference tables well versed in the details of forage? What impression was I giving this man about who I am and what my story might hold? Why is it so hard to let yourself be known as a beginner?
At some point in the day I noted how natural it felt for the three of us to roll into the seminar. In fact, it was a first. Russ loves going to education events and has taken me to many, so truly, I am less of a beginner than I used to be. But this was the first time that Morgan joined us. With school on break for a week it was an option that he seemed happy to agree to. So the number of brains mulling over the details of ranching at the Bar MW is definitely expanding. Today was a first.
As the day winds down, with knowledge that so much is wrong in the Ukraine and that could spread, I find myself thinking about what I know and what I don’t know. I told the family at supper, I think I maybe know about .4% of the situation in Ukraine, if that. I don’t know about clover. I do know that I am loved even though my hair is more grey every day and my wrinkles very real. I know that listening is powerful and it may be one of my superpowers. I don’t know how to stop a war, but I think listening would help. I know it can be scary to be in the backseat going 100km/hr down a winter highway. I know it feels scary to not be in control. I know we all have felt out of control for almost two years. I know I need alot more courage. I know I need to pray. I don’t know how to pray, or that is how it feels. I know that the Bible says that when we don’t have the words to pray, the spirit helps us, and can translate our groans, our sighs and our weeping into prayers. I know I am going to be counting on that. After texts and calls with friends today I know that what makes us rich and powerful is not dollars and force but relationship and wisdom. I know its bedtime and this is enough.