I was looking at the spinach, talking to it really, asking, "Why are you so small? Get bigger!" Wondering, of course, if the soil were too wet, or anoxic, or if the fertility -- nitrogen, potassium, or some trace mineral -- were off in a way that had slipped through the cracks. Then I looked at its label. We seeded it just four weeks ago. There is still time; and all these years later, I am still bad at gauging it.
One of the peculiarities of farming regards the passage of time. In one sense, the farm is entirely rhythmic, and as we seed the spinach in spring, again, we think it was just yesterday that we were doing this. But it was a year ago, and it can't have been a year ago, because how have we grown or not while we worked to make sure the tomatoes did?
But time on the farm is stranger than that, because whole summers -- their heat in our chest, their salted lip, their morning haze now hazy in our memory -- fit into a summer day. Whole summers fit into a summer day, and at the end of them -- evening, or autumn -- when we finally sit on the porch stoop to rest, to quench, to breathe, we feel a bit like tired kings, who must some time have felt guilty for their riches, for this unbroken abundance.
The true mystery is how it is not that the years repeat, but that there is but one year, and it is endless on the farm. We are always picking the year's first tomatoes for the hot sandwich we make at dinner, and we are always driving off to the county fair, or picking corn for a movie night. And we are always out on the porch reading poems in summer, or night-walking through the pumpkins, learning again how to breathe.
Or, more mundanely, we are always squinting at the spinach, hoping like fathers for their height, when they aren't even in their teens.