By Heather Retberg
Last week, strong winds I couldn’t name blew. They were winds that sucked the breath from me, but so quickly I could hardly tell what happened. They were winds of tragedy, leaving me with little to say, but swirling thoughts, necessary functioning and sad exhales. A friend was taken on snowy roads in a car accident. Quickly. She was gone. I didn’t know a wind like that could blow through a day, so imperceptibly at first, but grow steadily into a gusting gale while I had only just noticed its presence. So that wind came, it took my breath away, it stole my words. And, it passed on. The sun shone the next day as if all were well again and it hadn’t noticed the void left, swept away by that strong wind the day before. It was up to us to notice, to pause, to hold space, and to say good-bye. And that space has been held beautifully and filled with love, and kindness, and gentleness. The winds could quiet, the world might go on, but that life would be honored, and held and loved.
Then, the beginning of the physical winds started, slapping wet snow against the house, driving their cold claws into the walls, challenging the wood stove to fend off their advance. This space, too, has been held so far. The fire and light have held their own against the winds tearing under the roof and slamming into the walls at full force. We bundle ourselves into our winter shields and work fast so the wind won’t find the chinks in our woolen armor. We warm ourselves by working quickly and using extra force to break ice out of water pans, making extra trips back and forth with buckets of grain, shavings, water and milk. Extra trips in the wind, made quickly, warm from within, keeping the wind from penetrating.
Yet later into the week, the physical and emotional winds calmed and an unexpected breeze of gratitude blew in, surprisingly pulling up sweet voices of long lost friends and current ones with congratulations, reflections, memories, laughter, and teasing, too. This was a gentler breeze that enfolded me, face and heart a little brighter, leaning into a softer, more tender wind. While the work toward fully realizing food sovereignty across Maine grows and deepens, Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund honored me with their Gravel Road Gang Activism Award for the work thus far in 18 towns (and one city) in Maine and in the state house.
The winds will blow strong and harsh again tomorrow, fiercely challenging us to stay upright, to be warm, to keep light. The white cold sparkle below encourages joy in its powdery lightness, air made visible and fallen to the ground. Whether the winds rage harshly or the breeze comes gently by to soothe and lift up the heavy corners of life’s fabric, last week was a lesson in acceptance–to whatever may come next, to what has already come, and to what is here now.
Wishing you all strength for the storm ahead, solid shelter from those raging winds to come, and a kindhearted breeze to follow under a stronger, brighter winter sun.
Many can brook the weather that love not the wind.
Heather and Phil Retberg together with their three children run Quill’s End Farm, a 105-acre property in Penobscot that they bought in 2004. They use rotational grazing on their fifteen open acres and are renovating thirty more acres from woods to pasture to increase grazing for their pigs, grass-fed cattle, lambs, laying hens, and goats. Heather is Master of Halcyon Grange #345 and writes a newsletter for their farm’s buying clubs for farmers in her area and has generously given us permission to share some of her columns with Grangers throughout the state.
Grange members are invited to submit guest columns to Views from the Farm for consideration by emailing the webmaster. Please note that the views and opinions expressed in contributed articles are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy of the Grange.