Friday, May 9, 2014
A single candle
On the evening of April 28th, an F3 tornado barreled its way through a large portion of Lincoln County, Tennessee. Two human lives were lost. Animals perished. Property was destroyed. When it swooped northward from the Big Cut area and crossed the Elk River, it had its way with the Gray Farm, now divided into two parts between my brother and myself. It took thousands of trees - old growth trees, trees that were standing when the farm was established somewhere around 1840. It wiped out every fence line. It looked like a bombing scene from a war movie.
They say that anger is rooted in either hurt or fear or both. My anger springs from a deep sense of hurt, not for myself, but for "the farm." That acreage is not an inanimate object. It is much more than trees and river and pastures and woods. It is much more than a farmhouse and some barns and sheds. It is a member of the family. And it was brutally raped by a funnel cloud that made its way from the sky and found things to destroy on the ground. The farm was beaten and raped and left for dead while that ugly blast of wind continued north and chewed up more beauty, more innocence, and harmed more lives in its path.
I am very capable of hating that tornado. I'm very capable of being angry at the entity that we refer to as Mother Nature. There was a Chiffon margarine commercial in the 70s that reminded us that it's not nice to fool mother nature. It pictured a smiling middle aged woman dressed all sweet and chiffony with a wreath of flowers in her hair. Everything is hunky dory until the insufferable wench discovers that it's not butter that has made everything taste so nice, but rather margarine. When she discovers she has been fooled, she unleashes her wrath at everything within reach.
Well, Mother Nature, you won the battle with your little F3, but you didn't win the war.
I've spent way too much time mourning the loss of leafy beauty that has taken almost two centuries of creation. I've over-comtemplated how two centuries of growth can be taken out in two minutes of rotating winds. I've gazed at 180 acres of devastation through brimming eyes for too many days now. It's time to stop mourning.
It has been said many times that it's better to light a single candle than curse the darkness. There's also a parable in Matthew about wheat and weeds. Simply, an enemy comes and plants weeds among the good wheat seed in a field. The workers ask the owner if they should pull up the weeds. The owner responds that to pull up the weeds would destroy much of the wheat. A better plan is to let them grow together until harvest time and then the weeds can be gathered and burned and the wheat can be harvested. It's a matter of whether we place our thoughts and focus around the wheat or the weeds. I need to choose the wheat. I need to light a candle.
Today I hope to start healing as the land heals. A track hoe and a bulldozer are slowly but surely gathering the devastated remains in piles. When diesel fuel is applied, the piles become pyres. When you are right upon them, the flames are huge and the heat is immense. But, at night, when you sit on the back porch and watch the piles continue to burn, the distance diminishes the size of the flame. If you're far enough away, it glows like the light of a candle. We will light several candles and one day, in the not so distant future, corn rather than wheat will spring from the cleared fields. The trees will be gone for generations but the beautiful rolling contours will be visible until the trees return. Many years will have passed and I can only hope and pray that others will continue to love the farm as I do and that they will spend the appropriate amount of time loving and nurturing the land. I sincerely hope they will see the wheat and light a candle.