The farmers got back at their planting this week, the fields finally dry enough after a two inch rain and made a couple of mysteries for Bruce and me.
They started planting early because the dry, sunny days stretched into a week, despite the fact the ground was cold and cold nights were forecast. Then it rained nearly two inches.
Tan dust smeared the horizon on my way home from town. Beneath was a tractor steadily working a field with a broad harrow, that almost looks graceful laid across the ground. The other night I watched our neighbor driving a small tractor with something small behind, running back and forth across an already planted field after 10 on a moon light night, kicking up dust, lickety split. This was no broad disk harrow, but an implement close up to the back of the tractor like a planter, but he was moving too fast to be planting. Besides the field had already been planted and sprayed.
I wanted to wake Bruce to tell him, but he was sound asleep, and this wasn’t like the night I heard the coyote whine by the barn, crying like a lost, injured dog. He was so close I was afraid the dogs and I would be attacked. I yelled, “Hey!” and the dogs pricked their ears. I checked the mares and latched the back door, so no coyote could sneak through. I spoke to Bruce, even though he was asleep. He mumbled something, but the next morning he said he didn’t remember.
This morning Mr. Peterson was doing the same thing–hauling ass up his field with a small tractor and pointy disk behind him. I walked to the edge of the field to ask what are you doing? He didn’t look like he’d stop at first, but he did.
“I’ve barely used this harrow,” he said. “I’m breaking the earth to let the seeds get through.”
“The ground got hard from the rains?”
(I’ve seen rains smooth the hoof prints in my limestone paddock, so I know how rain can drum down pretty hard, smoothing soil, then locking it when the sun comes.) The seeds are four inches down, locked up, like so many bodies trying to spring out of concrete.
I let him go back to work and finished cleaning the manure out of Morgen’s dry lot.
The farmers make a mystery, and not just plants pushing out of the ground, but the soil itself rising into the sky like the pillar of cloud that lead the Israelites through the wilderness by day. It was like seeing an old image of God, as natural as dust billowing from tractors working the ground. I wonder if that’s what they saw when they walked through the desert, a tall column of dust that glided ahead of them, a wonder that became common.
I was riding Tessie and wasn’t sure what I was seeing because the dust was normal, kicked up dust, from a tractor and disk. But then it grew. It danced around. It stretched out long. I couldn’t believe my eyes as the pale dust stretched like taffy a thousand feet into the air. Circling nearby were turkey vultures.
“Bruce are you outside? Come look,” I shouted. Tessie was happy to stand still.
I wished I’d had my iPhone to grab a picture, so I could show you, but I’d left it in the house. (Wikipedia has some great pictures.)
Bruce appeared by the fence and shielded his eyes. He knows to listen when I ride my horse. We watched as it became a long column sliding across the sky like a tornado without a cloud up top and no dust churned at the bottom, just a long graceful funnel gliding over head. Jesus said the Spirit would blow where he will blow, completely unpredictable. God spoke to Job out of whirlwind. Jacob saw angels climbing a ladder. Was I seeing God? But I wasn’t afraid.
Bruce watched a buzzard ride the thermal higher until she became a tiny speck. I thought of how an airliner bumps across these, leaving passengers with lurched stomachs, the air jostling worse than a road with potholes and hills.
I asked Mr. Peterson if he’d seen it. He said,”Yes, there’ve been several dust devils lately.”
And I wondered which it was: dust devil or vision of God or simply one side of the ground warmer than the other, the warm air rising, the cool air twirling around it like a barbershop pole. Or was all three, the science and sacred explanation both true, both nudging me to wonder.