Tuesday, March 22, 2011


The weather reports have informed me that a cold wind will push back over our country. I imagined it would come earlier - half expecting winter to lay claim again to this territory - and that snap likely will come by Thursday. Today, though, it was warm again.

At around 6:30 pm, I found myself walking the slight incline up from the barn to our house. I knew the hour was soon approaching to trudge back inside, to begin the daily discipline of urging my son into his room. Anna and Elise had already gone in to begin the process for our daughter. As I walked, I thought, "the days are coming soon when we can once again drift into the night" - like May fireflies trailing up and away. And I pictured our children growing older and laughing on this lawn infested with crab grass and discarded ash. I imagined them playing games of hide-n-seek while we called to them from the front porch.

I am smitten by spring. The fever has caught me, carried into my mind and soul by these warm updrafts, by a community of children and families released for spring break, and by a flirtatious desire to do something playful and free after so many months of doing those things complicated and labor-intensive like the winter's long haul and burning of wood.

We spent part of the day with friends in town. They were kind enough to invite our family over for lunch, and their's is a relaxed home which made it all the more enjoyable - full of room for the kids to play, full of an easy attitude that fits well with our own parenting philosophy, and full of leisure talk that need not be directed to some agenda. So - for awhile at least - we did the simple things that make living so much more enjoyable: eating, resting, sharing, playing.

Wyatt was eager to visit this family, for he knew that the son had a stash of Nerf guns, an arsenal that Wyatt was eager to access.

In just the last few weeks, our son's inner soldier has emerged, and his attention has turned quickly from the pistons and buffers of Thomas and Friends to anything that can pose as a projectile-dispensing weapon. It began with him taking a small piece of plastic that was a type of clamp. Not in Wyatt's mind's eye, though. To him it was a pistol that could be sternly grasped and positioned up to his squinting eye, and aimed at me as I went walking by.

Much to Wyatt's delight, Saturday the gods of war smiled upon Wyatt in a most gracious way.

As Anna and I were cleaning out one of our many out-buildings, we stumbled upon one of the few remaining boxes from our last move that we had yet to open. On the outside, the movers had scrawled with permanent marker "Picture/Toys." Inside, lay a box full of my old toys - mostly a mass body of colorful plastic men - hordes of G.I. Joe's from the earliest Cobra Commander to a second edition Snake-eyes to the more exotic and less-desirable late editions - the ones that seemed to appear from Swam Things home with their limbs and torsos and heads mutated and gross.

Yet, it was not these toy soldiers that won Wyatt's attention. He was - of course - beyond thrilled to discover that in this pile of fallen soldiers there were guns .. lots of guns - little pistols in cold black, large bazookas in army green, M-16's, grenade launchers, semi-automatics, and two ominous looking enforcers that I immediately recognized as Roadblock's weapon of choice, so large that they had to be placed in a tripod.

While Anna continued to clean out the building and I tore wood boards from the outside, Wyatt positioned himself on the front porch and entertained himself for the next several hours - discovering, imagining, learning ... everything short of drooling. When I eventually stopped for a break and found Wyatt still on the front porch, he looked at me. I noticed that he had begun to sort out all of the guns. Then, he began to ask me first one and then another question, all of them derivatives of his new fascination: "What are guns for?" "Do you like this one?" "Where did you get these?" "Did you play with these?"

There is a strong chance that when those fireflies do appear it will not just be hide-n-seek that is played upon our land. There's a good chance that this place might become - at least in Wyatt's young mind - a place of battle where Cobra and his henchmen will have to be battled, withstood and pushed back.


Sent from Anna Kendall's iPhone

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

10 Acres

"In the prime of his life, when he worked ten or twelve hours every weekday and socialized all weekend, he had pretty much ignored his land." - John Updike

I am away this evening, sitting in a nicely furnished room on the campus of Wabash University. It is lovely and everything is in order, which is not how my true home is at this time of evening. It is just after supper time for Anna and the kids, and I have called to connect in some loose fashion to the events of our their day - listening to the questions of Wyatt and the monosyllabic responses of Elise. We had to break up our conversation so Anna could restore order.

It is not so much that I am ignoring my land or my family. Anna is well in support of my participation of this particular experience and my call in general. She understands that my vocational identity is pastoral in the spiritual sense, not just the agrarian sense, and that there are times when I am led away from home.

At the same time, I - after having read that above quote from Updike in a short story about a retired man who came to walk and know his home parcel - am also aware that one of my ongoing desires is to get to know intimately the 10.99 acres of land that we have been gifted with ... and to begin to attach my own story to its history. That desire, unfortunately, too often gets filed under the "hope," rather than the "urgent" or "seemingly important." Meanwhile, it is those later two categories where I find myself expending my energy.

Anna just asked me if 49 tomato plants are going to be too much this year. I have no idea. It sounds overwhelming. It sounds ridiculous. But, I guess there is only one way to find out: plant and nurture 49 tomato plants and discover how much is too much and how much we can can and how much we can give away.

I am deeply thankful that - even despite my ongoing hiccups, hesitations, and excuses - my wife is tying us to the land of our home. I am thankful that she - before I - had the foresight to see that what is most needed is a place to call home and a home to know so that I might learn to be in community in a way that is authentic.

I hope it does not take me, like Updike's reflective retiree, all my life to finally walk my land and to live into my place.


Friday, March 04, 2011

little photographer and the garden

Wyatt has been quite interested in snapping photos lately. This one he took yesterday using my phone, just as we were finishing up the first of several raised beds we're putting in the garden this year. Also pictured is Dd the chicken. Elise has been obsessed these warm days with holding the chickens, wrapping them up in blankets and the like. In fact, if she's outside and *not* holding a chicken, she's probably crying about it. Poor girls end up running away trying to smooth all the ruffled feathers after the encounter. Come the end of April we'll have about 25 more, which should help spread out Little Two's love a bit.

little photographer and the garden