Like lots of people during lockdown I have come to appreciate - notice even - the area on my doorstep. I have always noticed the garden and the birdsong but I’m not particularly knowledgeable about what lies beyond that. I tend to travel to other places. When you have a baby you tend to pack in visits to parks, soft play, swimming pools and libraries for the child and for your own mental health!
So when lockdown was announced I have to admit to having a sense of dread. How will I occupy a toddler when I can’t take him anywhere?!
And so. we began to investigate the track by our house, which leads to a farm. I’m ashamed to say that in the time I have been living in Chopwell I have NEVER walked that track or visited the farm. To be honest farms don’t interest me. I’ve always had a bit of an animal rights activist in me and this has led to a slight distrust of them.
Toddlers live ever in the present moment. They are the most mindful people on earth. A twig, an abandond beer can, a stone, the same horse, inspire awe and can be studied for many minutes. A walk with a toddler is a slow one but as we made the journey every day I too began to notice what was right on my doorstep. The farm has horses, donkeys, lambs, chickens, cows and tractors. My son's first words are now almost entirely farm based. He never grows bored of looking at the horses and comes alive at the sound of each passing tractor. I have now found myself racing round the corner to see which machine it is!
Conversations up at the farm have also been enlightening. I’ve talked to the teenagers there and learned the names of the animals. They’ve also told me how they get up very early to complete their homework because once the day starts there is too much work to be done. I felt embarrassed, if I’d been a teenager in lockdown I doubt I would have made it out of bed before noon! They never stop working. Yet they found time to coax out the lambs for the children to stroke.
The farm itself never stops. The farmer told me that lockdown changes nothing there. Yet each visit brings new excitement and a further surge in respect for the farming community. Last week we were lucky enough to see the cows released from their barns for the first time since winter. What a metaphor for freedom! Racing, skipping and leaping. I’ve seen nothing like it.
The Celtic Christians believed in ‘rhythms’ of daily life. A healthy balance of prayer, work, rest, food, silence, nature. The work on the farm reminded me of this. Like others in lockdown, I have developed my own ‘rhythms’ - exercise, quiet time, cleaning, walking to the farm, walking in the woods etc. It seems in some ways very simple yet incredibly effective at preserving good mental health. The Celtic Christians also believed in the sacredness of mundane daily tasks. There are Saints’ prayers for the most ordinary activities. As I watch the farm completing the same tasks everyday and as I visit the same gatepost, horse and field I am reminded of this.
Perhaps a hope on leaving lockdown will be that I hold on to these simple rhythms.
When asked to write about our trips to the farm I thought ‘Why? It isn't interesting and it certainly isn’t remarkable.’ But as I reflect on this I wonder if our lives - including our spiritual ones - don’t need to be remarkable. Perhaps like the Celtic Christians (and toddlers) we shouldn’t aim for mountain tops and fireworks but notice God in the mundane things of every day life. This may be the coming of each new day, the passing of seasons, a tractor, a gatepost or a stone. God is ever present in the rhythms right outside our door.