The camera is a limited tool…and when I say “camera” I mean phone. It only captures a moment and it often captures that moment incorrectly…without context. There are no sounds, smells or emotions. Just a little slice of the morning.
But it looks pretty.
What was really happening that morning? What did the camera miss?
It was cold. The weather has been warm but that morning was chilly. The air smelled fresh. There was very little wind. Buffalo Gnats were beginning to hatch and bite. Julie has an oil that works great but those darned gnats are just awful. They are the reason we raise our broilers so early in the season then stop. Our first year the gnats were particularly thick and we lost a number of birds to them. They bit under feathers and choked up airways. Dad and I were standing in the driveway one evening wearing bee gear butchering birds as fast as we could as the gnats found their way through our armor. We don’t want to go through that again. Ever. So we start chicks on Valentine’s day…which has its own drawbacks. But we know the seasons of the bugs, the plants, the frost pockets, the routine on this farm.
So the picture above doesn’t capture the relief I feel knowing my chicken tractors are empty. My brooder is empty. My freezers are emptying. It’s a great feeling but hard to capture on film.
Mom and dad were gone to visit grandpa Jordan so I had extra chores that morning caring for their dogs and horses. The picture doesn’t capture how I feel about that…delighted. Dad lets our dog out if we are gone during the day. Dad checks livestock water even when we are home. Dad closes the chicken house for me sometimes. He has even offered to milk. I’m glad I can help them out…unless they need tech support.
The picture shows knee-high grass. The picture doesn’t show my anxiety about grass. The grass wasn’t growing fast enough for my level of patience. Cows were somewhere out there in one of dozen or so temporary paddocks I set up. Shortly after I took this picture we went through a dry spell so I increased the rotation time from 12-14 days to 20 days. Did I slow down too much? Did the cows start taking too much off of the pasture? The picture doesn’t know.
Julie was gone that day too. She had flown to a conference in Salt Lake City. The picture doesn’t know I was missing her. Because we are early risers, and because she had flown west, she was the first one awake at the resort. She and I chatted while she drank coffee and she commented that the sounds were all alien there. And the birds were radically different. For example, we don’t have magpies here. Somehow you don’t think of the specific species and sounds that surround you when you think of home. Here the spring peepers (Pseudacris Crucifer) make a loud chirp in the distance and cricket frogs (Pseudacris triseriata) trill away night and day. The birds make familiar noises. While Julie was surprised to see a porcupine in Utah, I’m not surprised at all when I scare up a rabbit or quail in the tall grass or see a skunk in the early morning. Those are familiar animals. The picture doesn’t capture the feeling of familiarity with the environment.
In my mind the picture above looks like home…but not just by sight. Oh, there are familiar things in the picture. Grandpa harvested walnut trees when he and grandma were married. There is still walnut lumber tucked away here and there. Further, grandpa had a bulldozer. Most of our walnut trees grew after that. I enjoy the burr oak behind the cemetery and the cemetery itself. The adults couldn’t hide Easter eggs in the yard because we could always just peek out of a window to see what was going on so they hid the eggs in the cemetery. Weird, I know, but that’s part of my childhood. And I see these things when I look at that picture…even though they aren’t visible. Heck, just down the hill from the burr oak (that large, spreading tree just behind the plastic fence) is a small grove of walnut with no lower limbs below 12 feet. Grandpa’s herd was in that pasture when I was 8 or 10. I didn’t know they were there but I was well trained to fear the bull, Leroy. I was walking down to play in the stream when I realized my mistake…I was surrounded by cows and too far from the house for anyone to hear me. I tried hiding behind a tree. The cows walked around to the other side of the tree and looked at me some more. Eventually the cows realized I didn’t have any food and decided to seek their entertainment elsewhere. I felt stupid, went back to the house, washed up and ate some frozen fruit salad during the October cemetery committee meeting/family reunion. Do you see that in the picture? Do you see the sledding I have done with my children on that hill? Cover the hill with snow. We gather just at the crest near the fence, pile onto a sled all together and try to avoid thorny saplings as we disappear out of sight. The camera has no idea what I am talking about.
The picture only knows about the sun rising over the trees in the distance, plastic fence around a cemetery, green grass, poultry netting and a chicken house built by three generations of Jordans on a hot day last summer. But so much more was happening that the camera missed. So much more happening every morning. And I just don’t have time to stop and write it all down.
So the camera does what it can to help me.