Tuesday, October 25, 2016

"Taking Down the Corn."

We live in Lancaster County, and are blessed to have an Ag Preserved Farm directly behind our home.  We've lived here 28 years, and I still get excited when I hear the annual rite of Fall - the sound of the big giant monster "Taking Down the Corn."

When my kids were little, the entire family would run to the windows, and watch as our yard, formerly lined by acres of corn serving as its own agricultural fence, which we had watched grow throughout the spring and summer, was gobbled up and shot out the back of the John Deere, only to be transformed into giant rolls that would then dot the landscape for a few weeks before being put into storage elsewhere on the farm.  By the time you read this, the corn will be gone, leaving a view that extends for acres and acres, and offering access to the most beautiful fall sunsets that demand my attention as I work in the kitchen.  

The saying says, "good fences make good neighbors."  In my world, "corn fences make great happiness," as their seasons continue to remind me of the growth and change that can happen over the course of a season. 

A Bandana on a Backpack.

Donegal High School has an unusual class referred to by the acronym, DEEP - Donegal Environmental Education Program.  The kids in this class learn about survival, protecting the environment, respect for their surroundings, repelling, and all sorts of things I can't begin to wrap my gel-manicured nails around.  My idea of camping is a hotel with a non-working television.  I am not a hiker, and nature hates me.  I know this because I get poison ivy by walking to my own mailbox touching only the driveway, my gingerness is almost instantly sunburned, and mosquitoes delight in feasting on me, even though I never seem to actually see them to swat.  So I stand in awe of the kids who excitedly sign up for this adventure every year, heading off into the woods with two teachers, and a team of classmates who will become lifelong friends by the end of the year.

Last week, two DEEP kids told me that they had been trained to "leave it the way you found it," by using a bandana instead of toilet paper on a backpacking trip the upcoming weekend.  The shudders that ensued in my head -- and some of the other colleagues who subsequently discussed this at lunch -- continue to cause my comfort level about interacting with nature to plummet.  Fortunately, for the DEEP class, they have teachers passionate about this topic encouraging them, challenging them, and enlightening many beyond their class to take a second look at nature.

 Environmental writer, Emma Marris, has an excellent TED Talk entitled Nature is Everywhere:  we just need to learn to see it.   Marris reveals nature fighting for its very life in the middle of cities -- including Philadelphia.  She states that   "Every kid lives near nature.  We've forgotten how to see the nature literally outside our door."   For the DEEP kids, they know that. But not all kids do.

So tonight, I am happy to see the corn come down.  It reminds me of watching the big green machine with a little blonde boy more years ago than I care to count, who watched in awe as the corn came down, and then asked me 'When will the farmer put the corn back UP?" with a very concerned look. 

Yet I am still curious about the corn, the process of its sowing, reaping, and removal, and marvel at how every year when everything is turning brown, the corn removal becomes the opening night curtain, revealing the spectacular colors of the autumn sunset.   Perhaps I'll chat with a neighbor with a combine, and learn about this nature thing in my own neighborhood.

Meanwhile, I know there are going to be quite a few beautiful sunsets to bring happiness and joy in the upcoming months, and I appreciate them all the more because the corn will be back, providing a fence of stalks to line the back of my yard.

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