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  • Mj Pettengill

The Farmer and the Farmer's Wife


Baby Chick   CC0
Baby Chick CC0

Yin is characterized as slow, soft, yielding, diffuse, cold, wet, or tranquil; and is associated with water, earth, the moon, femininity, and nighttime.

Yang, by contrast, is fast, hard, solid, focused, hot, dry, or aggressive; and is associated with fire, sky, the sun, masculinity, and daytime (1).


I believe that in a perfect world, you cannot have one without the other.

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I go in and out of dreaming. It’s no surprise that I’m a good farmer—not just good, but very good. It’s in my bones, and I have carried it with me since birth—maybe even before that. I raised my children on a farm, and I was both the farmer and the farmer’s wife. Together we did well.

Beginning in early childhood, I followed my grandfather around the farm. He often pretended to ignore me, and that’s okay. I still learned a great deal from him, and I didn’t take it personally. I do not have a memory of him ever smiling. Even when he laughed, he didn’t smile. I don’t think it was possible for him.

During my later years, long after his spirit departed, I took it upon myself to understand some of that, and it’s worth knowing. I believe that everyone has something to love in them, even if it seems to be hiding. In some instances, it’s more of a challenge to find those loveable parts, but unless it is harmful to you, don’t give up. In cases such as this, I refer to it as ancestral healing.

My grandfather’s gentle handling of the cows emerged through his gruffness and great physical strength. He worked hard, and I admired him for that. However, his love for animals did not transfer to those around him. People bothered him. Back then, I didn’t allow his disdain for humans to be an obstacle in getting to know him. In fact, I accepted the challenge.

It had been a long time since I dreamed of my childhood farm—the scent of freshly brewed coffee, maple, and bacon mingling with men’s laughter, drifting throughout the boarding house. I was about to approach my grandfather when the crow of an impatient rooster intruded, finding a place in my twilight dream.

Reluctantly, I left that farm, ready to embrace my farm in real-time. I quickly dressed and dashed off to the chicken coop to collect fresh eggs. Often musical and quite clever, chickens amuse me. I was enamored with puffy broody hens that marched about the barnyard with a line of baby chicks following. I might carry a fuzzy yellow chick—rejected by its mother—in my oversized shirt pocket.

An egg about to crack open becomes a favorite moment. It moves slightly, and you can hear the peeping inside. Then, a tiny pointed beak begins to poke its way through the shell. I feel each tap alongside my beating heart. Breaking out of the shell is an arduous task for a baby chick; therefore, the hatching time varies from one chick to the next, as the weaker chick requires more rest. To observe the final wiggling free is to witness another of nature’s little miracles, one in which I shall never tire.

Rampant roots from my grandmother’s garden nestled safely in mine, taking nourishment from the rich brown soil within the breast of Our Mother. Vegetables, herbs, and flowers meandered without boundaries over well-intentioned stone walls. The air—thick, pungent, sweet—overwhelmed my senses, imprinting on my fundamental nature. Pure joy is plucking a ripe, juicy tomato straight from the vine and biting into it like an apple.

I thought of her and how we worked in the garden, my grandmother and me. Unlike my grandfather, she was simple, affectionate, and a friend to all, especially me. Of earth and soul, we harvested together, sharing in words unspoken—two Maryjanes, two kindred spirits, at one with Gaia.

Old and young shared wisdom. Through her, I learned how to dig in the dirt and find treasure. Through me, she learned the language of music. I would sing, and she would tell me how lovely my songs were and then ask me to sing another. I think that her favorite word was lovely. Excerpt from Ballad of a Sandwich Girl, a memoir yet to be published. Share thoughts of your farm or the land. What is it that you love most?

(1) Osgood, Charles E., and Meredith Martin Richards. “From Yang and Yin to and or But.” <i>Language</i>, vol. 49, no. 2, 1973, pp. 380–412. <i>JSTOR</i>, www.jstor.org/stable/412460. Accessed 27 Aug. 2021.