When I was a child, my big sister and our friend Lucy B. (for whom my Lucy was partly named), taught me and my little sister to body surf in the ocean. Standing out in the water, watching a roller approach, swelling larger and larger, finally rearing over my head, I was always half-afraid. If you caught it right, you were picked up and carried like an arrow zinging through the crest, to wash up, laughing and exhilarated, in the shallows. But if you caught it wrong, the wave would smash you to the bottom and grind you into the sand.
This memory has remained with me as a metaphor all my life. Whenever I have looked ahead to a task that overwhelmed me, I have remembered watching the approach of a wave.
I have also remembered the body-surfing safety tip I was taught as a child: if you’re not ready or plain scared, just dive through the wave to the calm water that lies beyond. How many times have I longed to dive through a schedule I dreaded, and emerge safely on the other side?
Right now I’m watching a big wave of intimidating tasks roll in. Over the next five days I have to:
1. butcher the last 4 of my 35 meat birds (neglected when I ran out of energy, and now gigantic), leaving the sheep stall free so I can
2. entice five large hogs to follow me in from the back acres into the barn where they will be safely enclosed as I
3. reinforce and cover my truck stake rack and
4. build a sturdy enclosed ramp up the truck tailgate and
5. somehow load the five big pigs and
6. drive the pigs to slaughter on Monday and
7. bring home my frozen lamb meat, stash it temporarily in the camp freezer, and begin alerting customers while I
8. await delivery of my new freezer at the farm and
9. muck out the deep bedding in the sheep stall and
10. pull the fence and cut young poplars along a border of Betty’s pasture so I can get a borrowed stock trailer into the field and
11. run all the sheep up the pasture and into the catch pen, making it easier to
12. load the flock and bring them home for winter.
These are only the highlights of my list — the new parts for my manure spreader arrived last night, so that repair job will be in there somewhere — but give an idea of the big roller looming on my horizon.
Many of the tasks, individually, have me intimidated. Considering them together, I am breathing through my nose and trying not to gulp with dread. Today I woke up at 2 AM, my mind racing.
I’ll be relieved when it’s all over, one way or another, and I’m safely back in the shallows next week.