Over the years and from time to time, Jo and I have enjoyed moments of great intimacy. No doubt if we were asked to bring them to mind, Jo and I would recall different moments of intimacy and, even if we shared a common memory, would describe those moments differently. I mention this because today, when returning from Reno by train, she leaned into me and I wrapped my arms around her. We were in the observation car, a mostly-windows second level railcar from which we could watch the landscape of the snowy Sierra mountains pass. The sun was full upon us and we silently shared that warmth, and I loved the way our bodies fit together and the comfort of it all. Jo didn’t say it, but I know from the familiarity that exists between us that she thought it: “This is what I love.”
I’ve rarely known someone to comment upon a moment with such recognition of the emotions felt. Early on in our relationship when hearing Jo say this, I was insecure. I would wonder if there were other moments that I liked that she didn’t particularly enjoy, or whether that meant that she didn’t particularly like our lovemaking, preferring instead that we just hold one another. No doubt, it’s a perfect example of the Mars/Venus split between men and women.
Yet, things have changed. I’m no longer threatened or left wondering when Jo says, “This is what I love.” I appreciate that at that moment, Jo is truly enjoying herself, and that brings me great pleasure, too, even if I’m not feeling the same way. At the very least I’ve come to recognize that, at that moment, I’m doing something right (or, more likely, I’m not doing something wrong).
Be that as it may be, a greater and deeper change has taken place. Through this very simple statement of Jo’s, I’ve been taught over the years to recognize moments that I love. Late this afternoon, I was high up in a ladder pruning our plum trees. It’s easy work, but it’s tiring and awkward because of the reach for making the right cuts while maintaining balance on a tall orchard ladder. The sun was getting low and I was starting to get cold. Just then, Jo came walking down the hill towards where I was working and asked, “Want to take a walk?” At that moment, as much as I wanted to finish the tree I was in, nothing made me happier than to be asked for companionship (and a good excuse to stop pruning for the day). This is what I love…
Last Saturday, we worked most of the day cleaning up various piles of rose prunings and leaves from the sycamores we planted around the farmstand many years ago. I wasn’t sure how long it would take to get it all done and, for some strange reason, I felt anxious that I wouldn’t get it done that day. I started the day tense and testy, wondering why Jo was taking time to prune the lavender and make bigger piles when I wasn’t sure I would get done what had already been piled up. As the morning progressed, it was clear that I was just being stupid, and I relaxed into the work. On the edge of the farm, there’s a tree that I’ve come to think of as “The Singing Tree.” It’s a tree where, for some reason, finches congregate in extraordinary numbers. While they are in the tree, they sing, and they can be heard across much of the farm. Neither of us mentioned the birdsong while we worked, but I know Jo well enough to know that she heard it as though giving it the attention she’d give to the performance of a Bach concerto at Symphony Hall. Not a note was missed. This is what I love…
We work a family farm, day in and day out, side by side and back to back. We see each other at moments like when we can listen to the birds sing. But, we also see each other at the end of a day when there was too much to do and too little got done, and morning will come much too soon for us to do it all over again. At moments like that, we worry for each other and our capacity for endless work. At moments like that, we’re too tired to be together, and we resolve the day as our own energies best allow us to, independent of one another.
Still, I’ve come to know that, for every day on the farm that’s too long, too hot, too tiring, too stressful, just too much, there will be moments of great intimacy. I’ll remember some of them with clarity, and I’ll probably forget many that don’t deserve to be forgotten. I am flesh and I am blood, and I’m fortunate beyond measure to share my work with my wife. I am flesh and I am blood, and I am fortunate beyond measure to know…This is what I love.