In the unending societal pursuit of novelty and speed, the virtue of patience can become lost. But nature remembers, and the homesteading process yet remembers the practice of patience. What are some examples from these worlds of patience and what can we learn from them?
Patience is the painted turtle, slowly hauling herself from the creek up to the sandy roadside, choosing just the right spot to lay her eggs. Diligently, she uses her clawed back legs to dig slowly deeper and deeper into the soft, damp sand. Patience requires trust because she is vulnerable out here in the open, and she cannot run away very fast. Yet she persists until her motherly task is complete before laboring her heavy body back to the safety of the moving waters.
Patience is the turkey eggs in the incubator, meditating as their warm home rocks back and forth. Twenty-eight days must pass before they can emerge, and much transformation needs to happen within for yolk, white, and embryo to become a fully-formed chick that can breathe and blink and walk. The process is ancient and yet new each time, and it cannot be hurried.
Patience isn’t just waiting, it’s an internal process. Critical, unseen work is transforming the situation from within.
Patience is the weaver at her loom. While her passion is the weaving process, she knows that the tedium of setting up her warp is especially critical. A hasty, sloppy warping job will mean headache and hassle all through the weaving process. But a meticulous, even warp means the weft will glide with ease and the work be pleasurable and satisfying. Beautiful textiles come from attention to the details of setup, just as a journey patiently well-planned brings its own rewards. Patience knows that all the steps have value, especially those that lay the groundwork for what is to come.
Patience is the good ewe (mother sheep) teaching her lambs to nurse. Careful with her hooves as she places them gingerly, not to step on her children. She nudges the little ones with her nose, helping to steer their inexperience in the right direction. She knows they must eat to survive, and that learning takes time and practice. She persists even when the wobbly little ones get it wrong and look for the udder by her front legs or face. She tries again, turning them around until they master the new skill.
Patience is the seeds in their packets. They have hope. Once tucked into warm, damp, dark soil, they spring into action. It doesn’t take long at all and green life comes bursting forward. If they were to begin growing in the dry, soilless packet, there would be no chance of survival. Instead, they are in tune with just the right opportunity to bring their stored-up promise forward. When that moment is right, the incredible transformation begins.
Patience is the sugar maples in the barnyard. Each year, the buds swell, the leaves pop and glory in their greenness, only to lose themselves in orange and yellows in the fall and float away as the trees prepare for the harsh bareness of winter. Each year a new ring grows in the massive trunks with their craggy bark. Storms have buffeted them, tearing out their tops and blowing some of them down. Yet the survivors persist, filling in the gaps that their crowns might regain their sun-hogging glory. Through drought and deluge they persist. There is strength in their patience to endure.
We too can have such facets of patience if we cultivate them in ourselves — trust, quiet transition, attention to detail, persistence, hope, and endurance. These quiet, unhurried, ancient skills mirrored in nature can give us the resilience to face the challenges in our lives, rather than running away from them or seeking to drown them out in pleasure or distraction. Patience is realistic about the challenge, taking it on in small, manageable pieces, one moment at a time.
Patience is a skill we can practice. We can choose patience in the face of difficulty or fear. We can immerse in the process and see what it has to teach us. This week, as challenges arise, see how the practice of patience can be applied. Be slow to anger or judge, instead taking time to really look at what is happening in the situation. Be slow to hurry or skip over the details, instead taking time to really observe and immerse. We tell ourselves that we don’t have time, but this is often just a mask for fear. The turtle has time, as does the seed and the tree, the ewe, the egg, and the weaver.
This week, take the time you need to cultivate patience. See how it shifts your perspective. Take it fishing with you, or on a walk, or with your children. Take it with you when facing an ongoing problem or confronting anxiety. Patience is active, not passive. Patience is part of love.
See you down on the farm sometime.
Laura Berlage is a co-owner of North Star Homestead Farms, LLC and Farmstead Creamery & Café. 715-462-3453, www.northstarhomestead.com.