Five years ago we moved to a farmhouse in the middle of a broad expanse of hay fields. Living here has profoundly affected my psyche; the need for open vistas is now almost an addiction. We go away, sometimes to beloved tree-adorned places of my youth, but when I return home to this farm, open as it is to the sky, I feel relief, a freeness of existence, a stand-up-straight-and-breath-in-with-thanks response.
The wild entertainment is produced seasonally.
Winter: snow buntings scurry in small flocks to collect stray seeds alongside the road at the field’s edge. Mice leave delicate, winding thread-trails on the top of the snow, and the voles, a series of interconnected Swiss cheese-like holes and tunnels.
In late winter, the Northern Harrier returns, precociously taking advantage of no-snow-but not-yet-grass. Drifting about ten feet above the ground, he forms a solitary vector moving across the fields in an unhurried survey for prey, a flash of white rump accompanying each gentle course correction.
Spring brings a succession of painterly hues: Apple Greens mature into Grass Greens, soon sprinkled with Canary Yellow dandelions. By early May, the grass is tall enough to welcome bobolinks, the most precious of our neighbors returning from southern climes, with offers of love bubbling from their throats.
In mid-summer the grasses and sedges are thick and deep. I lie down on my belly in the middle of the field, braving the tight collection of prickly stems to remind myself of the importance of perspective: summer grasses are unwelcoming to prone human beings but a comforting safe haven for small animals and field birds. Later, walking upright on a narrow mowed path, I stretch my arms out on both sides, hands turned downward, loving the grass tops tickling my palms. Only a slight movement of the seed heads to my right indicates the presence of the dog accompanying me, otherwise invisible.
By autumn, in the part of the fields not mown for hay, the grasses have fallen over with the weight of their biomass and the winds have torn messy swaths, like a wrinkled tablecloth.
Snow will iron things out.