Sometimes, patience is perfect work

Waiting is part and parcel of farmers' lives. We refrain from planting until the soil's moisture and temperature are correct. We watch for the mail, hoping the needed tractor part will arrive today. Sometimes our patience is tested as we long for rain, but over the years I have learned that it is best to accept the delays and watch for unexpected pleasures.

Sometimes, as a farmer's wife, I wait for my husband.

A couple of Saturdays ago on one of the first mild spring evenings, my husband, John, opened the front door and stuck his head into the house.

"I need your help to drive the truck," he said. "The tractor has a flat tire. Down in the blueberries. I don't want to leave it there all weekend." He stomped toward the barn.

Having just sat down to practice my harp, I wasn't thrilled to go back to work. But my farmer is a Jack-of-all-trades, and I am expected to be his Jill, ready to assist. Thinking I'd be snug in the cab of the truck, I slipped my bare feet into clogs and joined John outside the barn, where he was filling a portable air tank.

"This will take a couple of minutes," he said. "Need the truck to carry it."

I leaned against the truck, scanning the sky. A few thin clouds caught the pink glow, and more clouds were mounding up in the west. At last the tank was filled and we rattled down to the blueberry bog, where we found the forlorn blue tractor parked at the end of a row. John filled the squashed tire, but we could hear air whistling out of it.

"I'll drive the tractor as far as I can, and you follow in the truck. We will have to fill the tire again. I really want to park the tractor in the barn."

Trolling along behind John and his tractor, I kept glancing behind me at the sunset. A backdrop of altocumulus clouds shimmered in peach and gold while a few flimsy gray fluffs scurried across the low bank. John stopped the tractor, pulled down the air tank, and refilled the tire. I rolled down the window and felt the sharp temperature.

"I didn't bring enough air. So you drive the tractor until the tire's flat, while I go for another tankful."

A riot of peepers trilled from the ditches. A red-tailed hawk screamed and descended into the back woods as I puttered along on the tractor. When the tire flopped more loudly, I stopped the tractor and turned it off. Sticking my bare feet on the warm engine, I wished that I had brought a sweater - but I forgot my chill as I watched the sky.

Like chips of mica, the dimpled sections of the clouds caught the sunlight and shone hot pink against the deepening orange. As the sun dropped behind the horizon, red flickered across the ribbons of clouds. Geese honked their approval as they flew over on the way to the marshes. From the far side of the bog, I heard the rumble of John's truck as he bumped along the farm road.

He filled up the tire one last time, but the tractor traveled only another 100 yards before we parked it at the edge of the woods. Lavender still lingered in the western sky where the evening star shone.

"Need more light before I can take off that tire. Guess we'll have to wait until Monday to fix it," John said as we bounced home in the truck.

I nodded in agreement, listening to the chipping of a cardinal. If only all moments of waiting could yield such pleasant conditions as those minutes spent on a tractor seat, biding my time and harvesting the beauty of a spring sunset.

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