The first photo was taken in January 2011, the day after Nathan gave his 8-week resignation notice. We would become full-time farmers dependent on our community to support us. The evening before had been filled with anxiousness, but on this morning we walked the gardens and dug the first radish.
These brightly colored veggies, in contrast to the many greens we had been harvesting felt like a miracle. Radishes, a vegetable few people enjoy a miracle. We hadn’t even learned to dream about carrots and rutabaga and beets. Little did we know about fennel, celery, and Brussels sprouts. Brussels sprouts!
I spoke this story recently the day after my dear friend Susan gifted me this icon as a birthday present. An icon, I’ve heard it said, stirs something inside you. An inner knowing of God’s love. A love that replaces anger and guilt with the creativity to transform power into goodness.
This icon of Mary gently bringing Joseph a cup of water stirs up memories of transformation inside me. We had four children in six years and during that time I learned to sit in silence. A painful learning that I didn’t I understand and often questioned. Nathan took on similar learning as he became not only a full-time farmer but father.
We learned to work with children underfoot and as Nathan learned that farming was more than just production: breaking ground, planting, and harvesting I discovered that motherhood: carrying, birthing and feeding babies had nurtured wisdom inside me that held answers to our nervous questions.
In what was messy at first, but eventually became commonplace, we learned that Nathan needed more than a cup of water for sustenance. He needed my centering presence as he labored. He began to pause his work for my careful guidance. In what was very unexpected we discovered that I carried the knowledge he needed and when I offered it with patience there was a peace that fell over us.
The gift has been more than the harvest of many vegetables. It has been Nathan’s ability to connect to a more gentle nature and my strength to speak truth to the right thing even when it’s difficult.
This is a portrait of Michelle Howell, a hardworking farmwife, mother of five, author, and advocate. On the left side of the bust you can read text from the poem “Anyway” that was on a wall of Mother Teresa’s home for children in Calcutta, India. “If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.” “The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.”
Leslie Nichols, Artist