If there is one thing I have learned through farming it’s the skill of mustering abilities I never knew I had. Sometimes the simplest of tasks take all day and other times major projects seemingly complete themselves. Any unplanned accomplishment seems “big” and brings momentum the chores that follow.
And then there are events, the BIG DAYs that mark the passage of our farm year on the calendar. Shearing Day, when we shear all the alpacas, Farm Tour and National Alpaca Farm Day when we participate with other farms to educate the public, Valle Fair, a one day local church fair where we take alpacas and sell products to raise money in our community and the Friday after Thanksgiving, our biggest tour and shopping day of the year on the farm. These are the days that we plan and strategize for all year. An excitement and momentum builds in the team in the weeks leading up to the event. As we say, “we’ve done this a time or two” and we know a bit of what to expect. And still, as with any event there are many unknown variables going into it. The weather, the number of people that will come, unforeseen technical glitches, an emergency issue with an animal and the list goes on and on.
One shearing day an alpaca got her eyelid cut with the shears and an emergency trip from a vet was needed for stitches. Once during our county farm tour, a newborn goat almost died. I spent the entire day sitting on the floor of a stall with him in my arms, willing a him to live and feeding him with an eye dropper until he could suckle on his own. Another year at the Valle fair, 50 mph winds took four of us to hold the tent from going airborne, while we watched every display unit fall and alpaca socks go airborne. One Thanksgiving weekend, a quick winter storm left us with six inches of snow, and the farm went into “4 wheel drive only” mode for both team members and visitors on our busiest weekend.
You get the picture. Many variables are out of our control and there are no guarantees that an event will run smoothly. And yet, we still go through all the planning and preparation to make each year the best yet. Every BIG DAY comes with challenges and is over in a blink of an eye. A year of preparation and then in eight hours or less, it is done. We make notes of changes for next year and then set our sights on the next event on the calendar.
This year, as we prepared for Thanksgiving weekend I set my sights one rung higher. Yes, I wanted things to go smoothy but I also wanted to stay present to each and every moment. I wanted to halt the blur of a BIG DAY and connect with the people who came to see us. I wanted to savor the moments of the day, remember the conversations and comments. It was a subtle shift of focus, inside me. I didn’t tell anyone and outwardly my actions didn’t change. I still made hot chocolate, emptied the trash, sold yarn, decorated wreaths and answered questions. I simply increased my awareness of each moment, the world and people around me.
And at the end of the day, I felt different. Time seemed to have gone by more slowly. Like a train pulling into the station after the landscape has blurred past for hours, I could make out the details, read the road signs. The replay of the day was technicolored. And my heart was full from the sweetness of all the interactions. I felt the fullness of having given something different and in turn I felt I received more.
As the team sat, stood and leaned against the kitchen counters after all the visitors left, we were visibly tired and spent. Even the 20 year olds complained that their feet hurt. We had broken every record set at the farm; number of visitors, sales, number of people taken on a tour. It was our biggest BIG DAY!! We celebrated by telling stories, laughing together; our sense of connection growing with each anecdote. The air between us glowed gold like campfire light.
It was dark when I left the barn and walked home. A quarter of a moon floated above the apple trees. The sky a bright dark blue was just letting the stars come out. Casper and Duke, our dogs, ran ahead of me in a game of chase. Frodo and Samwise, young angora goats called to me as I passed their field. And then it was quiet, silent. My thoughts turned to the next day, the day after the biggest BIG DAY. I wanted to be more present for it as well.