Thanksgiving Reflection III: Unbought GraceBy Mark T. Mitchell for FRONT PORCH REPUBLIC
It’s raining. Yesterday we were told to expect 4-8 inches of snow. I was looking forward to the snow. Getting a good snow for Thanksgiving somehow seemed like a good idea. A cessation of movement. A chance to be home with nowhere else to go. The business of life sometimes requires a shock from nature to slow us down and redirect our focus. A snow storm can do that, even if a consequence is hours shoveling snow.
I had intended to go hunting this morning, but the rain will have the deer hunkered down like I am now. I’m not moving much and neither are they. Maybe Friday the sun will come out and both the deer and I will be up and looking for each other.
I also need to finish the little three-sided barn for the cows. Winter is coming and I’m guessing they would appreciate a place to get out of the wind and rain and snow. The cows arrived in early October. A cow, heifer, and two steers. They are Dexters, which is a small breed developed in Ireland. We’ll send one of the steers to the butcher in late spring. The cow will hopefully have a calf in the spring—please Lord not in the dead of winter. I bought sixteen round bales of hay. They are lined up along my driveway. Since I don’t have a tractor, we’ll roll them into the paddock as they are needed. They are big and heavy. It takes my three boys and me to move them. My neighbor told me the other day he wants to teach my boys to drive his tractor so he can hire them to move his bales into his field to feed his horses and sheep. They could also, he told me with a knowing smile, move my bales as well. Sounds like a good trade-off.
The night comes early now that we’ve moved our clocks back. By 6pm it feels like bedtime. We’re playing cards nowadays. Pinochle is the game of choice at the moment. When I go out to gather the eggs and shut the door to the chicken house, I use a flashlight to locate the eggs in the nesting boxes. But when I shut the door and turn back toward the house, I turn off the light. The darkness is not foreign but somehow comforting. The lights from the house glow warmly and contrast with the sharp cold on a clear night when the stars sing brightly and my breath is visible as I walk. I can see my people inside the house. My wife in the kitchen preparing dinner. A son playing his guitar. Images of life and peace seen from the outside. The cows are bedded down in the front field and I speak to them across the darkness. They hear my voice but don’t move.
Edmund Burke wrote of the “unbought grace of life.” It’s a good phrase. There are plenty of unbought graces, many of which we don’t see because we aren’t looking. Or because we are oriented toward the dramatic and blinded to the simple.
As I’ve been writing, the rain has turned to snow, and it’s coming down hard. Scott and his cousin have gone out to tend to the animals. My two-year-old daughter is standing at the glass door chattering about the snow. She wants to go out. My wife has bundled her up and she just sent out on the deck to delight in the strange white stuff falling all around. Simple things. Unremarkable things until we begin reflecting on the beauty of it all. Home. Family. Time. Life. Unbought graces all.