By Susanne von Rennenkampff

It is past the middle of May, and even in our northerly area spring should be at its most beautiful. It is slow in coming, however, and it is not easy to have patience for it after six months of winter. A slight hint of green has descended on the poplar bluffs lending depth to the freshly tilled grain fields, but the leaves are hesitating to unfold; no wonder, with temperatures still dipping below freezing almost every night.

We have been farming in north central Alberta since we got married in 1981, both my husband and I having emigrated from Germany. We met in university where we both were studying agriculture, Johann having grown up on a farm, I, a teacher’s daughter from a small village, believing a love of animals and the rural lifestyle were pointing me in this direction. Little did I know then, in my early twenties, what this implied, and I didn’t give any thought to the question if I might be suited for the life of a pioneer woman. This term, commonly applied to women of earlier generations of immigrants, possibly seems a bit presumptuous for someone starting a new life in a civilized country in the last part of the twentieth century, but I believe it still is true in many ways. My background – a sheltered childhood in a caring family, a small, close-knit community, an orderly life with predictable day-to-day occurrences – would seem like an unlikely jump-off point into a life of adventure, and indeed I sometimes wonder what strange fate brought me here. I wonder – but I don’t question it, because it is, as I can see now, a place and a way of life in which I have thrived, that has shaped me and helped to make me who I am.

Never cut out to be a city dweller, I probably would have been happy in any rural setting, even in my home country, but I doubt that I would have found there the two most important ingredients that have played a role in my life: the closeness to nature and solitude.

Even on a much too cold May morning like today I can’t help but stand still and be filled with wonder at my surroundings: the back-and-forth of woodpeckers drumming in the bush behind the house, the funny gait of the robins scooting across the lawn, stopping abruptly to pull up a worm, tail flicking. I long for the tender green, just starting to spread on the black and white poplars, to unfold – only to wish that it might linger in just that stage, the moment of expectation, for a bit longer: so soon it will become familiar, part of the summer landscape, taken for granted.

Always that is the challenge: to keep the extraordinariness of every day from turning into something that is taken for granted. So easily summer, the season of lushness and plenty, will let us forget the slow sprouting of a cold spring. We now tell stories about the humble beginnings of our farming and have to take care to remember what it actually felt like. It is much easier to laugh about the frustration of not being able to light a fire in a wood burning stove, of lamenting the fact that the tractor was bigger than the house beside which it stood, once heat comes at the turn of a switch and the house has enough room for a family of five, plus a load of summer guests.

The summer feeling of accomplishment, however, comes at a cost: life is so busy, there are so many things that need to be done, children to be raised, expectations to be fulfilled, conventions to be upheld, and at times, then, I found myself restless and deeply unhappy for no recognizable reason. It is only now, in the late summer of my life, that I have started to realize what has kept me well over all these years, what will always do so.

My life rises and falls with the seasons: always there is a day at the very end of April when thousands of cranes move overhead, just like the swallows always return within a day or two in May. Saskatoon and chokecherry bushes usually bloom around the long weekend in May; beans and cucumbers have a strange way of being ready to harvest around the same day at the beginning of August, and the hummingbirds, faithful visitors of the feeder through the summer, suddenly disappear at the end of that month.

Every year anew the haunting beauty of golden and orange poplar leaves against the deep blue sky fills me with a deep happiness when I drive the grain truck at harvest time, and there is hardly a night when I don’t step out to have one last look at the starry sky, sometimes even rewarded with the strange wonder of the colorful sheets of the Northern Lights.

This country, this way of life, demand a toughness I don’t always possess, a resilience that is sometimes hard to come by, but I am slowly finding out that I am learning all I need to know as a human being when I try to match my rhythm with the rhythm of the nature that surrounds me. It is a learning process that is likely going to take me the rest of my life, but what better way to spend it?

About this writer

  • Susanne von Rennenkampff Born in Germany, Susanne von Rennenkampff immigrated to Canada in 1981 where she operates a grain farm with her husband. Susanne’s poetry has appeared in Blue Skies magazine, Prime Number and The Maynard.

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2 Responses to “Seasons”

  1. Bee Mortimer says:

    Deeply moving, as always.

  2. Mike says:

    Hi, Aum. I know there haven’t been any posts here in a while but I thought I’d post anaywy in case you saw it. I’d like to say hello to you, HG and Pepper (I think Taggie secretly misses him!) from the Kemsley clan. We still miss your nice visits and the great garden produce! We hope you are doing well. I’ve been meaning to check the blogs for ages but it looks like your art is still stunning, of course!

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