Lately, the weather has been favorable for continued work in the pecan orchard. There are times when I feel like I have not made the slightest dent in all of the cleanup that needs to be done on the fifty-two acres of land and, more specifically, in the orchard itself, where 142 pecan trees have dropped limbs and branches over a span of more than twenty years. I do feel pride though, when I think back to last November when I started the work of picking up downed limbs and branches by hand and transporting them by the trailer load to the burn pile in the canyon behind our home. Each week, I dedicated at least two to three days for work in the orchard, and the burn pile ash stayed hot for weeks on end as a result. Even now, with the mosquito and buffalo gnats to battle, and a high infestation of ticks this year, I have managed to work without much discomfort. Nice breezes and warm sun, along with applying some fragrant essential oils and herb-based, natural insect repellents, helps to keep the insects at bay.
In the pecan orchard, I spend many weekdays doing methodical work – picking up branches, cutting or breaking limbs down to a manageable size, and moving three to four trailer loads of wood to be burned. Looking over the expanse of the orchard after each of my trips to the burn pile, I can see progress. And in all of this repetitive work, I realize there is more to the orchard than seeing what work needs to be done and mindlessly going about it. I have found that I have not one thought in my head as I work. I focus on my surroundings, listening to sounds and calls of nature and watching for movement in my peripheral vision while, at the same time, practicing caution and safety. After all, there are Copperhead snakes on the property, and one must always be aware of fire and wood ants. But for the most part, each day I am presented with something fascinating about the pecan orchard property. There are hidden jewels to be found everywhere. Wild onions and berries, medicinal plants and trees, and brilliant splashes of color from emerging prairie flowers (or weeds). The slough attracts water birds, and various trees and snags provide homes for all sorts of feathered friends. Numerous holes in the soil, tucked away in weeds and roots, house mammals whose dens are homes for their young. And of course, almost every morning I am greeted by Emma and Ronnie deer. Whenever I see them, I always make time to give them attention and take lots of photographs.
It is rather pleasing to find that all of the mindless and methodical work I have been doing has actually shifted my perspective of all that still needs to be done in the orchard. Maybe the summer months will provide just as much delight as the spring has when it comes to toiling in the pecan orchard. And perhaps I can even open my mind to believing the summer conditions might actually be favorable for enjoying observations and moments of presence provided by nature. I wonder, can it be that maybe it is in the mindless work that I have found true mindfulness?