The harvest doesn’t always come in on time or the way we have planned it. The crop may not be a bumper or the prices may be down. The grain heads may have dried out early with the heat or were hailed out or eaten by grasshoppers. Some years, the harvest may not come in at all.
People from Saskatchewan are famous for calling their land Next Year Country. You could say it’s the farmers’ motto. There’s a farm near Craik, halfway between Saskatoon and Regina, that has for decades, had this written across the roof of the barn: Riskan Hope. I was in Saskatchewan this summer on a writing retreat and, of course, saw the sign again from the side of the highway.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about my writing in harvest images. But it might be a hundred things: goals, aspirations, ambitions dreamed of. This fall, I had the chance of some further feedback on a project I’ve been working on since 2010. I thought it might be ready for publishers, but learned, no, not yet.
After the initial let down, what started to come to me were images of walking alongside a combine. Growing up on a farm, one of the chores was to take lunch or supper out to the field for the combiners. It might be my dad or one of my brothers harvesting. But even without a reason, I used to love to spend part of an autumn evening, moon and mists rising, in among the swaths, the fields golden with fall. Circle back to present time, and in my mind’s eye, I am walking alongside a combine and throwing not oats or barley but ideas into the hopper, knowing that they are collecting and moving me and my story towards completion. In these images of myself alongside the combine, I see chaff flying out the back of the machine, and I keep walking. Somehow I know that it’s as I move forward that I will gain insights and that continuing to move is part of the secret.
Without risk we cannot hope and without hope we cannot risk. Without riskan hope, there is no harvest.