“Who is going to market today?” asked the professor of my Practice of Sustainable Agriculture Course in College.
Everybody’s hands shot up.
Market is where the farmer is validated, seen, thanked; market on campus is where students flirt and pretty girls see handsome farm guys.
Our teacher divvied up harvest tasks.
“You’re bunching radishes, you’re doing beets, you clean the salad mix, you get the truck ready… Do I have anybody to cut flowers for bouquets?”
None of the 24 students raised our hands.
The teacher smiled.
“Bob, what do you say? You want to make bouquets today?”
Everybody turned in silence.
I was the only person who recently went on a one week camping trip,
Touring two dozen farms around Washington State and didn’t use a puss pad.
I worked and laughed with my classmates,
But at the end of the day I hung out alone, writing and reading
Instead of laughing and talking around the fires.
I was the only Veteran, and everybody knew it.
Not the oldest person in class, at 25 years old, I was the third oldest.
And he wanted ME to pick flowers? Ha!
“Sure, I’ll do whatever is needed.”
With two five gallon buckets half full of water, I went to the flower patch
And started looking for color variety, shape combinations, perfection.
I didn’t know the difference between a snapdragon and a tulip,
A delphinium and an Aster, but I did my best finding ripe flowers to cut and put
In the bucket. After about ten minutes of working the way I too often do,
With head down and rapid movement,
The smell of flowers covered in morning dew with clover, rye and vetch overwhelmed me. The sound of hundreds of bees floating from flower to flower, ignoring my prideful self, completely unafraid of me, was like a mantra or prayer within my tortured soul.
The silent laughter of my classmates in the fields with the tall spruce trees
Smiling in the surrounding forest warmed my cold heart and made me feel
Love from some kind of God that I had turned my back on. I felt soft for the first time since I could remember.
I dropped to my knees on the edge of the flower bed and wept.
I cried out the feelings of abandonment from my father, abandonment from my mother, abandonment from my brother, abandonment from God and abandonment from friends.
I cried out a failed marriage as a 19 year old alcoholic who pointed out all of her faults while thinking I was perfect.
I cried out the forgotten feelings of abandoning my only brother in prison, of mistreating my mother and never reaching out to my father.
I cried out the two years in Iraq, where I shot at dozens of people and watched people bleed to death and cry over dead relatives.
I cried out the fear I had
Forced on thousands of people as I kicked down their doors in the darkness and pointed my rifle in their faces while yelling in a foreign language.
I cried out my misunderstanding of Good and Evil and Ignorance.
And then I realized that I was just another poor kid who was trying to do Good but was instead forced into doing Evil.
I cried and cried and cried like I hadn’t cried in years.
And then I stood up and continued harvesting the flowers.