Farmer as Writer

As I listen to my body, and offer it the balance it requests, I find that quiet time presents itself as an elegant option, despite my deep-rooted protests.

My slow-growing need for easeful activity to balance the intensity of farm work was first filled by painting, beginning in 2016. I continue to paint, and my art can be seen on display at Lost Croft Cabin, in local galleries, and at my art website, quincygraymcmichael.com.

In 2018, my body began to revolt, turning up the volume on the balancing message it had been sending me for years.

SLOW DOWN, screamed my painful, overused wrists.

PLEASE REST, yelled the nervous pinching in my spine.

And, somehow, loudest of all, my dermatologist uttered: You have skin cancer. Basal cell carcinoma. Two spots, both on your nose.

As I awoke from anesthesia after undergoing what would be the second of five restorative surgeries in late 2018, the inspiration to write about farmer health came to me. And it stuck, like egg on dry cast iron.

As I began to heal and realign with the rhythm of my farm, the overwhelming inspiration to write about what I was learning remained with me. At the time, however, I was not entirely sure that I was ready to make space for an intensive writing project. I was sure that this venture, once I began, would be a dedicated project, much as is my farming work.

The passing of 2018 only heightened my urgency to write. While I let the topic lay fallow and even tried to oust it from my mind, feeling intimidated by the enormity of such an undertaking, I secretly hoped that my need to write would diminish, but it did not.

I knew I could no longer keep quiet about how my manner of farming had contributed to the precipitous decline in both my health and physical ability. I felt myself falling apart in my early thirties, and I knew that I needed to share my experience. I hoped that reading it would help others.

In early 2019, I applied for Spalding University’s MFA in Writing program, and was accepted. Since then, my days have been filled with farm work and fruitful reflection from my writing perch. With practice comes habit, and I now feel drawn to write, much as I know I must farm.

The manuscript I am composing offers the story of this farm and my body, blended in poetry and prose. Writing has made itself known as an essential part of my farm work. It is yet one more way I practice slowing down.