The month of May was wet for nearly the whole of Kansas, and we happened to be one of the wettest spots in the state with over 30 inches for the month. Spring rains make grass grow and the lambs are good and growing. Photography and blogging has taken a back seat in a year of heavy labor on every front, but I managed to take my camera with me a few times while I did my rounds on the farm.
(And the Kingdom of God?)
When drawing becomes a prayer, the image becomes a repository for the questions and thoughts offered to God, which then settle on the page. At first like a fine dust. Then into ridges and furrows. Then into fields and gardens.
I thought I had some language to accompany these developing drawings, but they are dissolving into new perspectives without words.
What does it mean to be a steward of life? It is an unspoken question threaded through my days. Each winter we carry more lives through to the hope of spring. It is the nature of a farm and a family grow, a response to a holy invitation. In our stewardship, we learn to leverage the outward death of winter to build the inner life. Roots and bones. Back to the earth in the compost of the old year, manure and trampled hay, sawdust and wood shavings, in cover crops and dormant roots, even the bones of the dead under the heap or in the earth. Those failures of the past year kindle study and deeper investigations into the principles of agriculture and life. The wheel of life rolls away as a witness to the nature of God, always redeeming death and turning it into the living.
The oblique light comes with a more subtle potency not felt in the haste of summer, illuminating details made bare by the dearth and otherwise overlooked. It is not all romance of slanting light. There is the mud and the death and sickness. There are the broken systems and the unfinished jobs, and the detritus of unclean life scattered everywhere. The butcher sighed and smiled and cried “Ahh, life!” and thanked God as he cut the throat of the lamb. It seems that to live is to accept and know death, and to die is to understand and accept life. It is a mystery that I don’t claim to understand.
“For I know that this shall turn out to my salvation through your prayer and the support of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and my hope that in nothing shall I be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always so now also, Christ shall be Magnified in my body, whether it be by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:19-21
My family and our work were humbled to be featured in the most recent edition of Plough Quarterly. There is a profile by Susannah Black, and a feature on Go On: Inner Man Version, an altarpiece I made back in 2003, and also an excerpt of my responses to some questions about our lifestyle, called Farming the Universe. If you choose to take the time to read some or all of them, I sincerely hope that you enjoy them.
celebrations of lucerne and other legumes, solar crescents, roots, and the husbandry of even toed-ungulates
at the BaumWerk Etsy StoreDear friends, I thank you for all of your kind words and interest regarding this new print of the Living Tree. I am grateful that it seems to have struck a chord with many of you. A number of you have made inquiries into when and if prints would be available to purchase. As of Friday, a limited number (there will be more as I continue to print the edition) have been listed on my ETSY store. I am selling these first fifteen for $125, after that the price will increase to $150. Click here to go to the listing. Please read more below for some details about the print, and thank you again for your support!
The image itself is 12″ wide and 22 1/2″ tall and is printed on French’s 100# Butcher Off White Dur-o-tone paper, which is 18″ wide and 25″ tall. French’s paper is American made in Niles Michigan.The edition will be 1oo prints, which is the biggest edition I have ever made. Every single print is hand made by me on my Wepplo etching press in my Rose Hill, Kansas workshop. The print is made using three linoleum blocks, as a composite image. It took me over a year to design and carve the image into the blocks (although I was doing lots of other things during that year, besides carving linoleum).Many hours of painstaking carving went into creating all of the details in The Living Tree.The Tree and it’s roots are loaded with life, like this little owl. There are many spiritual and natural beliefs and dreams symbolically represented in this print. There are many things which I see and believe about who my God is, and also things which I strive to cultivate in my life and stewardship on the land. I don’t have many words as a companion for this image just yet, but perhaps in the future I may try to lay out those ideas for those who are interested.