I take a deliberate drink of my whiskey. Alfred refuses to discuss how the farms are going. I suppose one story wouldn’t hurt for now. My pipe goes out, so I pull the one I smoked before dinner at L & L pub from my pack. I get it packed and relight it.
“My trip out East went very well. I got a letter from another friend.”
Alfred gasps with a chuckle. “You have other friends.”
I just shake my head. “Right, moving on. I visited this group of farmers. I traveled for fifteen days to get there. I was blessed because the weather was much warmer then. The sun shone the whole way. I was delayed a bit because the flat plains around that farm really struck me. The shift from our hills to those plains was fascinating. The world just leveled out. There was still plenty of trees for the first couple days after the hills. Then, the land just became prairie. A few sparse trees remained, but mostly the plants were just shrubs and weeds. I had the opportunity to see a whole different set of plant life.”
Alfred rolls his eyes. “Edward, I know the scenery is important to you, but others of us just want to know what you encountered with the people.”
I shrug. “You’re right of course. You know how easily I get distracted especially when the plants are that new to me.”
Alfred laughs and rolls a finger in the air. “Yes, yes.”
I look back at the fire. “Anyway, I arrive at the farm and talk to one of the men in the field. That’s one of the interesting things about this group. They are all men. They live in what looks like a barracks. They all have their own room in the barracks, but dining and other living spaces are all common. I heard, at some point, that the individual rooms were a new development. I think that was a wise move on their part.”
Alfred nods his head. “It certainly was. A bunch of guys all sharing the same living quarters sounds like a recipe for conflict.”
I agree with Alfred. The farmers reported that stuff just seemed tense when all the living spaces where common. “So, the first farmer leads me up to the barracks and introduces me to the leader of the group. This leader tells me all about how they manage their farms. Apparently, the farming is done in connection with a prayer cycle. They have the year divided into three parts. They have a certain work assigned for each part. The work connects to a certain set of prayers.
“Then, this leader takes me to the fields and shows me the others working. At some points throughout the day, they ring a bell. Everyone puts down what they are working on and goes to this little chapel at the back of the barracks. They read from their book and say some prayers before going right back out the door to resume their work.”
Alfred blinks at me. “So, are you telling me that they’ve attempted to marry prayer and work?”
I nod. “Yeah, that seems exactly like what they have done. The pause in the work to pray really seems to keep them focused even as they plow, pick, or plant.
“In fact, the longer I stayed the more I remembered a story that I read somewhere. Many years ago, a son of a rich family decided to abandon the mercantile life of his family. He left the city and found an isolated spot in the hills of a foreign country. I hear that he just wanted to go out alone and pray. However, many soon learned of him and flocked to see what he was doing. As a result, he grew a community around him. He never pointed to himself but kept the focus on the prayers.
“I asked the leader if he ever heard of this guy from long ago. The leader said that he had not. He was doing something new. I shrugged my shoulders at him.”
Alfred snorts with a shrug. “Yes, we all think we are reinventing the wheel.”
I laugh. “So, it would seem. I stayed there about ten days before my return trip. I enjoyed watching them live. I don’t know about their choice of isolation, but they seemed to grow in their place. So, I can’t disagree too much. How are you doing in your place?”