Fond memories of harvest

Long, long ago in a country far, far away, a guy named Carl Jung did some serious thinking about the human mind. Among his many theories was a particular little item he called the “collective unconscious.” He believed that, in the inherited structure of the mind, there exists a part that includes memories and impulses common to all mankind. It’s different from the personal unconscious, which contains the things that you yourself have learned over your lifetime. He thought that your everyday behavior, down to phobias and dreams, is rooted in that collective unconscious. Now what, may you ask, does that have to do with the price of tea in China or even the price of wheat in Kansas? I know I’ve said in the past that I don’t particularly favor any season over the others. Still, early summer holds a special place in my heart. Not only is June my birth month, but it’s also time for storm chasing and wheat harvest. One of my earliest birthday memories is riding all the way from Buhler to Windom (an epic journey for a five-ish-year-old) to watch Grandma’s renter harvest her land. Richard even let me “drive” the combine down one row. It was, without a doubt, the momentous occasion in my young life until that point. I’m so grateful to our “neighbors” for taking my kiddos for a spin on their combine shortly after we moved in. My whole childhood was surrounded by wheat. Menno across the street would sometimes park his wheat truck in town, and we neighborhood kids would climb up into it and play. Trips to Grandma’s always included watching the news to see the commodity prices and commenting accordingly. A few families at church were custom cutters, and you knew when they left for Texas that summer would soon arrive here. We often talked about Uncle John, who was a pioneer in wheat hybridization, and a Ph. D to boot. Even farther back, on the other side of the family, distant cousin Bernard played a large role in bringing Turkey Red Wheat to the US. I guess you’d say it’s in my blood. And old habits die hard. I happened to find myself in England at harvest time a while ago. Just like Grandma used to do, I had to pull over to count the rows on a head, then taste the kernel. Just like home, except over there, they call it corn. Grandma’s 1974 Wheat Centennial keepsake now graces my bookshelf. Out on walks, I like to listen to the particular rustle of the wheat, to stop and feel the toothiness of the awns as I run my fingers up the head, to watch the gentle undulations as the wind blows across the field. Most of all, seeing a field of wheat just fills me with a deep sense of satisfaction, of everything being right with the world. In winter, green seedlings amidst the frosty greys and browns bring hope. In early spring, the developing heads bring excitement, anticipation at what the harvest may hold. And now, right before harvest, when the heads are just starting to bow, there is a quiet joy, tempered by trepidation. This is the time of great value, having survived and thrived to this point. This is the time of great vulnerability—the stalks are becoming brittle now, and one badly timed storm could ruin it all. I like to think that I’m not the only one who feels this, that my grandparents, great-grands, and those before them looked out at their fields with the same eyes I do. Their survival more directly depended upon the success of their crops than mine, but even now, if the harvest is bad, we’ll all feel it. It occurred to me the other day that we here in the Great Plains are rather unique. Some people live surrounded by mountains, or forests, or rangeland. We literally live each day surrounded by food in one stage or another. If the fields we drive through aren’t planted in wheat, corn, or beans, they’re either in forage or silage or pasture and providing food for our other food. Now that’s amazing. So, as wheat harvest 2021 rolls around, look at those golden fields. Take a deep breath and think of the growth, the beauty, and the bounty. Maybe look at your garden at home the same way, enjoying the satisfaction of a good crop. Go ahead and tap into that collective unconscious for the good vibes of food. And please remember to take it easy on the roads and slow down for the farmers. We all need what they’re working to provide. Happy harvest, y’all.

More from Shana Thornhill
Things don’t always go as planned
I’m not big on tattoos. Don’t get me wrong, some of them...
Read More