THE cornfields are silvery-gold. The crops have changed. They’re ready at last. The land gives off a billowing heat. They are fragrances of Africa. A drama is unfolding.
Folk have gathered beside the headland of Moore’s Field. They’re visibly excited. I wave to them and receive no answer. They’re looking across the open field, oblivious to everything: bird, corn cockle, hare’s whisker, me. The whole of nature is at this moment irrelevant to them. They’re immersed in only one thing, in the great humming gatherer of harvest. In the machine.
The combine sweeps over the field like a giant mammal. I watch it gather the crop into itself, acre after acre after acre. It reminds me of the biblical whale. Especially the way the whale engulfed poor Jonah before spitting him back into the sea. This is how it is. Confronted by the combine we’re sucked in. The whale-combine wields its magic and we’re caught up in it until at last, when the crop is gathered, we’re sent spinning back into actuality. With a bump.
What is it about harvest that never fails to enthrall? Is it just a question of survival? Is it because the combine carries within it the kernel of sustenance without which we’d be lost, washed up.
Maybe there’s another reason, a reason suggested by the meaning of the word ‘combine’?
A combine combines two activities: the activities of cutting and of threshing. During harvest these two activities are brought together in combination. When the harvest goes well they run smoothly. They’re in harmony and balance. When it goes badly, the reverse applies. The two activities work against each another. Disharmony follows.
How wonderful therefore to watch the combine moving effortlessly across the field. At such moments we recognise the two activities in balance and it’s tremendous. It feels good. How marvellous is that?
Eventually, as if from a dream, we awake. The crop is cleared. Lying before us stretches the field. On and on and on towards the medieval sea wall built by the monks of Crowland Abbey.
We re-focus. We see the horizon again. We feel the sky as perspectives are reborn. The church spire in the distance. The magnificent oak. Thanks to the momentousness of harvest, seldom has the land seemed so precious.