I stopped for coffee and a protein bar at the gas station on my way to the river. Earlier that morning when I poured the stove top percolator’s efforts into the mug I watched the milk curdle and separate. I wrinkled my brow, realizing I had left the cream on the counter too long yesterday in my non-air-conditioned house and it spoiled. I left the mug on the counter to be poured over pig grains later (they were less fussy) and decided I’d pick up some coffee to-go before I go fishing.
I drove across the rolling green farms of Washington County, which is close to the Vermont border and feels like an agricultural theme park. A lot of fields were cut and hay was drying. I whistled, knowing the gamble they had made cutting it last night. Thunderstorms had just missed us here in Jackson and had the wind moved north at all the precious hay would be soaked and spoiled. But it lay dry in rows, ready to be turned and baled. Hay was all anyone talked about this time of year. With a growing season of around 100 days, we need it to feed our livestock over the long winter. I took a bite of my protein bar and chewed. I needed to get firewood delivered soon.
When I reached the river no one was there. It was a weekday and I was putting off the bulk of farm chores to be here in the quiet of early morning. I grabbed by fly rod and shoulder bag and made my way to the clear water. I could see brown trout, small but active. It made me smile and I buried the last bite of my bar into the sand along the bank. It was a gift to the wights, for taking up space in their home and possibly taking home some trout. I said a few words of thankfulness for the weather, the river, and the air in my lungs and headed to the river’s edge to cast.
Paying as you go is part of our faith. The gifting cycle circles every moment of our lives. Small offerings like this are not something I think of anymore but had to be forced and planned when I started taking Heathenry seriously. Now first tastes of beer go into the house hof-bowl before they touch my lips. Small pieces of meals are saved. I never dare head out with horse, hawk, or hunt without making a small gift. When a neighboring farmer called to offer the gift of some free hay bales the night before, as they ordered too many, I grabbed the only bottle of wine in the house.
Gifts require gifts in return. The gesture is so small but so powerful. The cycle circles you at first like a stalking predator. It feels awkward and overly intentional. I felt foolish even, pouring whiskey from a flask in the snow before releasing my hawk for the hunt. She would watch me, her hood between my teeth, as I unscrewed the flask cap and poured the container in the shape of a rune, Algiz, most likely.
I can say that over the past few years there has been a steady change in my luck and prosperity. I am not wealthy by any means and pouring bits of goat milk or cheese into a bowl in the woods doesn’t equate a winning lottery ticket – but I am better off than the person I was before hundreds of small gifts were given in my life. Gifting quietly for wights and ancestors cultivates a different mindset than the over culture teaches. You are neither a victim of your circumstance or a receiver of random chances – you are a farmer of your own happenstance, at least in a small way. It hands over an agency few faiths prescribe. As a single woman with an up-to-date mortgage, healthy farm, horses, hawks, and good dogs in her life on a summer day – that is wealth beyond measure to me.
I cast my fly rod in the sunlit river and sigh. A brown trout is caught and thrown back, being too small. I see no reason to be greedy and cast again.
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