The first cut

It doesn’t matter if it’s midday, afternoon or evening; we hear them all the time. Nearby or in the distance: the steady, methodical rumble of a diesel-fed engine, towing a mass of metal that cuts a wake in a field of green, then turns over the cuttings in long lumpy rows and binds them into bales.

Around here it’s a race against time, to cut and bale hay in a rain-free window. The tractors and hay wagons surface in the afternoon, once the dew has burned off and the grass is good and dry. As I write this, the neighbor’s field is being baled and a tractor growls as it approaches the house, then quiets as it recedes along the thick rows. The baler gobbles up mounds of grass, then pauses as a flap rises from the back and a bright-green round bale tumbles out, in hen egg-laying fashion. At 6 pm the farmer is halfway done and round bales dot the field like giant dinosaur eggs.

Last week before the hay was cut — a couple nights before Brynn’s arrival — Martin and I tucked the kids into bed and led our nightly entourage for a walk: the dog, who darts ahead and three cats, who take turns trailing us or tripping us up the drive. A nearly full moon lit the way and on that night there was no grumbling machinery — just tree frogs and a hooting train. The waist-high field crowded the road, begging to be cut, its lush stalks bending under the weight of the seed heads.

In the moonlight, it was easy to miss the light show. Martin didn’t see it until I told him to train his gaze over the grassy expanse. Then it materialized: a magnificent firefly show. Thousands of flickering lights hovering above the sea of green. It looked like a massive rock concert with a million lighters, or strobe lights in a club, flitting on and off, in tempo with the tree frogs.

As far as the eye could see.