My grandmother likes to throw little tidbits at me every now and again, often in the form of jokes or old sayings from the Miramichi where she grew up. I’m not sure why she does it, but her wit brings a great deal of emotive response from me. Perhaps, this is one of the many ways she exudes her kindness and caring attitude. I am amazed by her resiliency and her strength of mind. Her mental faculties, especially memory, are phenomenal. I’ve told her that I hope I have the same wits about me when I am her age.
Some people tell jokes to bring the limelight onto themselves while others use humor selflessly to brighten a person’s day. My grandmother knows the power of laughter, in any moment, to generate happiness in those fractions of our day when fatigue, apathy, or stress weigh us down. Recently, as I prepared my eggs for the cartons, she called out to me from her rocking chair, “Justin! What did the chicken say when it layed a square egg?” I paused, caught off-guard by the joke, and tried to solve the humorous riddle. I came up empty. “Ouch!”, she laughed. She did this all in stride while she sat, pulling on her winter boots in preparation for a walk to feed the cats in the barn. She doesn’t skip a beat. That joke completely turned my day around and although our communication was fairly brief, it gave me a brief hiatus from the mental stresses of getting things done in a short period of time. I have a window of opportunity, from 4 pm to 8 pm everyday after school, to build infrastructure, give our animals proper care, and manage ongoing projects at the farm. To facilitate growth and progress, I break ongoing projects up into steps each day so that it always feels as though I am moving in the right direction. If I try to do too much too quick, it can quickly feel insurmountable. I have wants and needs, but my focus must remain with my needs so that I can achieve my wants, one step at a time.
Laughter is a good indication, in my opinion, of lower levels of stress. If I’m not laughing, I’m too serious, and if I’m too serious, I’m not enjoying what I’m doing. If this happens, and it does, I try to slow everything down. Time doesn’t slow, so we must make the most of every minute we have to live on this earth. I slow my rate of work, pause my plans, slow the heart rate and relax. Humor, in times like these, can counteract life’s stressors and help me to recoup. It’s not always self-centered. I find just as much joy making someone else laugh or watching them laugh. It’s contagious and a staple of family life, I believe, in our region.
This past weekend, my father and daughter, spent time copying each other’s laughs. We’ve dubbed dad’s laugh as, “the dying horse” laugh as it is a long, windy, drawn out laugh with a bit of wheezing. It was deeply amusing to watch my daughter squint her eyes, throw her head back, and imitate the laugh. The power of positivity. Imagine if each of our actions were governed by the desire to have them emulated by others to bring about laughter, smiles, happiness, and love. I aspire to do this with the people around me and I am constantly reminded of this when I look at my beautiful and intelligent children.
Recently, I read a poem/speech delivered by Paul Harvey in 1978 in a speech to the Future Farmers of America Convention. One stanza reads:
“Somebody who’d bale a family together with the soft strong bonds of sharing, who would laugh and then sigh, and then reply, with smiling eyes, when his son says he wants to spend his life ‘doing what dad does.'” So God made a farmer.
This poem, with its strong Christian imagery, embodies the importance of laughter in the family unit. For members of a small family farm, working day and night to bring something positive to the Restigouche region, the mental image of the hay bale as the metaphorical family resonates with our souls. Farming is all about bonds. We see them in stewardship of the land, in loving and laughing embraces, in farmer and implement, with the proximity to livestock, and between generations. Whenever I hold my son or daughter’s hands while we walk around the farm, I am reminded of the blessing they are to me and I am motivated to create a better future for them with opportunities on the family farm.
Finally, for all you coffee/tea drinkers here’s a little cow joke for you. What do you call a cow that has just had a calf? You can answer in the comment box below.