Jessica is plotting plant patches for her garden.
Kai wants to ride one of the puffy white clouds that dangle in the blue.
Jordan is training his bull calves.
As I move through the postures of my yoga routine, the thought forms: it’s all yoga. Yoga: the Sanskrit word for “union,” and a root form of our “yoke,” means to join or connect, to form a bond. In yoga, a practitioner breathes into bodily shapes that draw our sensory selves into the present, so we can unite with ourselves, unite with what is. In all these activities too, these kids are joining and connecting, creating the relationships that will support them in unfolding what they have to give.
Isn’t this what life is about?
It is not easy to form a yoke.
In order to train his bull calves, Jordan first had to make one: a crossbar pierced by two semi-circle bows that would embrace the calves’ heads. Choosing a slice of birch, he carved a curvy bracket with his draw knife, drilled four holes, and began a regime of linseed oil application. A yogurt container stuffed with an old rag lives by our sink.
Then for the bows, he needed a special kind of hard but bendable wood. After a couple of scouting trips around the farm, he found the perfect shagbark hickory tree—big enough that he needed help felling it. After he and Geoff lopped off the limbs and dragged it back home, Jordan split the log into sixteenths and took out the heart to make two four foot lengths of one-inch chunk. It was hard. Would the wood bend?
We devised an apparatus for the top of our wood stove: on top of a water-filled spaghetti pot with vented lid, we placed with an upside down funnel, on which sat a PVC joint holding a five foot length of PVC piping. It looked like the stove had sprouted rabbit ears. Into the pipe went the bow. After a steamy soak, Jordan took out the wood, held the ends, and bended it like licorice around his knee. One bow bowed, the other quickly followed. Minutes later the bows were as hard again as the wood they were. After drilling some more holes and gathering the proper pins, Jordan’s yoke was ready to go yoking.
At first, the bull calves weren’t so sure about the yoke, but they liked the attention, the nose and neck scratches, and the walks around the yard. By now they seem quite comfortable, pleased to play this pulling game for a few minutes every day. Jordan guides them around the yard with his stick yelling “Gee!” to go right, and “Haw!” to head left. Then he says “Whoa!” and stands in front of them to block their way, his stick a wall. Good thing they are only calves.
The smile on his face when he came in today says it all: “Oh they were so good today!”
A yoke is the piece of wood, carved and shaped.
A yoke of oxen is what the calves will become when they pull as one.
To yoke is to join or connect these independent powers in the service of a common goal—becoming one force for action.
The questions arise: What kinds of yokes are we creating for ourselves? With what or whom are we joining? What kind of relationships do we want to create?
What are we yearning to do?
These kids seem to know.