Rich Weber: The wheatfield

Rich Weber
Rich Weber

There’s a wheat field across the road from where I live, the burgeoning crop resting on the rippled land like an enormous plush green carpet.  It’s the first thing I see in the morning when I look out the east window.

The field has given me many hours of peaceful reflection.  I especially enjoy sitting here in the living room at dawn, with a cup of coffee, watching the tinted rays of sunlight shimmer on the burnished leaves.  It’s better than meditating in a dark forest.

Sometimes I think about the wheat, and sometimes I just think.  One day when the wind was stirring up waves in the wheat field, I got to wondering about the nature of those waves.

I always thought they were like waves in the ocean, but it turns out they are only similar in appearance.  The physical dynamics involved is very different.  The one thing they have in common is that the wave action is created by the friction of wind blowing across the surface. 

On a body of water, the crest of the wave rises above the surface and the trough falls below it.  Water within the crest moves in a circular motion, upward in front of the wave and downward behind it.  It is this upward movement of the advancing wave that allows surfers to ride the wave for long distances. 

Because wheat is not a fluid, the crest of the wave in a wheat field obviously cannot rise above the surface of the plants.  Instead, the wave is created by wind pushing the wheat downward toward the ground. 

On a body of water, the wave is caused by the pulsating action of wind and gravity.  In a wheat field the wave is caused by wind and the resilience of wheat.  Wind pushes the wheat down and resilience makes it spring back up again.

Nature is always trying to tell us something and what those waves were saying is that living things obey the laws of physics. 

More often my thoughts turned to the life of the field.  To the flock of migrating geese that congregated there one day in spring; to the turkeys doing their elaborate courtship dance; to the lone marsh hawk flying low over the terraces; to the deer bounding across the field; to the meadowlark singing his rousing song on a fence post.

And to the wheat itself.  It was a constant reminder of our alliance with nature.  The field seemed more like a garden, cultivated with care from seed to harvest.  Making the soil say wheat required one to work with nature and not against it.

I thought about my kinship with the wheat and how we had descended from a common ancestor billions of years ago.  The proof of our relationship is written in the DNA.  The wheat and I are more like distant cousins.  It’s almost a blood relationship.  Tweak the chlorophyll molecule, replace the magnesium with iron and you get hemoglobin.

Because wheat provides us with a vital source of energy, we are also connected by the food chain.  I feel that connection every time I look out the window, and I can almost taste it.  The flour in the toast I had for breakfast was milled from grain produced in a field like this.

What a marvelous chain of energy it is, from sunlight to chlorophyll, to food, to flesh, to the glory of humanity, to beauty and the wonder of consciousness—and to the simple pleasure of sitting here meditating on a field of wheat.

Rich Weber is a science and nature enthusiast living in Ellis County.  Reach him at rweber@gbta.net