“The gods have been good to us,” grandfather nodded, wiping the sweat from his brow and crossing his arms over his narrow chest.
Father nodded. “We have been favored,” he echoed. “Praise be to the gods.”
I blinked. Confusion muddled my mind. I distinctly remember loading more grain off this hill last year. I looked back at our wagon. Only the third load, and we were already halfway up the hill.
“Father,” I asked quietly when grandfather turned away to survey our progress, “have we really been blessed? Last year-”
“Don’t speak of such things,” father hushed, glancing around as though the spirits might have overheard my comments. “The gods know what’s best. They will take care of us.”
“But Father-” I persisted, quietly, under my breath so grandfather wouldn’t hear.
He shot me an icy glare, heavily uncharacteristic of him, and I shied away, chastened. “Do not question it,” he hissed under his breath. “With your mother ill and your baby brothers at home-”
This time grandfather interrupted. “What are the two of you muttering about?” he grumbled. He picked up his scythe and gripped it tightly, surprisingly so for his age, testing its weight and balance in his hand.
“Nothing, grandfather,” I replied. “Ready to let the gods finish their blessing us.” I nodded up the hill.
He hesitated from his turn back to the hill and stared at me. I squirmed under his stern gaze. I knew I’d pushed too far.
“You can disrespect me if you must,” grandfather said slowly, his voice a thin line on his breath, “but you will not disrespect the gods. The fates will turn on you before you know it, and there will be no escape.”
“I’m sorry, grandfather,” I whispered. “Forgive me.”
“Don’t ask forgiveness of me,” grandfather too looked up, scanning our surroundings, as though the spirits were listening in on our every word. “Apologize to the gods.”
He turned and climbed up the hill towards the next terrace to be cleared. My father followed, brushing past me without a word. I knew I’d disappointed him too.
I gazed across the field once more at all our hard work and the pithy returns we’d received. “I’m sorry,” I whispered to the wind. It carried my whisper away, to beyond the hills, and I wondered if there was anyone out there who would hear my voice.
Source: This blog series is inspired by the book “Earth from Above: 365 Days” by Yann Arthus-Bertrand. Click here to read more about my Creation365 series.
The top picture is from “Nepal. Pahar Region. Rice growing to the south if Pokhara.”
Arthus-Bertrand, Yann, Isabelle Delannoy, and Christian Balmes. 2005. The Earth from above: 365 days. New York: Harry N. Abrams.