Learn the Dance

Scything is as much an art as it is technique – and yesterday I had  the neatest experience when I went to scythe my neighbor’s field.
Usually no one is there, but yesterday the city folks were up. Just a group of four old folks sitting around on the back porch, talking, enjoying the cool breeze after the rain storm. I waved as I passed, then went about sharpening my Austrian scythe blade. It did feel weird to be out scything while everbody sat watching me but I decided it was no big deal. Besides, when I first asked the owners if I could scythe grass for my cow, they replied saying I could take all I wanted, wherever I wanted, anytime I wanted. So, I started cutting.
But as I started, one of the old men came to the field edge. “Don’t mind me, ” he said, in a thick Austrian accent, “I just want to watch you.”

After a few moments he walked over and gently took my scythe. Didn’t say anything, just took it. I have read and watched countless approaches to mowing with a scythe and the techniques involved, but this old man, with his greying hair and wrinkled hands, SHOWED me where no words can do justice HOW to scythe, and how to sharpen my blade, and how to balance and swing it with as little exertion as possible. In his hands the scythe became a part of him. It wasn’t an external thing that one hacked around, but an extension if you will, and he wielded it with all the grace and precision of an intricate dance. Watching was like watching magic. And all the while the only sound was the blade whispering, swishing, sweeping through grass. Later, after my wagon was heaped with fresh-cut grass, he told me that he was from Austria, and if that wasn’t amazing enough he said that in his younger days he used to scythe the very same field I am cutting.Something like this simply can’t be coincidence. I had asked the “city folks” if I could scythe their field, and in the end, it was the “city folks” who had shared a treasured gift with a country girl and taught her “Die Sense muss tanzen” (The scythe must dance.)


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