Well, today I took part in my first ever scything competition today! It was at the Addison County Fair and Field Days, way up near Burlington, Vermont. I got up at 5, started driving at 6, and got there (with a few turnarounds on rural highways) at 10. By 10:20 I mowed my first trial, and then my second around 10:45. Each was a 25 ft. length, swath as wide as you wanted. You got timed, and then the width of your swath and the length of your stubble was somehow factored in. I don't know my time to do this, but it was just a couple minutes really for each. And I was cutting about an 8 foot swath, with the stubble quite short except at the very end, where it got longer as the blade dulled. The grass was very heavy and lush, lodged over with the rain and a lot to move. Not ideal mowing but not awful.
Spoiler alert: I came in 3rd in one category. And I was also shocked at how hard it was to mow quickly like this. When I mow properties, whether my own or for someone else, the goal is never speed, but efficiency. I need to be able to continue doing this for a couple hours. So the emphasis is on good posture, gentle motion, a keen blade. This, however, was a sprint.
And it got me thinking. It seems like in our culture we glorify the sprint. The fast money. The overnight success. The 25 foot strip of grass that left me with sweat fanning down my face and my chest heaving.
But really that is a shallow way of looking at things. For me, the success is in the skill acquired from hours and hours and hours doing something. The dedication of years spent pursuing a goal, whether it seemed Quixotic or not. The quiet, steadfast continuing of something, whether it is a business, a skill, or your family relationships. Those don't get the glory, the prize. But they are really too priceless to assign a prize to. They are themselves the prize.
At the end of the competition, this great scyther Alfonso Diaz (who won the overall category, by the way) and myself did a peening lesson for all the people interested in learning to use their scythes better. And we talked about starting a US (or North American) Scything Association, to promote scythe use and make resources available for people just starting out. Maybe we will hold different events. But I like to think that at least any event I will hold will be a communal mowing rather than a competition. People could arrive the first day, hang out and get their scythes repaired and peened, and then early the next morning we would all start in on some mowing project that seems overwhelming for one person, and experience that pleasure that in many ways is the opposite of a speed competition at a county fair: a shared task, quietly and steadfastly completed as a group. To me, that is the essence of scything.
My blog has evolved into a series of short essays on the nature of entrepreneurship, craftsmanship, and their overlap. If either of these topics is something you think about, you will probably like this.