January 1, 2014 § 4 Comments
When your father dies out of the blue, in the darkness of a cold barn during a late-April ice storm – when he is found in the hay meant for the cow and calf, and when no one can say for sure what even happened – then you might curl into what remains of your family and stop reaching out in trust toward the world. (It was a hesitant trust to begin with.)
You might go in secret to the desperate places of grief. You might stop writing the happy stories of life for fear of the ultimate sadness that must come along and scribble itself into them. You might decide to not have feelings at all and give it a real go (you might fail). You might ask a million questions to and of and about God, and when that does nothing you might stop talking to Him completely — unless someone else can offer you their words to use instead. You might turn to liturgies and the prayers of saints and hope that’s enough.
Sometimes you might be so angry you are seconds away from throwing a tantrum, full-fledged arms and legs kicking, like any competent two-year-old.
You might create some kind of strong outer self that still acknowledges what is worth being grateful for, that greets and welcomes people, that manages to laugh out loud and love much of what happens all around. You won’t understand how this outer self goes along with the unsightly mess that is inside, but it doesn’t seem entirely fake, and you decide to go with it because, after all, what is the alternative?
The days keep happening, as they must. Emptier than they should be. More things ache in different ways. But as the months spread themselves out you might, more than once, come across something that makes you pause, that makes your chest swell in that old real wonderful-world way, that tricks a smile into place and stirs the idealist you can’t completely tamp down. A meteor shower in the middle of summer, while you lie on a tarp spread over the wet grass. Lively delicious dinners with friends (even if it takes jump-starting two trucks to get there). A jog through the woods and a chat on a footbridge. A plot of purple carrots and children who practically hop up-and-down in the discovery of them. Fires snapping and glowing. A beautiful painting, unexpected. Riding a chestnut horse in the hour before dusk. A hidden swamp for you and the dog and decent muck boots. Babies and giggles and dimples and freckles. Little gifts handmade and hand-selected, surprises that say, gently, you matter to me.
So you carry on. Nothing will be the same, of course. You will have to cling to the memory of the sound of your father’s voice, the crinkles around his eyes when he smiled, the knowledge that the nose you are not-so-thrilled to have inherited came, actually, from him, along with your long legs and your need to be close to the dirt oftener than not. You will have to imagine rather than see him walking through the pasture with you and when you have a question about livestock or trucks or gardens you will not have his answer, unless you can find it in one of his books. Your family will seem small and split and only heaven will make it completely right again after a very long time. But you can feel the prodding of whatever good has shot through this broken world, the good that wants you to fight for it and be a part of it and hold it and increase it.
And you might reach out.
April 6, 2013 § Leave a comment
Today was spring for real, the kind of day where you start out in layers and end up in shorts and a t-shirt by afternoon. Mine began with feeding animals and ended with new books from the library, and a cup of hot milk and coffee, and plans to write (well, after this).
Gosh, I love planting flowers! All around the house and yard on this afternoon off. Cosmos and flax and alyssum and forget-me-nots and a few others. Isn’t it nice that seed costs so little yet turns into such a bounteous sort of thing? And I love that the woods are white with spring ephemerals. I think I have followed trails through spring beauty, and/or hepatica, and/or wood anemone. (I will look closer next time.)
And I love that we are putting pollinator-friendly shrubs and perennials in our farm garden and that it will bring lots of life and beauty to that place. Yesterday I got to visit a nursery called The Unique Plant and the inviting, lush landscape and blooming shrubs there nearly had me giddy.
My camera-less-ness is really just sad when there is so much to capture!
Oh, well. For now, here’s a shot from last weekend, when we went to the beach for my sister’s birthday. Sand and sun! And a salty dog.
April 6, 2013 § Leave a comment
“Good farmers, who take seriously their duties as stewards of Creation and of their land’s inheritors, contribute to the welfare of society in more ways than society usually acknowledges, or even knows. These farmers produce valuable goods, of course; but they also conserve soil, they conserve water, they conserve wildlife, they conserve open space, they conserve scenery.” ~ Wendell Berry
March 23, 2013 § Leave a comment
“March is a tomboy with tousled hair, a mischievous smile, mud on her shoes and a laugh in her voice.” - Hal Borland
March 15, 2013 § Leave a comment
“Do not fear, O soil; be glad and rejoice, for the Lord has done great things! Do not fear, you animals of the field, for the pastures of the wilderness are green; the tree bears its fruit, the fig tree and vine give their full yield. O children of Zion, be glad and rejoice in the Lord your God; for he has given the early rain for your vindication, he has poured down for you abundant rain, the early and the later rain, as before. The threshing floors shall be full of grain, the vats shall overflow with wine and oil. . . . You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied.”
A passage to ponder while on my knees in the dirt on these cool/warm, sunny/rainy, almost-spring days. Can gardening be a part of bringing heaven down to earth? I have to think yes.
February 16, 2013 § 3 Comments
Sometimes, and especially in new places, I start keeping a kind of list, a collection in my head, of things that nature impresses upon me. All along the way there are these gifts; do we notice them? When I start collecting I seem to remember to notice, to make it habit, and to receive them with gratitude. Here are a few from the past week:
1. Two coyotes playing in the woods at Occoneechee Mountain. They looked like they were fairly young and were bounding about quite happily, until they saw us – Tass with her ears perked up, and me peering closely, and fighting the urge to go and join in the fun. At night we can hear packs of coyotes howling, howling, long strains breaking into yips, voices joining one after another. I love it, this reminder that I am not alone nor solely among humans, and that the night, when we grow still and quiet, brings forth others who have much to say.
2. A bird’s nest made of horse hair, glittering with beads after a rainy morning. The walk in the woods that day was splendid, damp. There is so much green here, even this time of year, all the mosses and lichens, the trunks of trees. I knelt down in the leaf litter and dug through the layers, through the forest floor to the clay below. I just needed to touch it. The soil here is so unfamiliar; I know it is not as “good” as what we have back in the Midwest, but it fascinates me. I am beginning to love its redness. It belongs here, this way, you know, and it’s important to learn how we might grow things well in this place – respecting what a garden needs while also appreciating what the earth is.
Nearby a tree had fallen, and its base formed a wall of clay soil and various rocks; I dug at it a bit, shaped the clay in my palm, pulled the rocks out and felt them, ran my fingers over the velvety green at the foot of the trunk, and hungered for a book on regional ecology.
3. The moon hanging like a crescent-bowl in the sky on Valentine’s Day. The stars so, so spangly up above the pines. That, my friends, is a love-gift.
4. Yesterday Tass and I went walking a near trail, and we found a spot where we could slide down the muddy banks and climb onto a couple small boulders in the river. I sat there while she waded all around me, and the early afternoon light struck the water upstream of us. Everything was brown and golden; the water is murky green and moves just fast enough to be noticed; the temperature was 60 degrees and the sun warmed my face. I sat there and smiled, for I knew we had found a favorite spot, to be visited again, to watch change over the seasons.
5. And then, today! What happened today nearly outdoes the others – in any case, it was certainly winter flaunting herself (which I always appreciate). We woke up to snow falling – in such delicious wet flakes, big as a quarter, tumbling down slow as you please. I stood on the porch and looked up at the gray-white sky, at all those specks and each one of them different. Later the flakes grew smaller and fell faster, and soon the ground and all the limbs of the trees had a proper white coat over them. When I’d finished helping a friend pull up her floor, I went home and had a cup of tea and let the dim of evening settle in, and then I went walking through the woods. I love the white mysteriousness of snow at day’s end, especially inside a stand of trees. They say this kind of snow hardly ever happens here. I’m inclined to think North Carolina did it for me. Welcome, Northerner.
Why, thank you.