Balanced Upon a Broken World

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butterflythistle

This afternoon was the colour of water falling through sunlight;
The trees glittered with the tumbling of leaves;
The sidewalks shone like alleys of dropped maple leaves,
And the houses ran along them laughing out of square, open windows.
Under a tree in the park,
Two little boys, lying flat on their faces,
Were carefully gathering red berries
To put in a pasteboard box.
Some day there will be no war,
Then I shall take out this afternoon
And turn it in my fingers,
And remark the sweet taste of it upon my palate,
And note the crisp variety of its flights of leaves.
To-day I can only gather it
And put it into my lunch-box,
For I have time for nothing
But the endeavour to balance myself
Upon a broken world.
~Amy Lowell “September 1918″
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Again and Again

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earlyorange

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This hour along the valley this light at the end
       of summer lengthening as it begins to go
this whisper in the tawny grass this feather floating
       in the air this house of half a life or so
this blue door open to the lingering sun this stillness
       echoing from the rooms like an unfinished sound
this fraying of voices at the edge of the village
       beyond the dusty gardens this breath of knowing
without knowing anything this old branch from which
       years and faces go on falling this presence already
far away this restless alien in the cherished place
       this motion with no measure this moment peopled
with absences with everything that I remember here
       eyes the wheeze of the gate greetings birdsongs in winter
the heart dividing dividing and everything
       that has slipped my mind as I consider the shadow
all this has occurred to somebody else who has gone
       as I am told and indeed it has happened again
and again and I go on trying to understand
       how that could ever be and all I know of them
is what they felt in the light here in this late summer
~ W.S. Merwin “Season”

 

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oldbarn

farmsign

Old Farming Blood

clothesline

I may walk the streets
of this century and make my living in an office
but my blood is old farming blood and my true
self is underground like a potato.

I have taken root in my grandfather’s
fields: I am hanging my laundry beneath his trees.
~Faith Shearin from “Fields”

 

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Harrowing Grace

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As imperceptibly as Grief
The Summer lapsed away—
Too imperceptible at last
To seem like Perfidy—
A Quietness distilled
As Twilight long begun,
Or Nature spending with herself
Sequestered Afternoon—
The Dusk drew earlier in—
The Morning foreign shone—
A courteous, yet harrowing Grace,
As Guest, that would be gone—
And thus, without a Wing
Or service of a Keel
Our Summer made her light escape
Into the Beautiful.
~Emily Dickinson

 

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Working Life Into Grace

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moors
How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable
Seem to me all the uses of this world~ Hamlet
 
Take a plane to London.
From King’s Cross take the direct train to York.
Rent a car and drive across the vale to Ripon,
then into the dales toward the valley of the Nidd,
a narrow road with high stone walls on each side,
and soon you’ll be on the moors.  There’s a pub,
The Drovers, where it’s warm inside, a tiny room,
You can stand at the counter and drink a pint of Old Peculiar.
For a moment everything will be all right.  You’re back
at a beginning.  Soon you’ll walk into Yorkshire Country,
into dells, farms, into blackberry and cloud country.
You’ll walk for hours.  You’ll walk the freshness
back into your life.  This is true.  You can do this.
Even now, sitting at your desk, worrying, troubled,
you can gaze across Middlesmoor to Ramsgill,
the copses, the abbeys of slanting light, the fells,
you can look down on that figure walking toward Scar House,
cheeks flushed, curfews rising in front of him, walking,
making his way, working his life, step by step, into grace.
~Joseph Stroud “Directions”
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Decomposition

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I’ve banked nothing, or everything.
Every day the chores need doing again.
Early in the morning, I clean the horse barn with a manure fork. 
Every morning, it feels as though it could be the day before
or a year ago
or a year before that. With every pass, I give the fork one final upward flick
to keep the manure from falling out,
and every day I remember where I learned to do that and from whom.
Time all but stops. 

But then I dump the cart on the compost pile.
I bring out the tractor and turn the pile, once every three or four days.
The bucket bites and lifts, and steam comes billowing out of the heap.
It’s my assurance that time is really moving forward,
decomposing us all in the process.
~Verlyn Klinkenborg from More Scenes from the Rural Life

 

An Ordinary Life

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pears1

Do not ask your children
to strive for extraordinary lives.
Such striving may seem admirable,
but it is a way of foolishness.
Help them instead to find the wonder
and the marvel of an ordinary life.
Show them the joy of tasting
tomatoes, apples, and pears.
Show them how to cry
when pets and people die.
Show them the infinite pleasure
in the touch of a hand.
And make the ordinary come alive for them.
The extraordinary will take care of itself.
~William Martin from The Parent’s Tao Te Ching: Ancient Advice for Modern Parents

 

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