Farm Rhythms and Seasons

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photo by Lea Gibson

When I pull open the barn doors,
every morning
and each evening,
as my grandfathers did
one hundred years ago,
seven rumbling voices
rise in greeting.
We exchange scents,
nuzzle each others’ ears.

I do my chores faithfully
as my grandfathers once did–
draw fresh water
into buckets,
wheel away
the pungent mess underfoot,
release an armful of summer
from the bale,
reach under heavy manes
to stroke silken necks.

I don’t depend
on our horses’ strength
and willingness to
don harness
to carry me to town
or move the logs
or till the soil
as my grandfathers did.

Instead,
these soft eyed souls,
born on this farm
two long decades ago,
are simply grateful
for my constancy
morning and night
to serve their needs
until the day comes
they need no more.

And I depend on them
to depend on me
to be there
to open the doors;
their low whispering welcome
gives voice
to the blessings of
living on a farm
ripe with rhythms and seasons,
as if today and tomorrow are
just like one hundred years ago.

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photo by Emily Dieleman

Torn By Twine

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My hands are torn
by baling twine, not nails, and my side is pierced
by my ulcer, not a lance.
~Hayden Carruth from “Emergency Haying”

Miles of twine encircle
tons of hay in our barn,
daily loosed free of grasses
and hung up to use again
in myriad ways:

tightening a sagging fence
replacing a broken bucket handle
snugging a horse blanket belt.

It is the duct tape of the barn
when duct tape won’t work;
a substitute made beautiful
by a morning fog’s weeping.

A Haystack of Light

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Everyday
I see or hear
something
that more or less

kills me
with delight,
that leaves me
like a needle

in the haystack
of light.
It was what I was born for —
to look, to listen,

to lose myself
inside this soft world —
~Mary Oliver from “Mindful”

Some days I’m the needle
and other days I’m the pin cushion

This day was some of both
of soft lit floating fog,
doing chores with my neighbor kids,
saying a final goodbye to an old farmer from down the road,
missing a favorite poet’s reading
to deal with a patient’s suicidal crisis.

I long to rest in the softness of the light
that floats close to the ground,
reaching with cloudy fingers
to hold me close, sharp edges and all,
a reminder of what I was born for.

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Best of 2013 Barnstorming Photos

decsunlone fir taken last New Year’s Eve 2012

These photos (unless identified otherwise) were all taken this year with my Canon Powershot pocket camera.
Here’s to capturing more moments and preserving memories in 2014…

tulipsamSam stopping to smell the spring tulips

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marshmallow fields forevermarshmallow fields forever

buggediris (and bugs) in Ireland

photo by Emily Gibson

The Dark Hedges in Northern Ireland

Rhodendron forest Rowallen Gardens, County Down, Ireland

Rhodendron forest Rowallen Gardens, County Down, Ireland

waterlilies2water lilies in Mount Stewart Gardens, Northern Ireland

pastoralpond2Mount Stewart pond, Northern Ireland

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Scottish kitty snoozing in a Galloway B&B sunroom

sunsetdaisysummer sunset on the farm

grasssunsummer sunset (and bug)

benchPoint No Point, Vancouver Island

sunsetjuly164Sunset, Strait of Juan de Fuca

nest2almost the world’s largest hornet’s nest (on the farm)

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summer evening rainbow

farmgirlsHaying crew

dawn7251summer morning haze

tammingasunseta joyful evening on the hill

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hidingouta front porch visitor in a box of Asian pears

morningweb2spider web in morning fog

abandoned schoolhouse near Rapalje, Montana (actually from 2012)

abandoned schoolhouse near Rapalje, Montana (photo taken in 2012)

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thistlebugsthistle full of ants

closerfull moon sunset

same pair, two months ago

Doe and fawn, WWU campus

rain8After an August rain

sunset8314evening on the farm

dandy4dandelion at dusk

sunset9161sunset sky

sunrise830summer morning rain

webdrizzle2web architecture

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hydrangeaturninghydrangea

hydrangealace3spent hydrangea

creeperchurchvirginia creeper

rainyclothesline3too wet to hang clothes

sunrise10611looking north to the Canadian Coastal Range

fog101948October fog

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wwucolorfallen leaves on the plexiglass cover of a WWU bicycle rack

myohmyMountain shadow of Mt Baker at dawn

firstfrost3first frost

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sunset12713Twin Sisters

walnut4squirrel hollowed walnut shell

sundayafternoonAutumn landscape

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rainyrose5rainy rose

rainbowsunrise2morning rainbow at dawn

solstice15last evening of autumn, first snow

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snow12201324snow on last day of autumn

20131230-080912.jpgSwan in downtown Tokyo in December

And the changing plum trees…

photo by Chris Lovegren from our farm hilltop, Easter Sunrise 2012

plum trees photo by Chris Lovegren from our farm hilltop, Easter Sunrise Service

sunrise1042fall foggy morning

twinlayerslate October

plumtwinswinterNew Year’s Eve

Peering at a Landscape on a Branch

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I’ve lived in the Pacific Northwest for most of 59 years, and on this farm for 20 years.  The grandeur of the snow-capped mountains to the east and the peaceful shore to the west overwhelms everything in between.  I’ve walked past these bare antique apple trees autumn after autumn, but had never stopped to really look at the landscape growing on their shoulders and arms.  There is a whole other ecosystem on each tree, a fairy land of earth bound seaweed, luxuriant in the fall rains, dried and hidden behind leaves and fruit in the hot summer.

This is the world of lichen, a mixed up cross between mold and fungus, opportunistic enough to thrive on rock faces, but ecstatic on absorbent bark.

I had never really noticed how proudly diverse they are.  I had walked right by their rich color and texture.

Yet it hasn’t bothered them not to be noticed as they are busy minding their own business.  As John McCullough writes below,  they thrive happily where they find themselves “never and always true to their essence, never and always at home.”

Now I know.  And so do you.

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Closer, with the glass, a city of cups!

Why are they doing this?

In this big sky and all around me peaks &
the melting glaciers, why am I made to
kneel and peer at Tiny?
~Lew Welch from “Springtime in the Rockies, Lichen”
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The lichen raised its fragile cup,
and rain filled it, and in the drop
the sky glittered, holding back the wind.

The lichen raised its fragile cup:
Now let’s toast the richness of our lives.
~Helvi Juvonen  “Lichen Cup”

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A truly good book is something as wildly natural and primitive, mysterious and marvelous, ambrosial and fertile, as a fungus or a lichen.
~Henry David Thoreau

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We are lichens on a grand scale.
~David Haskell

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But what is life to a lichen?
Yet its impulse to exist,
to be,
is every bit as strong as ours —
arguably even stronger.
If I were told that I had to spend decades
being a furry growth on a rock in the woods,
I believe I would lose the will to go on.

~Bill Bryson

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It is merely
a question of continuous
adjustment, of improvising a life. When I’m far from friends
or the easing of a wind
against my back, I think of lichen—
never and always true to its essence,
never and always at home.
~John McCullough from “Lichen”

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A Wider Horizon

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October is the fallen leaf,
but it is also a wider horizon more clearly seen.
It is the distant hills once more in sight,
and the enduring constellations above them once again.
~ Hal Borland

I bid October good-bye reluctantly
to face forward into the November darkening .
Morning and evening chores with flashlight in hand,
I follow its bouncing beam down slick farm paths,
merging with surrounding shadow.

Summer is mere memory now;
all color drained from
leaves fallen, dissolving
in frost and rain.

When the light rises on the hills,
I feel a veil lift enough
that I am able to see
so far beyond my reach.
The horizon extends on and on forever
and I will endure another winter.

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Thanking the Light

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Now a red, sleepy sun above the rim
Of twilight stares along the quiet weald,
And the kind, simple country shines revealed
In solitudes of peace, no longer dim.
The old horse lifts his face and thanks the light,
Then stretches down his head to crop the green.
All things that he has loved are in his sight;
The places where his happiness has been
Are in his eyes, his heart, and they are good.
~Siegfried Sassoon from “Break of Day”

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At the Heart of the World

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My green, graceful bones fill the air   
With sleeping birds. Alone, alone
And with them I move gently.
I move at the heart of the world.
~James Dickey from “In the Tree House at Night”
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photo by Dan Gibson

photo by Dan Gibson

The Trivial Transfigured

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A sudden light transfigures a trivial thing, a weather-vane, a wind-mill, a winnowing flail, the dust in the barn door; a moment,- -and the thing has vanished, because it was pure effect; but it leaves a relish behind it, a longing that the accident may happen again.
~Walter Pater from “The Renaissance”

The accident of light does happen, again and again, but when I least expect it.  I need to be ready for it; in a blink, it can be gone.  Yet in that moment, everything is changed and transformed forever.  The thing itself, trivial and transient becomes something other, merely because of how it is illuminated.  And so am I, trivial and transient, lit from outside myself, transfigured by a love and sacrifice that I can never expect or deserve. I need to be ready for it.

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Ensnared By Summer

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August rushes by like desert rainfall,
A flood of frenzied upheaval,
Expected,
But still catching me unprepared.
Like a match flame
Bursting on the scene,
Heat and haze of crimson sunsets.
Like a dream
Of moon and dark barely recalled,
A moment,
Shadows caught in a blink.
Like a quick kiss;
One wishes for more
But it suddenly turns to leave,
Dragging summer away.
–  Elizabeth Maua Taylor

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What wondrous life is this I lead!
Ripe apples drop about my head;
The luscious clusters of the vine
Upon my mouth do crush their wine;
The nectarine and curious peach
Into my hands themselves do reach;
Stumbling on melons, as I pass,
Ensnared with flowers, I fall on grass.
–  Andrew Marvell, Thoughts in a Garden

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The foliage has been losing its freshness through the month of August, and here and there a yellow leaf shows itself like the first gray hair amidst the locks of a beauty who has seen one season too many.
~Oliver Wendell Holmes

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My life is like the summer rose
That opens to the morning sky,
But ere the shades of evening close
Is scattered on the ground – to die.
–  Richard Henry Wilde

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