Now that summer’s ripen’d bloom
Frolics where the winter frow n’d,
Stretch’d upon these banks of broom,
We command the landscape round.
Nature in the prospect yields
Humble dales and mountains bold,
Meadows, woodlands, heaths-and fields
Yellow’d o’er with waving gold.
On the uplands ev’ry glade
Brightens in the blaze of day;
O’er the vales the sober shade
Softens to an ev’ning gray.
~John Cunningham from “The Landscape”
A certain day became a presence to me;
there it was, confronting me—a sky, air, light:
a being. And before it started to descend
from the height of noon, it leaned over
and struck my shoulder as if with
the flat of a sword, granting me
honor and a task. The day’s blow
rang out, metallic—or it was I, a bell awakened,
and what I heard was my whole self
saying and singing what it knew: I can.
~Denise Levertov “Variations on a Theme of Rilke”
Yesterday we visited my mother’s childhood home in Spring Valley, Washington in Palouse country, where at the turn of the century a thriving small village sat at a crossroads in the rolling wheat fields. Where the grain elevators now stand tall against the horizon, a train depot for the electric powered train running north-south once drew Teddy Roosevelt on his whistle-stop tour. The foundation still exists, broken in pieces, of the one room schoolhouse where my mother and uncle attended school until age 13. My aunt is still vital and strong in her mid-nineties and my cousins still steward the land, training up the next generation to take over.
Walking the old poplar-lined driveway again, seeing the willows where moose come to graze, walking through the old farmhouse where my mother and uncle were born and I spent summer visits, I was a bell rung. If the people I come from could do this, this hard life, I can do my calling too. I can wave gold, like the grain of these fields, readying for harvest.