Tarnished and Dry

thistlebugs

thistledown1

thistlegrass2

In a patch of baked earth
At the crumbled cliff’s brink,
Where the parching of August
Has cracked a long chink,

Against the blue void
Of still sea and sky
Stands single a thistle,
Tall, tarnished, and dry.

Frayed leaves, spotted brown,
Head hoary and torn,
Was ever a weed
Upon earth so forlorn,

So solemnly gazed on
By the sun in his sheen
That prints in long shadow
Its raggedness lean?

From the sky comes no laughter,
From earth not a moan.
Erect stands the thistle,
Its seeds abroad blown.
~Robert Laurence Binyon –“The Thistle”

 

thistle8215

 

thistlesunset

 

There isn’t much that thrives in a dry summer like this other than mounds of blackberry bushes and scattered clusters of thistle.  They both are defended by thorns to keep them from being eaten by all but the most persistent and hungry grazing animals.

I admire and recognize such tenacity, knowing I too have held tightly to my own defenses to keep from being swallowed up. I approach these weeds with respect for the scars they can leave behind – their roots go deep, their seeds travel far.

We coexist because we must.

How else would beauty come from our bleeding wounds?

 

thistle816

 

Thorns Will Never Overcome

When the Heart Slows

thornberry

fallenapple

 

 
…bears binge on blackberries and apples,  
to satisfy the sweet hunger
that consumes them.  Just like us  
they know the day must come when   
the heart slows, when to take one   
more step would mean the end of things   
as they should be.  Sleep is a drug;   
dreams its succor.  How better to drift   
toward another world but with leaves   
falling, their warmth draping us,   
our stomachs full and fat with summer?
~Todd Davis  from “Sleep”
 
fog101923

The Black Honey of Summer

berryblack

 

When the blackberries hang
swollen in the woods, in the brambles
nobody owns, I spend

all day among the high
branches, reaching
my ripped arms, thinking

of nothing, cramming
the black honey of summer
into my mouth; all day my body

accepts what it is. In the dark
creeks that run by there is
this thick paw of my life darting among

the black bells, the leaves; there is
this happy tongue.
–  Mary Oliver, August

berriesgalore

A Bramble of Blackberry

mountainblackberry…the notion that,
because there is in this world no one thing
to which the bramble of blackberry corresponds,
a word is elegy to what it signifies…

There are moments when the body is as numinous
as words, days that are the good flesh continuing.
Such tenderness, those afternoons and evenings,
saying blackberry, blackberry, blackberry.
~Robert Haas from “Meditation at Lagunitas”

berryaugust

Light Amid the Thorns

sunsetthorn

The world is not respectable; it is mortal, tormented, confused, deluded forever; but it is shot through with beauty, with love, with glints of courage and laughter; and in these, the spirit blooms timidly, and struggles to the light amid the thorns.
~George Santayana

Our hilltop farm is named BriarCroft for good reason — our unintentional crop that flourishes each year is thorny.   We battle them with brush hogs, mowers and loppers, even burning them to the roots when necessary.  Yet the vines win this battle when we divert our attention elsewhere, even for just a few weeks.

Good thing there is light and love that glints through the thorns to encourage us when we are torn and hurting.  There will be a time when the power of the spirit will overwhelm and overcome the plethora of thorns.  There will come a day when the vines will yield fruit to feed us rather than wounds to bleed us.

sunsetthorn1

Every Common Bush

our haywagon swallowed by this year’s growth of blackberry bushes

Earth’s crammed with heaven
And every common bush afire with God
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries~
–Elizabeth Barrett Browning in “Aurora Leigh”

All I wanted was a few blackberries.

I admit my objective was just to pick enough for cobbler for Sunday noon dinner after church, oblivious to God burning in the bushes towering over me, around me, snagging me at every opportunity.  If I had given it more thought, I would have realized the reaching vines hooking my arms and legs were hardly subtle.  The thorns ripped at my skin, leaving me bloody and smarting.  The fruit itself stained my hands purple, making them look freshly bruised.  I crushed fat vines underfoot, trampling and stomping with my muck boots in order to dive deeper into the bushes.  Webs were everywhere, with spiders crawling up my arms and dropping down into my hair.  I managed to kick up one hornet’s nest so I called it quits.

All I wanted was a few blackberries, so blinded to all the clues crammed in every nook and cranny of every bush.

All I wanted was a few blackberries, trampling on holy ground with well-protected feet, unwilling to be barefoot and tenderly vulnerable.

All I wanted was a few blackberries, the lure of black gold plucked at the cost of rips and scratches and tears.

What I got was burned by a bush…

and a few blackberries for tomorrow’s crammed-with-heaven cobbler.