I heard a Fly buzz – when I died – The Stillness in the Room Was like the Stillness in the Air – Between the Heaves of Storm –….
There is nothing more humbling than an unwanted fly buzzing in the room. No matter whether we live in a slum or a castle, a fly finds its way to us, just because it can. And we must learn to coexist with what we can’t control.
When I’m feeling bugged, which happens all too often these days, the buzzing may overwhelm my stillness but it cannot overwhelm me. I will put down the swatter and simply listen to the coming of the heaving storm.
The grass so little has to do,— A sphere of simple green, With only butterflies to brood, And bees to entertain, And stir all day to pretty tunes The breezes fetch along, And hold the sunshine in its lap And bow to everything; And thread the dews all night, like pearls, And make itself so fine,— A duchess were too common For such a noticing. And even when it dies, to pass In odors so divine, As lowly spices gone to sleep, Or amulets of pine. And then to dwell in sovereign barns, And dream the days away,— The grass so little has to do, I wish I were a hay! ~Emily Dickinson
This is the week of the year our barn is at its emptiest, right before it fills up again. There is something very lonely about a barn completely empty of its hay stores.
Its hollow interior echoes with a century of farmers’ voices:
soothing an upset cow during a difficult milking,
uncovering a litter of kittens high in a hay loft,
shouting orders to a steady workhorse,
singing a soft hymn while cleaning stalls,
startling out loud as a barn owl or bat flies low overhead.
The dust motes lazily drift by in the twilight, seemingly forever suspended above the straw covered wood floor, floating protected from the cooling evening breezes.
There is no heart beat left in an empty barn. It is in full arrest, all life blood drained out, vital signs flat lined. I can hardly bear to go inside.
The weather is cooperating so the grass was cut two days ago. Today it will be tossed about on the field to dry in a process called “tedding”, then tomorrow raked into windrows and baled for pick up by our “family and friends” hay crew.
Suddenly, the barn is shocked back to a pulse, with the throb of voices, music blaring, dust and pollen flying chaotically, the rattle of the electric “elevator” hauling bales from wagon to loft, the grunts and groans of the crew as they heft and heave the bales into place in the stack. This often goes on late into the night, the barn ablaze with lights, the barnyard buzzing with excitement and activity. It almost looks as if it is on fire.
Vital signs measurable, rhythm restored, volume depletion reversed, prognosis good for another year.
A healthy rhythm is elusive in this modern age of full time jobs off the farm, necessitating careful coordination with the schedule of the farmer who cuts and bales for many neighbors all within the same window of good weather. The farmer races his equipment from field to field, swooping around with a goliath tractor taking 12 foot swaths, raising dust clouds, and then on to the next job. It is so unlike the rhythm of a century ago when a horse drawn mower cut the tall grass in a gentle four foot swath, with a pulsing shh shh shh shh shh shh tempo that could be heard stretching across the fields. It is an unfamiliar sound today, the almost-silence of no motor at all, just the jingle of the harness and the mower blades slicing back and forth as the team pulls the equipment down the field. We’ve lost the peacefulness of a team of horses at work, necessitating a slower pace and the need to stop at the end of a row for a breather.
The old barn will be resuscitated once again. Its floor will creak with the weight of the hay bales, the walls will groan with the pressure of stacks. The missing shingles on the roof will be replaced and the doors locked tight against the winter winds. But it will be breathing on its own, having needed only a short rest these last few weeks.
Inside, once again, filled to the brim, life is held tight by twine, just waiting to be released.
Again I reply to the triple winds running chromatic fifths of derision outside my window: Play louder. You will not succeed. I am bound more to my sentences the more you batter at me to follow you. And the wind, as before, fingers perfectly its derisive music. ~William Carlos Williams “January”
It’s been uncharacteristically cold here for nearly a month and this morning the northeast wind is back, pummeling away at our windows.
This is cold that descends from the Arctic to blast through the strongest Carhartt clothing, sneak under drafty doors, and freeze pipes not left dripping. It leaves no one untouched and unbitten with universal freezer burn, mocking us with its discordant chilly chords.
A bitter cold snap ensures even independent fair-weather individualists must become companionable when the going gets rugged, mandating shelter with others for survival. It can even mean forced companionship with those we ordinarily avoid, with whom we have little in common, with whom we disagree and even quarrel, with whom sharing a hug or snuggling for warmth would be unimaginable.
Our nation is in just such a cold snap today, terribly and bitterly divided about the inauguration to come, each of us feeling battered and pummeled by the winds of change. If we together don’t come in out of the deep freeze, we each will perish alone.
Hope is all we have left as so much hot air is being generated by derisive voices, even in the chillest land…
There is an arid Pleasure – As different from Joy – As Frost is different from Dew – Like Element – are they –
Yet one – rejoices Flowers – And one – the Flowers abhor – The finest Honey – curdled – Is worthless – to the Bee – ~Emily Dickinson
Remember the goodness of God in the frost of adversity. ~Charles Spurgeon
Hard times leave us frozen solid,
and too cold to touch,
yet there is hope and healing,
remembering the immensity and goodness of God.
Even when life’s chill leaves us aching,
longing for relief,
the coming thaw is real
because God is good.
Even when we’re flattened,
stepped on, broken into fragments —
the pieces left are the beginning
of who we will become,
made whole again
because God is good.
The frost lasts not forever.
The sun makes us glisten and glitter
as ice melts down to droplets.
We become the goodness of God,
His eyes and ears,
heart and soul,
hands and feet.
Even more so,
we are His tears.
Further in Summer than the Birds Pathetic from the Grass A minor Nation celebrates Its unobtrusive Mass.
No Ordinance be seen So gradual the Grace A pensive Custom it becomes Enlarging Loneliness.
Antiquest felt at Noon When August burning low Arise this spectral Canticle Repose to typify
Remit as yet no Grace No Furrow on the Glow Yet a Druidic Difference Enhances Nature now ~Emily Dickinson
“…one of the great poems of American literature. The statement of the poem is profound; it remarks the absolute separation between man and nature at a precise moment in time. The poet looks as far as she can into the natural world, but what she sees at last is her isolation from that world. She perceives, that is, the limits of her own perception. But that, we reason, is enough. This poem of just more than sixty words comprehends the human condition in relation to the universe:
So gradual the Grace A pensive Custom it becomes Enlarging Loneliness.
But this is a divine loneliness, the loneliness of a species evolved far beyond all others. The poem bespeaks a state of grace. In its precision, perception and eloquence it establishes the place of words within that state. Words are indivisible with the highest realization of human being.” ~N. Scott Momaday from “The Man Made of Words”
On the first day I took his class on Native American Mythology and Lore in 1974 at Stanford, N.Scott Momaday strolled to the front, wrote the 60 words of this Dickinson poem on the blackboard. He told us we would spend at least a week working out the meaning of what he considered the greatest poem written — this in a class devoted to Native American writing and oral tradition. In his resonant bass, he read the poem to us many times, rolling the words around his mouth as if to extract their sweetness. This man of the plains, a member of the Kiowa tribe, loved this poem put together by a New England recluse poet — someone as culturally distant from him and his people as possible.
But grace works to unite us, no matter our differences, and Scott knew this as he led us, mostly white students, through this poem. What on the surface appears a paean to late summer cricket song doomed to extinction by oncoming winter, is a statement of the transcendence of man beyond our understanding of nature and the world in which we, its creatures, find ourselves. As summer begins its descent into the dark death of winter, we, unlike the crickets, become all too aware we too are descending. There is no one as lonely as an individual facing their mortality and no one as lonely as a poet facing the empty page, in search of words to describe the sacrament of sacrifice and perishing.
Yet the Word brings Grace unlike any other, even when the cricket song, pathetic and transient as it is, is gone. The Word brings Grace, like no other, to pathetic and transient man who will emerge transformed.
There is no furrow on the glow. There is no need to plow and seed our salvaged souls, already lovingly planted by our Creator God, yielding a fruited plain.
Our local fair feels much like I remember when I was a child in the 60’s, accompanying my father to the Lynden fairgrounds during those summers of political and social turmoil. His job was to supervise the teachers of FFA kids (Future Farmers of America) so he did the rounds of the regional and county fairs and my brother and I tagged along to explore the exhibits and go on rides.
The heart beat of a country fair pulses deep for me: I fell in love with my future husband at a fair, and we spent twenty years from 1992-2012 at the local Lynden fair exhibiting our Haflinger horses together as family and friends. Once our children grew and flew away four years ago, my husband and I were relegated to mere fair-goers, exploring exhibits without the need to show up to muck out stalls at 6 AM.
As we walked through this year’s home made quilt exhibit (see my photos and post tomorrow), I marveled, as always, at the multifaceted and intricate designs, with a distinctly planned out mix and match of colors in each quiltmaker’s entry.
Only a short stroll away is the chicken exhibit building, one of the same buildings I wandered through as a child over fifty years ago. As we entered, it struck me that here too I was admiring designs and color schemes, layered with nuance and texture, just like the quilts — the feathers are God’s threads put to exquisite use to blanket a mere chicken.
So much design, so much detail, so much hope covers something as mere as me.
How many Flowers fail in Wood – Or perish from the Hill – Without the privilege to know That they are Beautiful –
How many cast a nameless Pod Upon the nearest Breeze – Unconscious of the Scarlet Freight – It bear to Other Eyes –
If seeds in the black earth can turn into such beautiful roses, what might not the heart of man become in its long journey toward the stars? —G.K. Chesterton
We are mere seeds lying dormant, plain and simple, with no knowledge of the beauty we harbor within, a beauty for which we were created. There is nothing to distinguish us one from the other until the murmurs of spring begin, so soft, so subtle. The soil shakes loose frosty crust as the thawing warmth begins. Sunlight makes us stir and swell, no longer frozen but animate and intimate.
We are called awake from our quiescence to sprout, bloom and fruit. We reach as far as our tethered roots will allow, beyond earthly bounds to touch the light and be touched. We fling our seeds to the wind.
There is renewed hope created in the heart of man, ready and waiting to unfurl, with a precious fragrance that lingers long after our pods have burst open, as our seed dries, loosens, and falls to freedom.