A Burdock — clawed my Gown — Not Burdock’s — blame — But mine — Who went too near The Burdock’s Den — ~Emily Dickinson
One day in 1948, an amateur Swiss mountaineer and naturalist, George de Mestral, went on a nature walk with his dog through a field of hitchhiking bur plants. He and his dog returned home covered with burs. With an intense curiosity, Mestral went to his microscope and inspected one of the many burs stuck to his pants. He saw numerous small hooks that enabled the seed-bearing bur to cling so tenaciously to the tiny loops in the fabric of his pants. George de Mestral raised his head from the microscope and smiled thinking, “I will design a unique, two-sided fastener, one side with stiff hooks like the burs and the other side with soft loops like the fabric of my pants. I will call my invention Velcro® a combination of the words velour and crochet. It will rival the zipper in it’s ability to fasten.” From: The Mining Company (Feature 09/12/97)
One moment you were just fine running ahead to the barn as I walked leisurely down hill to my chores – then I find you panting and miserable, immobilized on the ground, unable to get up or walk.
What could have happened to you in only a few short minutes?
I bent down expecting to discover the worst: I check your back and neck, your joints, your head for injuries. Instead I discover one front and one back leg glued to your body bound as if tied fast — by dozens of sticky burdock. You had taken a short cut through the weeds and the hooky plants hitchhiked onto your long flowing hair. The more you moved the more bound up your fur became until you had painful prickle masses poking your armpit and groin.
You were only doing your farm dog duties and the burdock seeds were doing what they do: velcroing on to you to be carried to another place to germinate and make more prickles balls.
It took fifteen minutes of you lying upside down, with a barn cat warming herself on your chest to do scissor surgery to your fur to free you of the torture. No longer immobilized, you ran free with your favorite cat in hot pursuit, and I noticed you gave wide berth to the burdock patch in the weeds.
Perhaps we all might be so quickly freed from our prickly immobilizing burdens when we wander too far into the weeds of life.
If only a mere hair cut could trim away all the troubles with which we are afflicted.
I know, in fact, our Rescuer is near at hand and I’m suspect when He needs to, He wears muck boots.
Autumn begins to be inferred By millinery of the cloud, Or deeper color in the shawl That wraps the everlasting hill. ~Emily Dickinson in “Summer Begins to Have the Look”
Last week summer appeared waning and wistful; it had the look of packing up, and moving on without bidding adieu or looking back over its shoulder.
Cooling breezes now have carried in darkening clouds with a hint of spit from the sky as I gaze upward to see and smell the change. Rain has been long overdue yet there is now temptation to bargain for a little more time. Though we badly needed a good drenching, there are still onions and potatoes to pull from the ground, berries to pick before they mold on the vine, tomatoes not yet ripened, corn cobs just too skinny to pick.
I’m just not ready to wave goodbye to sun-soaked clear skies.
The overhead overcast is heavily burdened with clues of what is coming: earlier dusk, the feel of moisture, the deepening graying hues, the briskness of breezes. There is no negotiation possible. I need to steel myself and get ready, wrapping myself in the soft shawl of inevitability.
So autumn advances with the clouds, taking up residence where summer has left off. Though there is still clean up of the overabundance left behind, autumn will bring its own unique plans for display of a delicious palette of hues.
The truth is we’ve seen nothing yet.
September’s Baccalaureate A combination is Of Crickets — Crows — and Retrospects And a dissembling Breeze That hints without assuming — An Innuendo sear That makes the Heart put up its Fun And turn Philosopher. ~Emily Dickinson
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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…