The sun-dipped isle was suddenly a sheep Lost and stupid, a dense wet tremulous fleece. ~George Mackay Brown “Fog” from The Weather Bestiary
When I was young, fog felt oppressive,
as mournful as the fog horns sounding continually in the nearby bay.
Now in late middle age,
I appreciate fog for slowing me down
when life compels me to rush too fast.
When forced to take time,
I begin to notice what I missed before:
clouds descend to hug and kiss the ground
to bejewel everything they touch.
The dead and dying
become glorious in subtle beauty,
the farm all gossamer garland and transparent pearls…
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”
Move away from reading morning headlines
or being crushed in the masses at rush hour,
ignore the politics of power
or striving for market share~
instead, come home to this:
the reality of peace brought to earth.
A day breaks fresh each morning
and folds gently and quietly each evening.
And we are glad,
that it is good.
At the old Polish gardener’s There’s a young cat A calico Living half-wild Under the potting shed Where she was born
Her face is decorated With daubs and smudges And streaks of black As if she were made up to be a clown In some mysterious carnival
I gaze at her in wonder She gazes back With her clear golden eyes. ~Anne Porter “A Village Cat”
Our stub-tailed calico Bobbie came to live here eleven years ago when her physician owner needed to move out of the area and couldn’t take her along. She arrived with a van full of cat furniture from her luxurious indoor house cat existence — a cat house, a cat tree, a cat bed, her own large chair and lots of toys. I gently explained Bobbie would be living the life of an outdoor farm cat from here on, but her stuff was unloaded and after a tearful goodbye, her mom left.
Bobbie took one look around the farm and claimed it as hers, much to the chagrin of several long term resident farm cats and corgi dogs. She has been the Queen here ever since, greeting any new visitors with royal demeanor and occasionally allowing a stroke of her colorful fur only if it is offered with proper respect and deference.
Her favorite person is our Japanese daughter-in-law, Tomomi, and Bobbie greets her affectionately during her summer visits — no one else is allowed such access to her Royal Highness.
Bobbie, in her uncanny wisdom, knows a quality person when she sees one.
Bobbie will frequently accompany us on walk-abouts on the farm – oh, excuse me, your Highness, I’ll correct myself — we and the corgis are allowed to accompany her on walk-abouts on the farm.
Just to make sure the corgis understand her ownership of all things, she will enter the dog pen while they are out doing chores with me and then remain until their return, striking terror in their little inferior canine brains as they try to decide whether to re-claim their territory and food bowls — or not. Until she decides it is time to elegantly stroll in a leisurely manner out of their pen, they are stymied with fear and refuse to reenter.
Bobbie has climbed every tree, explored every building including the roofs, and won’t sleep in the same place more than one night in a row. No surrogate cat house, tree, chair or toys for this cat.
She is the Queen, after all, and when we are fixed under her golden eyed gaze, we aren’t about to forget: we are her subjects and forever will be.
It will not always be like this, The air windless, a few last Leaves adding their decoration To the trees’ shoulders, braiding the cuffs Of the boughs with gold; a bird preening
In the lawn’s mirror. Having looked up From the day’s chores, pause a minute, Let the mind take its photograph Of the bright scene, something to wear Against the heart in the long cold. ~Ronald Stuart Thomas A Day in Autumn
There is much about autumn farm chores that is good for the weary heart.
When the stresses of the work world amass together and threaten to overwhelm, there is reassurance in the routine of putting on muck boots, gloves, jacket, then hearing the back door bang behind me as I head outside. Following the path to the barns with my trusty corgi boys in the lead, I open wide the doors to hear the welcoming nickers of six different equine voices.
The routine: loosening up the twine on the hay bales and opening each stall door to put a meal in front of each hungry horse, maneuvering the wheelbarrow to fork up accumulated manure, fill up the water bucket, pat a neck and go on to the next one. By the time I’m done, I am generally calmer, listening to the rhythmic chewing from six sets of molars. It is a welcome symphony of satisfaction for both the musicians and audience. My mind snaps a picture and records the song to pull out later when needed.
The horses are not in the least perturbed that I may have had a challenging day. Like the dogs and cats, they show appreciation that I have come to do what I promise to do–I care for them, I protect them and moreover, I will always return.
Outside the barn, the chill wind blows gently through the bare tree branches with a wintry bite to remind me who is not in control. I should drop the pretense. The stars, covered most nights by cloud cover, show themselves, glowing alongside the moon in a galactic sweep across the sky. They exude the tranquility of an Ever-Presence over my bowed and humbled head. I am cared for and protected; He is always there and He will return.
There is balance of the ordinary and extraordinary within the profundity of farm chores, and within the rhythm of autumn’s transition to winter.
Equilibrium is delivered to my heart, once and ever after, from a stable.
Season of ripening fruit and seeds, depart; There is no harvest ripening in the heart.
Bring the frost that strikes the dahlias down In one cruel night. The blackened buds, the brown And wilted heads, the crippled stems, we crave – All beauty withered, crumbling to the grave. Wind, strip off the leaves, and harden, ground, Till in your frozen crust no break is found.
Then only, when man’s inner world is one With barren earth and branches bared to bone, Then only can the heart begin to know The seeds of hope asleep beneath the snow; Then only can the chastened spirit tap The hidden faith still pulsing in the sap. ~Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Our farm has been changing dramatically over the past several weeks, each day moving a little closer to the reality of winter around the corner. Most of the fruit which is not residing in our freezer has fallen from the trees, and the walnut husks are hanging lonesome and bulbous as a windstorm pulled many leaves to the ground creating a multi-colored carpet everywhere I walk.
Readying for winter’s sleep is quite a glamorous affair for some trees on our farm–they are clothed in rich crimson and gold like the most alluring and ostentatious negligee. However the majority of tree leaves turn drab yellow or brown, as if donning a practical flannel nightgown or an oversized t-shirt without any pretense of grandeur. Even our Haflinger horses laze about, comfortable in their soft winter woolie coats and feathered slippers, happy with their gift of hay. I’m understand their contentment as I prefer fluffy flannel myself.This has not been a leisurely autumn for me, instead full of turbulence and fretfulness, too much work to do in too few hours, rushing full force toward the hoped-for calm and quiet of winter. Like so many others, I’m ill at ease with this transition, as unready as a small child who resists the approach of bedtime, even when exhausted to the point of meltdown. It takes someone to quietly sit down with me to read a good bedtime story and to sing a soft hymn of lullaby. I keep leaping up, eyes propped open, pushing on, aware there are still too many “miles to go before I sleep”.
The time to sleep will come, sooner than I think. Just as a storm brings the leaves to the ground, so shall I be laid to rest, to be restored when the time is right.
Maybe I should think about wearing that bright red nightie.
There is a desperation to these October days:
the leaves torn from branches by unrelenting gusts
with no thought to where they may land~
upon which patch of grass or gravel will be their final resting place
to wilt and wither in the rain,
buried by eventual peaceful snowbanks
until they return to dust.
Or in my need to hold on to what I can
of what was,
I preserve a few like precious treasure,
tucked between book pages
to remain forever neighbors
with the words they embrace.