A Time Less Bold

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My mother, who hates thunder storms,
Holds up each summer day and shakes
It out suspiciously, lest swarms
Of grape-dark clouds are lurking there;
But when the August weather breaks
And rains begin, and brittle frost
Sharpens the bird-abandoned air,
Her worried summer look is lost,

And I her son, though summer-born
And summer-loving, none the less
Am easier when the leaves are gone
Too often summer days appear
Emblems of perfect happiness
I can’t confront: I must await
A time less bold, less rich, less clear;
An autumn more appropriate.
~Philip Larkin from “Mother, Summer, I”

Summer is simply too much excess,
from endless hours of daylight,
to rising temperatures,
clouds of dust,
to fruitfulness and abundant blooms.

It overwhelms and exhausts
while filling a void left empty
after endless cold bare dark days
that will all too soon
come again,
welcomed.

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A Hot Day on the Farm

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These hot humid summer days have been barely tolerable for a temperate climate sissy pants like me.  I am melting even as I get up in the morning, and our house has been two degrees warmer (93 degrees) than the out of doors.

One morning as I drove the ten miles of country roads to get to work in town,  I was listening to the news on the car radio when I puzzled over why the radio station would be playing cat meows over the news.  I turned off the radio, and realized the meows didn’t go away.

As soon as I was able, I pulled into a parking lot and surveyed my car from back to front, looking under seats, opened the back, scratched my head.  Then the plaintive meowing started again—under the hood.  I struggled with the latch, lifted up the hood and a distressed bundle of kitten fur hurtled out at me, clinging all four little greasy paws to my shirt.  Unscathed except for greasy feet, this little two month old kitten had survived a 50 mile per hour ride for 20 minutes, including several turns and stops.  He immediately crawled up to my shoulder, settled in by my ear, and began to purr.  I contemplated showing up at a meeting at work with a kitten and grease marks all over me vs. heading back home with my newly portable neck warmer.  I opted to call in with the excuse “my cat hitchhiked to work with me this morning and is thumbing for a ride back home” and headed back down the road to take him back to the barn where he belongs.

At that point, my meeting at work was already over so I dawdled in the barn before heading back down the road.   I noticed the Haflinger horses had broken through our electric wire fencing into a more inviting adjacent field so I wandered out to check fence line.   The hot wire must have been shorting out somewhere in the pasture.  As I approached the fence, I heard numerous snaps and pops that I interpreted as hot wire shorting out in the dry grass and weeds, creating a potential fire hazard with the winds whipping up.  I could hear snaps all up and down the fenceline, but could not see sparks to lead me to the problem spot.

As I studied the wire, I heard a little “snap” and a tiny seed pod burst open in front of my eyes, scattering its contents very effectively on the ground below.  It was dried common vetch seed pods that were snapping and popping, not hot wire shorting out.  They were literally exploding all up and down the fenceline in a symphony of seed release.  Not a spark to be seen — at least not of the electrical variety — only botanical.

So I learned practical advice to be content on a hot day on the farm:

Remember to bang on my car hood before I start the ignition, cats do have nine lives, keep the hotwire hot to keep the horses where they belong,  and especially, vetch doesn’t start wildfires, but explodes wildly in its noisy reproductive cycle.  If vetch can find ecstasy on a hot day, so can we all.

It doesn’t get much better than that.

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Noticing

photo by Joel DeWaard

photo by Joel DeWaard

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How beautiful the things are that you did not notice before!
A few sweetclover plants
Along the road to Bellingham,
Culvert ends poking out of driveways,
Wooden corncribs, slowly falling,
What no one loves, no one rushes towards or shouts about,
What lives like the new moon,
And the wind
Blowing against the rumps of grazing cows.
~Robert Bly from “Like the New Moon I Will Live My Life”

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I see in a new way now,
my eyes scanning for the unnoticed and plain,
along the roadsides, on my walks,
anywhere I might wander.
I take a moment to notice what
I might keep for another day,
like a jar of canned peaches in my cellar,
so I won’t forget, and someday share
its sweetness.

photo by Joel DeWaard

photo by Joel DeWaard

photo by Harry Rodenberger

photo by Harry Rodenberger

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Like the Direction of Sunbeams

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A swarm of honey bees appeared, suddenly and without fanfare, on our old black walnut tree with the tree house. After dusk, a local bee keeper came to brush the majority of them into a cardboard box to take home to a new hive.

A bee swarm is an amazing single-minded organism of thousands of individuals intent on one purpose: survival of the queen to establish a new home for her safety and security, thus ensuring survival for all.  I am grateful they stopped off here at this farm for a bit of a respite, and wish them well under the nurture of a gentle apiarist who, for forty years, has loved, respected and honored bees by working for their well-being.

The keeping of bees is like the direction of sunbeams.
~Henry David Thoreau

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One can no more approach people without love than one can approach bees without care. Such is the quality of bees…
~Leo Tolstoy

beeswarm2A swarm of bees in May
Is worth a load of hay;
A swarm of bees in June
Is worth a silver spoon;
A swarm of bees in July
Is not worth a fly
.
-An Old English Ditty

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When the air is wine and the wind is free
and the morning sits on the lovely lea
and sunlight ripples on every tree
Then love-in-air is the thing for me

I’m a bee,
I’m a ravishing, rollicking, young queen bee,
That’s me.

I wish to state that I think it’s great,
Oh, it’s simply rare in the upper air,

It’s the place to pair
With a bee.

If any old farmer can keep and hive me,
Then any old drone may catch and wife me;
I’m sorry for creatures who cannot pair
On a gorgeous day in the upper air,
I’m sorry for cows that have to boast
Of affairs they’ve had by parcel post,
I’m sorry for a man with his plots and guile,
His test-tube manner, his test-tube smile;
I’ll multiply and I’ll increase
As I always have–by mere caprice;
For I am a queen and I am a bee,
I’m devil-may-care and I’m fancy free,
Love-in-air is the thing for me,

Oh, it’s simply rare
In the beautiful air,
And I wish to state
That I’ll always mate

With whatever drone I encounter,
All hail the queen!

~E.B. White from “Song of the Queen Bee” published in the New Yorker 1945

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I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
~William Butler Yeats, The Lake Isle of Innisfree

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Bees do have a smell, you know, and if they don’t they should, for their feet are dusted with spices from a million flowers.
~Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine

 

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…The world was really one bee yard, and the same rules work fine in both places.
Don’t be afraid, as no life-loving bee wants to sting you.
Still, don’t be an idiot; wear long sleeves and pants.
Don’t swat. Don’t even think about swatting.
If you feel angry, whistle. Anger agitates while whistling melts a bee’s temper.
Act like you know what you’re doing, even if you don’t.
Above all, send the bees love. Every little thing wants to be loved.

~Sue Monk Kidd from The Secret Life of Bees

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Such bees! Bilbo had never seen anything like them.
“If one were to sting me,” He thought “I should swell up as big as I am!
~J.R.R. Tolkien from The Hobbit

what's left behind this morning, waiting for the beekeeper's return

what’s left behind the following morning, waiting for the beekeeper’s return

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When the bee comes to your house, let her have beer; you may want to visit the bee’s house some day.
    -Congo Proverb

from May 2014 (reblog)

Crooked Furrow

 

photo by Joel DeWaard

photo by Joel DeWaard

photo by Joel DeWaard

photo by Joel DeWaard

photo by Joel DeWaard

photo by Joel DeWaard

photo by Joel DeWaard

photo by Joel DeWaard

My father swerves the team
to miss the quail’s nest
hidden in the furrow
she rises up beating her wings
her cries fill all the world
of sky and cloud echoing her call…

and so he passes
the caring farmer with his crooked furrow
saluting life the warm round eggs
hidden in the spring grass
the quail rising and falling
pulled by invisible heartstrings.
~Dorothy Hewitt  “Quail’s Nest”

 

I remember my father driving a stake
where the killdeer nest held 6 speckled eggs,
and the mother would run off crying,
flapping and appearing wounded
to lure him away from her precious brood.

He would drive the plow around those nests,
marking their spot for the season,
respecting their presence,
preserving their future,
without anyone telling him
he should or he must
because his heart told him
it was the right thing to do.

thank you to Joel DeWaard for giving me permission to use his recent photos from the Lynden International Plowing Match that takes place just down the road apiece.

photo by Joel DeWaard

photo by Joel DeWaard

An Intricate Dusk

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Black birds slice their evening patterns—
long curves in the sky. Everything
is drawing down into shade.
But the dark, which is at first so simple
is not simple. Away from the farmhouse
with its slits of yellow, the monochrome
develops like a print in the chemical bath.

The unbroken velvet swims
with complications so subtle that
seeing and hearing must take their time
to know. The shadow purples,
the dusk intricate with crickets. The sky
infested with pricks of light.
My whole body an ear, an eye.
~Luci Shaw “A Simple Dark”

 

Let it come, as it will, and don’t   
be afraid. God does not leave us   
comfortless, so let evening come.
~Jane Kenyon from “Let Evening Come”

Wandering the evening farm,
I feel the darkness,
more than see or hear
the settling of birdsong,
the rise of coyote calls,
the horizon’s firelight,
the slowing of my pulse,
and the deepening of my breaths.

I let it come, this most intricate dusk.

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