The World as Wheat

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I tried to paint the sound of the wind in the ears of wheat.
~Vincent Van Gogh in a letter to Paul Gauguin
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Ears of Wheat ~ Vincent Van Gogh 1890 in Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

There is nothing here but wheat, no blade
too slight for his attention: long swaying
brush strokes, pale greens, slithery yellows,
the hopefulness of early spring. All grass
is flesh, says the prophet. Here, there are no
gorgeous azures stamped with almond blossoms,
no screaming sky clawed with crows, no sunflowers
roiling gold and orange, impasto thick as Midi sunlight.
His brush herringboned up each stalk, the elemental
concerns of sun, rain, dirt, while his scrim of pain receded
into the underpainting. He let the wind play
through the stems like a violin, turning the surface
liquid, a sea of green, shifting eddies and currents.
No sky, no horizon; the world as wheat.
~Barbara Crooker, “Ears of Wheat, 1890” from 
Les Fauves

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I come from this – these green-ripening-to-amber wheat fields.
My mother was born nearly a century ago in a house built in a swale of these Palouse hills, where grain rose prolific each year from the soil.  Her father used horses and harvester over hill and dale to bring in the wheat, and piled it high in the local elevator until the train could pick it up.
My grandfather, grandmother, uncle and my mother are no more, now but dust, yet this land continues to produce and yield without their help.
When I return for a visit, I listen for what Van Gogh must have heard and seen in his own fertile land: the sound of the wind in the ears of wheat, the grain moving in waves across the landscape, the complexity of color of each individual stalk blending together to become an unending carpet undulating over the earth.
Yet to really take it in and not be overwhelmed, (to get out of the weeds, so to speak), I go high on the butte to see the world as wheat from above.  I then can imagine God’s own view of our grassy flesh which withers and fades away, as we shrivel in the sun and fall – yet the harvest of His Word endures forever.
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Coming to the End of Things

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And by and by Christopher Robin came to the end of things,
and he was silent,
and he sat there, looking out over the world,
just wishing it wouldn’t stop.

~A.A. Milne from The House at Pooh Corner

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Yes, long shadows go out
from the bales; and yes, the soul
must part from the body:
what else could it do?

…These things happen … the soul’s bliss
and suffering are bound together
like the grasses …

The last, sweet exhalations
of timothy and vetch
go out with the song of the bird;
the ravaged field
grows wet with dew.
~Jane Kenyon from “Twilight: After Haying”

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Bliss and suffering are bound together like the grasses; we are like the grasses withered and ravaged by time, released reluctant to the wind.

Tears flow today as they must, wetting the stubble left behind,  clinging and sparkling like dew.

We weep in sorrow for those we have lost;
we weep for joy each time we’re able to wake to another day.

For what else can a soul do but weep at parting and weep at welcoming?

These things happen, oh yes, they happen. I just wish it wouldn’t cut us so.

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Our days on earth are like grass; like wildflowers, we bloom and die.
~Psalm 103: 15

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The Small and The Good

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There was an entire aspect to my life that I had been blind to — the small, good things that came in abundance.
~Mary Karr from The Art of Memoir

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Oh, earth, you’re too wonderful for anybody to realize you.
Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it — every, every minute?
We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.
~Thornton Wilder, quotes from “Our Town”

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I once was lost but now am found
Was blind but now I see…
~John Newton from “Amazing Grace”

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~~And so I continue to work in the soil of this life, this work, this farm, this faith
to find what yearns to grow, to bloom, to fruit and be harvested to share with others.

With deep gratitude to those of you who visit here and let me know it makes a difference in your day — here is the small and the good from my harvest of words and pictures for you.

With blessings for our joint Thanksgiving,
Emily

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Breadth and Depth

 

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Autumn is the eternal corrective. 
It is ripeness and color and a time of maturity;
but it is also breadth, and depth, and distance. 
What man can stand with autumn on a hilltop
and fail to see the span of this world
and the meaning of the rolling hills that reach to the far horizon?
~Hal Borland

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Summer, waning and wistful, has packed up and moved on without bidding adieu or looking back over its shoulder.  Cooling winds have carried in darkening clouds spewing long overdue rain. Though we need a good drenching there are still onions and potatoes to pull from the ground, apples to harvest, tomatoes not yet ripened, corn cobs just too skinny to pick.

I’m not ready to wave goodbye to sun-soaked clear skies and the lush richness of summer.

The overhead overcast is heavily burdened with clues of what is to come: earlier dusk, the feel of moisture-filled air, the deepening graying hues, the briskness of breezes.  There is no negotiation possible.   I 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 has brought its own unique plans for display of a delicious palette of hues. It is an eternal corrective for what ails us.

The truth is we’ve seen nothing yet.

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Smelling Their Sweetness

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A scent of ripeness from over a wall.
And come to leave the routine road
And look for what had made me stall,
There sure enough was an apple tree
That had eased itself of its summer load,
And of all but its trivial foliage free,
Now breathed as light as a lady’s fan.
For there had been an apple fall
As complete as the apple had given man.
The ground was one circle of solid red.

May something go always unharvested!
May much stay out of our stated plan,
Apples or something forgotten and left,
So smelling their sweetness would be no theft.
~Robert Frost “Unharvested”

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Our trees are heavy-laden — the dropping fruit thuds to the ground with such finality,  it wakes me in the night and reminds me how far I’ve fallen.

“Fall” is just that: nothing will remain as it was. Autumn replays our desire for an apple that smelled so sweet, tempted with shiny sheen and lured with such color that we fell hard and fast for just one taste.

We ignored the worm hole.

And ended up in a hole ourselves, unharvested, hoping one day for the sweetness to return.

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A Burst of Fruit Flies

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The whiskey stink of rot has settled
in the garden, and a burst of fruit flies rises
when I touch the dying tomato plants.

Still, the claws of tiny yellow blossoms
flail in the air as I pull the vines up by the roots
and toss them in the compost.
 
It feels cruel. Something in me isn’t ready
to let go of summer so easily. To destroy
what I’ve carefully cultivated all these months.
Those pale flowers might still have time to fruit.
 
My great-grandmother sang with the girls of her village
as they pulled the flax. Songs so old
and so tied to the season that the very sound
seemed to turn the weather.
~Karina Borowicz  “September Tomatoes”
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I have an uncomfortable relationship with fruit flies this time of year. The compost bin erupts with a black cloud of fruit flies when I throw in the day’s cast offs. The fruit I bring in from the orchard and garden must be preserved before it rots, but hundreds of Drosophila melanogaster decide their breeding grounds are far more hospitable in a warm kitchen than in the chilly outdoors.  And breed they do, each female laying up to 100 eggs a day just like in biology lab at Stanford 40+ years ago where we traced recessive vs. dominant genetic traits of curly deformed wings, stubby bristles and colored eyes. I am not interested in such subtlety in my current crop of flies.  In fact I have no sympathy for them at all.
I have laid out killing fields everywhere on the cupboards — fruit fly traps (paper cones feeding into apple cider vinegar baths in water glasses), a cautionary tale to the daily burden of fresh fruit flies.

It feels so cruel.

As rot and degradation is their happy place, the flies will win until the fruit is harvested, preserved and put away for a winter day.  Then the kitchen becomes my happy place again, fly-free with no more killing fields.
Then I must face the cruel task of pulling up carefully tended garden plants to ready the beds for winter.  Perhaps if I remember to sing as I pull them out by the roots, they won’t see me weep.
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Blazing Silo

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Blue poured into summer blue,
A hawk broke from his cloudless tower,
The roof of the silo blazed, and I knew
That part of my life was over.
 
Already the iron door of the north
Clangs open: birds, leaves, snows
Order their populations forth,
And a cruel wind blows.
~Stanley Kunitz from “End of Summer”
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Transitions, like summer fading to fall, are jarring.  The silo of my life has thrown open its doors and the north winds start to blow.

I used to float the top of the grain flow more smoothly than I do now, believing I had control over the speed and course and ultimate destination.

I know better now.

Time carries me relentlessly down its silo, dunking me under its contents, only to surface breathless to gulp down what air I can before I go under again.
Each day I must admit a small part of my life is over, and each year I must admit the bulk of my life is over.  The silo of time empties bit by bit, its hollowness echoing in my ears.
I hope the harvest will have fed others well.
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