Our toes, our noses
Take hold on the loam,
Acquire the air.
Nobody sees us,
Stops us, betrays us;
The small grains make room.
Soft fists insist on
Heaving the needles,
The leafy bedding,
Nudgers and shovers
In spite of ourselves.
Our kind multiplies:
We shall by morning
Inherit the earth.
Our foot’s in the door.
~Sylvia Plath from “Mushroom”
This overnight overture,
a parturition of “ink caps” after a rain.
As if seed had been sprinkled on the manure pile,
they sprout three inch stalks
still stretching at dawn,
topped by dew-catching caps and umbrellas.
Nearly translucent as glass,
already curling at the edges in the morning light,
by noon melting into black ooze
by evening complete deliquescence,
withered and curling back
into the humus
which birthed them hours before.
It shall be repeated
again and again,
this birth from muck,
a brief and shining life,
and dying back to dung.
It is the way of things
to never give up
once a foot’s in the door.
spoke to me
to come falling
out of the brisk cloud,
to be happy again
in a new way
on the earth!
Then it was over.
The sky cleared.
I was standing
under a tree.
the long and wondrous journeys
still to be ours.
~Mary Oliver from “Last Night the Rain Spoke to Me”
Our rainfall this week was met with joy and relief, refreshing what had waited all summer parched and dry and dying.
Too little too late.
Across the country and in other parts of the world, this week’s rainfall caused flooding and destruction, threatening homes and lives.
Too much too soon.
This life’s too little/too much journeys are frightening, wondrous and arduous.
And this journey, this life, is ours to travel. Let us pray for a little more just right.
Even at noon the house is dark.
In my room under the eaves
I hear the steady benevolence
of water washing dust
raised by the haying
from porch and car and garden
and purified, as if tonsured.
The grass resolves to grow again,
receiving the rain to that end,
but my disordered soul thirsts
after something it cannot name.
~Jane Kenyon from “August Rain, After Haying”
A long-awaited string of rainy days have arrived and like the ground and plants, I look skyward letting the clouds drip on me and I am washed of dust.
Will I restore like the brown and dying blade of grass, turning green and lush in a matter of days?
Is there enough benevolence from the sky to cleanse and settle the grime, and still yield more harvest of food and fodder? Will this replenish my soul enough that I can resolve to grow again?
I thirst for what I cannot name. The mystery is, I’m filled, left dripping and ready.
Open the window, and let the air
Freshly blow upon face and hair,
And fill the room, as it fills the night,
With the breath of the rain’s sweet might.
Not a blink shall burn to-night
In my chamber, of sordid light;
Nought will I have, not a window-pane,
‘Twixt me and the air and the great good rain,
Which ever shall sing me sharp lullabies;
And God’s own darkness shall close mine eyes;
And I will sleep, with all things blest,
In the pure earth-shadow of natural rest.
The rain returned briefly this weekend – a blissful reminder of God’s intent to refresh and replenish us when we are at our driest.
It is sweet to fall asleep listening in the dark to the patter of raindrops after weeks of drought.
I’ll make sure to remember the relief I felt these nights while grumbling and sloshing around in the fortieth day of rain this winter.
When will I be satisfied there is enough but not too much?
~~when God’s own darkness closes my eyes in natural rest and His glory opens my eyes to the illumination of eternity.
In the meantime, let it rain – preferably as I sleep.
Green was the silence, wet was the light
the month of June trembled like a butterfly
~Pablo Neruda from “Sonnet XL”
We are now four days into summer but aside from the date on the calendar, it would be difficult to prove otherwise. After a dry stretch of warm late spring weather, it is now unseasonably cool, the skies stony gray, the rivers running full and fast, the ground peppered with puddles. Rain fell hard last night, hiding behind the cover of darkness as if ashamed of itself. As it should be.
What all this moisture will yield is acres and acres of towering grass growth, more grass than imaginable, more grass than we can keep mowed, burying the horses up to their backs as they dive head long into the pasture. The Haflingers don’t need to lower their necks to graze, choosing instead to simply strip off the ripe tops of the grasses as they forge paths through five foot forage. It is like children at a birthday party swiping the frosting off cupcake after cupcake, licking their fingers as they go. Instead of icing, the horses’ muzzles are smeared with dandelion fluff, grass seed and buttercup petals.
In the northwest, June can tend to shroud its promise of longer days under clouds. Outdoor weddings brace for rain and wind with a supply of umbrellas, graduation potlucks are served in the garage and Fourth of July picnics stay safely under cover. There is a wary anticipation of solstice as it signals the slow inexorable return of darkness from which we have not yet fully recovered.
So I tremble as I too splash through the squishiness of late June, quivering like a wet butterfly emerging from its cocoon ready to unfurl its wings to dry, but unsure how to fly and uncertain of the new world that awaits. In fact the dark empty cocoon can look mighty inviting on a rainy June night or during a loud mid-day thunderstorm. If I could manage to squeeze myself back in, it might be worth a try.
After all, there is no place like home.
Light and wind are running
over the headed grass
as though the hill had
melted and now flowed.
~Wendell Berry “June Wind”
It is haying time now, as soon as another stretch of clear days appears on the horizon. We missed a haying window last week, and now are staring at a week and a half of uncertain weather with forecast rain and clouds interspersed among sunny warmer days.
The headed grass is growing heavier, falling over, lodged before it can be cut, with the undulations of moist breezes flowing over the hill. It has matured too fast, rising up too lush, too overcome with itself so that it can no longer stand. It is melting and undulating like a lava flow, pulled back into the soil.
We must move fast to save it.
Light and wind work magic on our hill. The blades of the mower will come soon to lay it to the ground in green streams that flow up and down the slopes. It will lie comfortless in its stoneless cemetery rows, until tossed about by the tedder into random piles to dry, then raked back into a semblance of order in mounded lines flowing over the landscape.
It will be crushed and bound together for transport to the barn, no longer bending but bent, no longer flowing but flown, no longer growing but grown.
It becomes fodder for the beasts of the farm during the cold nights when the wind beats at the doors. It melts in their mouths, as it was meant to, just as we are meant to melt and flow ourselves, rescued by light and wind and spirit.
I can see, through the rifts of the apple-boughs,
The delicate blue of the sky,
And the changing clouds with their marvellous tints
That drift so lazily by.
And strange, sweet thoughts sing through my brain,
And Heaven, it seemeth near;
Oh, is it not a rare, sweet time,
The blossoming time of the year?
~Horatio Alger, Jr. from “Apple Blossoms”
You won’t remember it—the apple orchard
We wandered through one April afternoon,
Climbing the hill behind the empty farm.
A city boy, I’d never seen a grove
Burst in full flower or breathed the bittersweet
Perfume of blossoms mingled with the dust.
A quarter mile of trees in fragrant rows
Arching above us. We walked the aisle,
Alone in spring’s ephemeral cathedral.
~Dana Gioia from “The Apple Orchard”
The rain eases long enough
to allow blades of grass to stand back up
primed for the mower’s cutting swath.
Clusters of pink tinged blossoms
sway in response to my mower’s pass,
apple buds bulge on ancient branches
in promise of fruit
stroked by the honeybees’ tickling legs.
Bowing low beneath the swollen blooms,
caught by snagging branches
that shower from hidden raindrop reservoirs
held in the clasp of blushing petal cups,
my face is anointed in perfumed apple tears.