Just In Case

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All day he’s shoveled green pine sawdust
out of the trailer truck into the chute.
From time to time he’s clambered down to even
the pile. Now his hair is frosted with sawdust.
Little rivers of sawdust pour out of his boots.

I hope in the afterlife there’s none of this stuff
he says, while I broom off his jeans, his sweater flocked
with granules, his immersed-in-sawdust socks.
I hope there’s no bedding, no stalls, no barn

no more repairs to the paddock gate the horses
burst through when snow avalanches off the roof.
Although the old broodmare, our first foal, is his,
horses, he’s fond of saying, make divorces.

…he says
let’s walk up to the field and catch the sunset

and off we go, a couple of aging fools.

I hope, he says, on the other side there’s a lot
less work, but just in case I’m bringing tools.
~Maxine Kumin from “Chores”

 

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They do not speak,
And when they speak at last it is to say
What each one knows the other knows. They have
One mind between them, now…
~Wendell Berry from “They Sit Together on the Porch”

 

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We know that comfortable silence when all that needs to be said is said and the rest is shared without words.  And so it will be.

Two weeks from now, you’ll pack up the files in your desk, box up the legal books, take down the diplomas from your office wall, and close the door on a long lawyering life. The next day you’ll pull on your worn-thin coveralls, lace up your work boots, grab your cap and head out to the barn and wonder what needs fixing next.

There is so much to be done yet, so many tools to use, so much more to be lived.

Let’s walk up the field to catch the sunset, just a couple of aging fools.

 

 

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danbarn

 

 

And Joy Will Find Her…

For my big sister Nancy Polis Casey on her retirement after 41 years of work as a physical therapist

When she no longer has to go to work
she won’t sleep in or stay up late.

When she no longer has to go to work
she’ll get calls asking her to share what she knows.
Her help will continue to make a difference
to those whose healing depends
on her teaching and encouragement.

When she no longer has to go to work
she’ll play with grandchildren when a daughter needs a nap
and she just happens to have an empty lap to fill.
She’ll cook a meal when a friend cannot manage it,
knowing when life overwhelms
with pain or sadness, even small acts of kindness
rescue the heart and restore hope.

When she no longer has to go to work
she will not sketch flowers on white plates
or paint landscapes in watercolor,
but instead will get dirty and grow blooms herself
to take to those who need fragrant beauty
instead of a picture on the wall.
She will trellis tomatoes
simply to share a thick slice of rich flavor
when someone is hungry and needs to be filled.

When she no longer has to go to work
she will find more than plenty to do
because there is so much yet to be done.

Even when she no longer has to go to work
Life will come and find her ready

And she will know joy.

I Will Not Wear Purple

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When I no longer have to go to work
I will not sit in tea shops
Wearing purple and a ridiculous red hat
Laughing too loud and trying too hard
To look carefree when what I really want
Is more work:
To keep busy with needs in my family,
My church and my neighborhood.

Babysitting for a young mother who needs a nap
And I happen to have an empty lap to fill,
Cooking a meal for someone who cannot manage
And I have too much for myself,
Sitting with the ill when they are lonely,
And so am I.

When I no longer have to go to work
I will not sketch flowers on white plates
Or paint landscapes in watercolor,
But instead will get dirty and grow blooms myself
To take to those who need fragrant beauty
Instead of a picture on the wall.
I will trellis heirloom tomatoes
Simply to share a thick slice of rich flavor
When someone is hungry and needs to be filled.

When I no longer have to go to work
I will find plenty to do
Though my body fades and hair thins,
Though my voice weakens, and back is curved, still
My prayers will be continually
Praising the One who made me;
Even when I no longer have to go to work,
Work will come to me.