The Grey Disguise of Years

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Well-away and be it so,
To the stranger let them go.
Even cheerfully I yield
Pasture, orchard, mowing-field,
Yea and wish him all the gain
I required of them in vain.
Yea and I can yield him house,
Barn, and shed, with rat and mouse
To dispute possession of.
These I can unlearn to love.
Since I cannot help it? Good!
Only be it understood,

It shall be no trespassing
If I come again some spring
In the grey disguise of years,
Seeking ache of memory here.
~Robert Frost from “On the Sale of My Farm”

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From the road, each of the small farms where I grew up look nothing like they did in my childhood.  When I drive past now, the outbuildings are changed and unfamiliar, fences pulled down, the trees exponentially taller, the fields no longer well-tended. Instead the familiarity is in the road to get there, the lean into the curves, the acceleration in and out of dips, the landscape which triggers a comfort and disquiet deep in my cells.

I have never stopped to knock; instead I drive slowly past to sense if I feel what I used to feel in these places.

One clinic day, I glanced at the home address of a young man I was about to see and realized he now lived in my childhood home.  When I greeted him I told him we had something in common: we had grown up under the same roof, inside the same walls, though children of different generations.  He was curious but skeptical — how could this gray-haired middle aged woman know anything about his home?  He told me a bit about the house, the barn, the fields, the garden and how he experienced it felt altogether strange to me.  He and I had shared nothing but a patch of real estate.

I worry for the fearsome ache if someday, due to age or finances, we must sell our current farm ~ this beloved place our children were raised, animals bred and cared for, plants tended and soil turned over. It will remain on the map surely as the other two farms of my past, visible as we pass by slowly on the road, but primarily alive in the words I have harvested here, that sweet ache of seeking it out on the map of my memory.

 

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What We Need Is Here

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Horseback on Sunday morning,
harvest over, we taste persimmon
and wild grape, sharp sweet
of summer’s end. In time’s maze
over fall fields, we name names
that went west from here, names
that rest on graves. We open
a persimmon seed to find the tree
that stands in promise,
pale, in the seed’s marrow.
Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear,
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye
clear. What we need is here.
~Wendell Berry “Wild Geese”

 

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We Ate, Grateful

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We turned into the drive,
and gravel flew up from the tires
like sparks from a fire. So much
to be done—the unpacking, the mail
and papers … the grass needed mowing ….
We climbed stiffly out of the car.
The shut-off engine ticked as it cooled.

And then we noticed the pear tree,
the limbs so heavy with fruit
they nearly touched the ground.
We went out to the meadow; our steps
made black holes in the grass;
and we each took a pear,
and ate, and were grateful.
~Jane Kenyon “Coming Home at Twilight in Late Summer”

 

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Decomposition

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I’ve banked nothing, or everything.
Every day the chores need doing again.
Early in the morning, I clean the horse barn with a manure fork. 
Every morning, it feels as though it could be the day before
or a year ago
or a year before that. With every pass, I give the fork one final upward flick
to keep the manure from falling out,
and every day I remember where I learned to do that and from whom.
Time all but stops. 

But then I dump the cart on the compost pile.
I bring out the tractor and turn the pile, once every three or four days.
The bucket bites and lifts, and steam comes billowing out of the heap.
It’s my assurance that time is really moving forward,
decomposing us all in the process.
~Verlyn Klinkenborg from More Scenes from the Rural Life

 

Keeping Watch

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I will try.
I will step from the house to see what I see and hear and I will praise it…

But this too, I believe, is a place
where God is keeping watch
until we rise, and step forth again…
~Mary Oliver from “Red Bird”

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There is More to Tragedy

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My friend, old and passing, said,
“There is more to life than staying alive.
Don’t rescue me too much.”

On his farm, twelve miles out
by rough gravel roads, he is done

with plowing, spraying, harvesting.

But he is not done watching the sun
sink below the windbreak or listening
to the nighthawks above his fields.

Don’t make him move to town.

There is more to tragedy
than dying.

~Kevin Hadduck “A Note to His Doctor”

 

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