Whispering Scythe

Winslow Homer’s The Veteran in a New Field

To the earnest love that laid the swale in rows…

The fact is the sweetest dream that labor knows.
My long scythe whispered and left the hay to make.
~Robert Frost in “Mowing”

I grew up watching my father scythe our hay in our field because he had no mower for his tractor.  He enjoyed physical labor in the fields and woods–his other favorite hand tool was a brush cutter that he’d take to blackberry bushes.   He would head out to the field with the scythe over this shoulder, grim reaper style.  Once he was standing on the edge of the grass needing to be mowed, he would then lower the scythe, curved blade to the ground, turn slightly, positioning his hands on the two handles just so, raise the scythe up past his shoulders, and then in a full body twist almost like a golf swing, he’d bring the blade down.   It would follow a smooth arc through the base of the standing grass, laying clumps flat in a tidy pile in a row alongside the 2 inch stubble left behind. It was a swift, silky muscle movement, a thing of beauty.

This work was a source of his satisfaction and “sweetest dream.”  I know now what he must have felt–there is a contentment found in sweaty work showing visible results.   I understand that “earnest love” that drives us to work, and tangibly leaves the evidence of our labors behind.

Harvest work is not for sissies.   I learned that watching my father’s continual sweep across the field and hearing his whispering scythe.

I wish I too could work with a whisper.

3 thoughts on “Whispering Scythe

  1. Beautiful, Dr. Em. I’m living in Belize where there are thousands of German Mennonites who own thousands of acres and I marvel at the way they work so hard and seemingly so effortlessly in the fields without machinery. And marvel at the Belizean farmers as well, who can use an even more amazing farm tool–a machete–for more purposes than I ever would have imagined one could use a machete. Working God’s green earth in a way that you are genuinely close to God’s green earth is definitely not for sissies.

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  2. Rev. Paul,

    you must be seeing amazing things in Belize and much of it harking back to earlier, more manual rather than automatic, times. What a gift to be able to live there!

    Like

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