Again the woods are odorous, the lark Lifts on upsoaring wings the heaven gray That hung above the tree-tops, veiled and dark, Where branches bare disclosed the empty day.
After long rainy afternoons an hour Comes with its shafts of golden light and flings Them at the windows in a radiant shower, And rain drops beat the panes like timorous wings. Then all is still. The stones are crooned to sleep By the soft sound of rain that slowly dies; And cradled in the branches, hidden deep In each bright bud, a slumbering silence lies. ~ Rainer Maria Rilke [trans. Jessie Lemont], from Poems
It seems in May everything explodes with energy: the birdsong earlier and louder the grass nearly squeaks with growth the buds unfurling before our eyes.
There is much momentum running pellmell into longer days; I need to catch my breath.
As showers blow in from clouds gray and thick with menace, dumping their load, everything stills from the drenching, waiting for a shaft of light to break through again, turning everything to gold.
…the golden hour of the clock of the year. Everything that can run to fruit has already done so: round apples, oval plums, bottom-heavy pears, black walnuts and hickory nuts annealed in their shells, the woodchuck with his overcoat of fat. Flowers that were once bright as a box of crayons are now seed heads and thistle down. All the feathery grasses shine in the slanted light. It’s time to bring in the lawn chairs and wind chimes, time to draw the drapes against the wind, time to hunker down. Summer’s fruits are preserved in syrup, but nothing can stopper time. No way to seal it in wax or amber; it slides though our hands like a rope of silk. At night, the moon’s restless searchlight sweeps across the sky. ~Barbara Crooker “And Now it’s October” from Small Rain.
…but I do try to stopper time. I try every day not to suspend it or render it frozen, but like summer flower and fruit that withers, to preserve any sweet moment for sampling through stored words or pictures in the midst of my days of winter. I roll it around on my tongue, its heady fragrance becoming today’s lyrical shared moment, unstoppered, perpetual and always intoxicating.
The grass so little has to do,— A sphere of simple green, With only butterflies to brood, And bees to entertain, And stir all day to pretty tunes The breezes fetch along, And hold the sunshine in its lap And bow to everything; And thread the dews all night, like pearls, And make itself so fine,— A duchess were too common For such a noticing. And even when it dies, to pass In odors so divine, As lowly spices gone to sleep, Or amulets of pine. And then to dwell in sovereign barns, And dream the days away,— The grass so little has to do, I wish I were a hay! ~Emily Dickinson
This is the week of the year our barn is at its emptiest, right before it fills up again. There is something very lonely about a barn completely empty of its hay stores.
Its hollow interior echoes with a century of farmers’ voices:
soothing an upset cow during a difficult milking,
uncovering a litter of kittens high in a hay loft,
shouting orders to a steady workhorse,
singing a soft hymn while cleaning stalls,
startling out loud as a barn owl or bat flies low overhead.
The dust motes lazily drift by in the twilight, seemingly forever suspended above the straw covered wood floor, floating protected from the cooling evening breezes.
There is no heart beat left in an empty barn. It is in full arrest, all life blood drained out, vital signs flat lined. I can hardly bear to go inside.
The weather is cooperating so the grass was cut two days ago. Today it will be tossed about on the field to dry in a process called “tedding”, then tomorrow raked into windrows and baled for pick up by our “family and friends” hay crew.
Suddenly, the barn is shocked back to a pulse, with the throb of voices, music blaring, dust and pollen flying chaotically, the rattle of the electric “elevator” hauling bales from wagon to loft, the grunts and groans of the crew as they heft and heave the bales into place in the stack. This often goes on late into the night, the barn ablaze with lights, the barnyard buzzing with excitement and activity. It almost looks as if it is on fire.
Vital signs measurable, rhythm restored, volume depletion reversed, prognosis good for another year.
A healthy rhythm is elusive in this modern age of full time jobs off the farm, necessitating careful coordination with the schedule of the farmer who cuts and bales for many neighbors all within the same window of good weather. The farmer races his equipment from field to field, swooping around with a goliath tractor taking 12 foot swaths, raising dust clouds, and then on to the next job. It is so unlike the rhythm of a century ago when a horse drawn mower cut the tall grass in a gentle four foot swath, with a pulsing shh shh shh shh shh shh tempo that could be heard stretching across the fields. It is an unfamiliar sound today, the almost-silence of no motor at all, just the jingle of the harness and the mower blades slicing back and forth as the team pulls the equipment down the field. We’ve lost the peacefulness of a team of horses at work, necessitating a slower pace and the need to stop at the end of a row for a breather.
The old barn will be resuscitated once again. Its floor will creak with the weight of the hay bales, the walls will groan with the pressure of stacks. The missing shingles on the roof will be replaced and the doors locked tight against the winter winds. But it will be breathing on its own, having needed only a short rest these last few weeks.
Inside, once again, filled to the brim, life is held tight by twine, just waiting to be released.
Tis May; and yet the March flower Dandelion Is still in bloom among the emerald grass, Shining like guineas with the sun’s warm eye on– We almost think they are gold as we pass, Or fallen stars in a green sea of grass. They shine in fields, or waste grounds near the town. They closed like painter’s brush when even was. At length they turn to nothing else but down, While the rude winds blow off each shadowy crown.
In the meadow-grass
The innocent white daisies blow,
The dandelion plume doth pass
Vaguely to and fro, –
The unquiet spirit of a flower That hath too brief an hour. ~Ellen Mackay Hutchinson Cortissoz
All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever.
And this is the word that was preached to you. 1Peter 1:24-25
Like a seed released when buffeted,
or simply blown aloft at the moment of ripeness,
may we be the unquiet flower spirit
carrying your Word on fragile wings
to far corners and hidden places;
settling softly, taking root
wherever your breath takes us.
the golden hour of the clock of the year. Everything that can run to fruit has already done so: round apples, oval plums, bottom-heavy pears, black walnuts and hickory nuts annealed in their shells, the woodchuck with his overcoat of fat. Flowers that were once bright as a box of crayons are now seed heads and thistle down. All the feathery grasses shine in the slanted light. It’s time to bring in the lawn chairs and wind chimes, time to draw the drapes against the wind, time to hunker down. Summer’s fruits are preserved in syrup, but nothing can stopper time. No way to seal it in wax or amber; it slides though our hands like a rope of silk. At night, the moon’s restless searchlight sweeps across the sky. ~Barbara Crooker“And Now It’s October”
…but I do try to stopper time,
I try every day
not to suspend it or render it frozen,
but like summer fruit, to preserve
any sweet moment for sampling
through stored words
in the midst of my winter days,
rolling it around on my tongue,
its heady fragrance
becoming today’s lyrical shared moment,
All that I serve will die, all my delights, the flesh kindled from my flesh, garden and field, the silent lilies standing in the woods, the woods, the hill, the whole earth, all will burn in man’s evil, or dwindle in its own age. Let the world bring on me the sleep of darkness without stars, so I may know my little light taken from me into the seed of the beginning and the end, so I may bow to mystery, and take my stand on the earth like a tree in a field, passing without haste or regret toward what will be, my life a patient willing descent into the grass. ~Wendell Berry “The Wish to be Generous”
There is not one blade of grass,
there is no color in this world
that is not intended to make us rejoice. ~John Calvin
The moment one gives close attention to any thing,
even a blade of grass,
it becomes a mysterious,
indescribably magnificent world in itself. ~Henry Miller
Men do change,
and change comes like a little wind
that ruffles the curtains at dawn,
and it comes like the stealthy perfume
of wildflowers hidden in the grass. ~John Steinbeck
Rest is not idleness,
and to lie sometimes
on the grass under trees on a summer’s day,
listening to the murmur of the water,
or watching the clouds float across the sky,
is by no means a waste of time. ~John Lubbock
The virtues of a superior man are like the wind; the virtues of a common man are like the grass – I the grass, when the wind passes over it, bends.
We should be blessed if we lived in the present always, and took advantage of every accident that befell us, like the grass which confesses the influence of the slightest dew that falls on it. ~Henry David Thoreau from Walden
If the sight of the blue skies fills you with joy, if a blade of grass springing up in the fields has power to move you, if the simple things of nature have a message that you understand, rejoice, for your soul is alive. ~Eleonora Duse
When they would return to one another from their solitariness,
they returned gently as dew comes to the morning grass. ~David Paul Kirkpatrick
All people are like grass, and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field. 7 The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the Lord blows on them. Surely the people are grass. 8 The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever. Isaiah 40:6-8
A child said What is the grass? fetching it to me with full hands; How could I answer the child? I do not know what it is any more than he.
I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars.
… I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord, A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropt, Bearing the owner’s name someway in the corners, that we may see and remark, and say Whose?
What do you think has become of the young and old men? And what do you think has become of the women and children?
They are alive and well somewhere, The smallest sprout shows there is really no death, And if ever there was it led forward life, and does not wait at the end to arrest it, And ceas’d the moment life appear’d.
All goes onward and outward, nothing collapses, And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier. ~Walt Whitman from “Song of Myself”