Heartland

During the wheat harvest of 1977, when Betty was thirty-two and Arnie forty-five, Betty drove every evening from her full-time job as a subpoena officer at the Sedgwick County courthouse in downtown Wichita to Arnie’s farm. She took over the house, cooking for Arnie and his field help, driving tubs of fried chicken, paper plates, and jugs of iced tea to fields where yellow dust followed red combines. She learned the blowing dirt of the country summer, when teeth turn gritty in the wind and shower water turns brown between shoulders and toes. She rode the combine with Arnie, a rite of passage for any would-be farmer’s wife, and woke up the next morning with clogged sinuses. She sweated through the harvest nights of midsummer, when fans blow hot air through hot bedrooms and sleep is possible only because of how hard you worked.

~ Sarah Smarsh, Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth


More on this book:

It has one of everything, so it is in a sense an ark

I felt at home, strangely, because it is a miniature world.… One manor house, one farmhouse. A vineyard, a field of potatoes, a field of wheat, a cherry tree, an orchard. It has one of everything, so it is in a sense an ark. It is like when you draw a place when you are a child. I don’t like large-scale things, not in architecture or evolutionary leaps. I think it’s an aberration. This notion of something that is small and self-contained is for me a moral and aesthetic ideal.

~ W.G. Sebald, A Place in the Country 


Image: Cristiana Coucerio for The New Yorker,

Lightly Child, Lightly

When I first came out to the country
I knew nothing. I watched
as people planted, harvested, picked
the berries, explained
the weather, tended the ducks and horses.

When I first came out to the country
my mind emptied and I
liked it that way. My mind was like a sky
without clouds, a summer sky
with several birds flapping across a field
on the eastern horizon.

I liked the slowness of things. The empty
town, the lake stillness,
the man I met who seemed contented, who
sat and talked in the dusk
about why he had chosen this long ago.

I did better dreaming then. the colors
were clear. I found something
important in myself: capacity for renewal.
And at night, the sky so intense.
Clear incredible stars! Almost another earth…

~ Lou Lipsitz, from “Blackberry Authorities” in Seeking the Hook


Notes:

  • Photograph: (via Maybe You Need This). Poem via 3 Quarks Daily
  • Prior “Lightly child, lightly” Posts? Connect here.
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

 

My Heirloom: I have this tremendous family gift. What am I going to do with it?


I have this tremendous family gift. What am I going to do with it? …

This is the house that I grew up in. And the land that’s around us is something I’m attached to. When I grew up we knew everybody around us. There was a sense of community. I want to make sure that gets passed down as well as the watermelon.

~ Matt Bradford, The Bradford Watermelon Company (Sumter County, South Carolina)

Find story and video on cbsnews.com: The Return of an Heirloom Watermelon


Thank you Susan.

Lightly child, lightly.

light,lightly,
Good memories that even now can heal.
Those mornings when I laddered to the loft,
made my straw manger beside the square bale door.
There on the straw-strewn floor,
a sundial of slanted light.
I’d reach my child’s palm into it,
hold sunspill like rain.

– Ron Rash, Above the Waterfall


Notes:

  • Quote: Thank you Memory’s Landscape. Photo: Thank you Your Eyes Blaze Out
  • Prior “Lightly child, lightly” Posts? Connect here.
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

 

Hear it as a low continuous rustle

Patty-maher-corn-photography

My strongest memory of our garden is not how it smelled, or even looked, but how it sounded. It might strike you as fantastic, but you really can hear plants growing in the Midwest. At its peak, sweet corn grows a whole inch every single day and as the layers of husk shift slightly to accommodate this expansion, you can hear it as a low continuous rustle if you stand inside the rows of a cornfield on a perfectly still August day. As we dug in our garden, I listened to the lazy buzzing of bees as they staggered drunkenly from flower to flower, the petty, sniping chirps of the cardinals remarking upon our bird feeder, the scraping of our trowels through the dirt, and the authoritative whistle of the factory, blown each day at noon.

~ Hope Jahren, Lab Girl 


Notes: Photo: Patty Maher “Still Life with Corn 2013) (via My Modern Met)

But a man’s life comes full circle; you can learn

english bull terrier,pup,puppy

Laddie was a useful dog on the farm for the next few years, and there were moments when he did good things and we understood each other— once we sorted two ewes that we needed for a show off a hundred others we didn’t need in a field and walked them home. But it was a rare moment, and I always knew he wasn’t as good as he should have been. Sometimes he’d run home when I lost my temper and shouted at him. He lost trust in me. I knew whose fault it was. Mine. I knew that I’d let him down. I look back and think he would have made a good dog if I had known a bit more. But a man’s life comes full circle; you can learn, and do better than your past. I am determined not to make the same mistakes again.

~ James Rebanks, The Shepherd’s Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape.


Notes:

Miracle? All of it. 

lucy-barton-elizabeth-strout

At times these days I think of the way the sun would set on the farmland around our small house in the autumn. A view of the horizon, the whole entire circle of it, if you turned, the sun setting behind you, the sky in front becoming pink and soft, then slightly blue again, as though it could not stop going on in its beauty, then the land closest to the setting sun would get dark, almost black against the orange line of horizon, but if you turn around, the land is still available to the eye with such softness, the few trees, the quiet fields of cover crops already turned, and the sky lingering, lingering, then finally dark. As though the soul can be quiet for those moments.

All life amazes me.

~ Elizabeth Strout, My Name Is Lucy Barton: A Novel


Elizabeth Strout won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for Olive Kitteridge.  Her new book, My Name Is Lucy Barton, was selected as An Amazon Best Book of January 2016.  The excerpt above is not representative of the storyline but Strout is a master at story telling.  “My Name is Lucy Barton” is highly recommended.

Check out the book reviews:


Notes:

  • Related Posts: Miracle? All of it.
  • Inspired by Albert Einstein’s quote: “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

And, sometimes, it comes down to the “Third Rule”

lamb-james-rebanks-cute

My job is simple: get around the fields and feed and shepherd the different flocks of ewes— dealing with any issues that arise.

First rule of shepherding: it’s not about you, it’s about the sheep and the land.

Second rule: you can’t win sometimes.

Third rule: shut up, and go and do the work.

~ James Rebanks, The Shepherd’s Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape.


Notes:

Tradition

grandfather-sleeping-old-man-alone

My grandfather is asleep in an old brown armchair that is for his use, and his use only. He has read the local newspaper and fallen asleep in it after his midday meal. He is old and tired because he starts early and works too hard for an old man. But I wish he would wake up. Sometimes when he is not working he tells me stories. He loves to tell stories. True stories. This is how he passes on his values. How he tells me who we are. They have morals, these stories.

We don’t give up, even when things are bad.
We pay our debts.
We work hard.
We act decently.
We help our neighbours if they need it.
We do what we say we will do.
We don’t want much attention.
We look after our own.
We are proud of what we do.
We try to be quietly smart.
We take chances sometimes to get on.
We will fail sometimes.
We will be affected by the wider world …
But we hold on to who we are.

It was clear from his stories that we were part of a tradition, that long pre-dated us, and would long exist after us. The stories left you feeling proud to be part of that tradition, but very aware that as individuals we were bound by duty to carry it on, bound to try and live by those values. His main lesson was above all to get along with people; don’t burn your bridges or they will stay down for a long time. Having the same families live and work alongside each other for many centuries created a unique kind of society with special values.

~ James Rebanks, The Shepherd’s Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape.


Notes:

%d bloggers like this: