Lightly Child, Lightly.

I am trying to teach my mind
to bear the long, slow growth
of the fields, and to sing
of its passing while it waits.

The farm must be made a form,
endlessly bringing together
heaven and earth, light
and rain building back again
the shapes and actions of the ground.

~ Wendell Berry, from “From The Crest” in “Quest for Place. The Poetry of Gary Snyder and Wendell Berry.”


Notes:

  • Quote: Thank you Make Believe Boutique
  • Photo: Aleksander Kanizaj via Expressions-of-Nature
  • 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.”

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

I want to reinstate a respect for soil. We must touch the soil. How many times do we touch our mobile phone every day? Maybe 100 times. How many times do we touch the soil? Hardly ever. We must give dignity to peasants, farmers and gardeners. We are all part of this healthy web of life maintained by soil. The Latin word humus means soil. The words human, humility and humus all come from the same root. When humans lose contact with soil, they are no longer humans.

Satish Kumar, from “The Link Between Soil, Soul and Society” (The Guardian)


Notes: Quote via Liquid Light and Running Trees. Photo – Soil by Alexandra

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:

Three generations before you are a local

james-rebanks-lamb

There is an unwritten code of honour between shepherds here. I remember my grandfather telling me about his friend buying some sheep privately from another farmer for what he thought was a fair price. Weeks later he attended some sheep sales and realized that he had got the sheep very cheap indeed, too cheap, about £ 5 less each than their market value. He felt that this was unfair to the seller because he’d trusted him. He didn’t want to be greedy, or perhaps as important, to be seen to be greedy. So he sent the farmer a cheque for the difference and apologized. But the farmer who’d sold them then politely refused to cash it, on the grounds that the original deal was an honourable one. They’d shaken hands on it. Stalemate.

The only way out was to go back the next year and buy his sheep and pay over the odds to make up for it, so he did. Neither of these men cared remotely about “maximizing profit” in the short-term in the way a modern business person in a city would; they both valued their good names and their reputations for integrity far more highly than making a quick buck. If you said you would do a thing, you’d better do it. My grandfather and father would go out of their way to do good deeds for their neighbours because goodwill counted for a lot. If anyone bought a sheep from us and had the slightest complaint about it, we took it back and repaid them or replaced it with another. And most people did the same.

Fathers’ names are interchangeable with those of the sons, and surnames with the names of the farms. The name of your farm tells other farmers here as much about you as your surname. There might be twenty farmers with the same surname, so it is immediately followed by the name of the farm for clarification. Sometimes the name of the farm kind of replaces the surname in general discourse. I met a man in a pub recently and he knew my grandfather—“ You’ll be a fair man if you are half the man he was,” he said sternly, then bought me a drink, the accrued interest on some unspoken good turn my grandfather had done for him decades earlier. Anyone new to the community or common would be watched carefully until they showed themselves to have integrity and play by the rules. They say you have to be here for three generations before you are a local (people laugh when they say that, but it carries a lot of truth).

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


Notes:

Home

Lake-District-sheep-james-rebanks

I smile at the thought that the entire history of our family has played out in the fields and villages stretching away beneath that fell, between Lake District and Pennines, for at least six centuries, and probably longer. We shaped this landscape, and we were shaped by it in turn. My people lived, worked, and died down there for countless generations. It is what it is because of them and people like them. It is, above all, a peopled landscape. Every acre of it has been defined by the actions of men and women over the past ten thousand years. Even the mountains were mined and quarried, and the seemingly wild woodland behind us was once intensively harvested and coppiced. Almost everyone I am related to and care about lives within sight of that fell. When we call it our landscape, we mean it as a physical and intellectual reality. There is nothing chosen about it. This landscape is our home and we rarely stray long from it, or endure anywhere else for long before returning. This may seem like a lack of imagination or adventure, but I don’t care. I love this place; for me it is the beginning and the end of everything, and everywhere else feels like nowhere.

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


Photo by James Rebanks. Don’t miss his other magnificent photos at bbc.co.uk – The Shephard’s Life

no cows to milk

pen-paper-writing

Sometimes you wake up at four in the morning
with all this energy and no cows to milk.
So you just have to get up and
figure out what it’s there for.
Use it or lose it.
If you’re lucky
some part of you will know what to do,
but it’s not the part that thinks its steering.
Make sure you have your notebook and a pen.

~ Abigail Thomas, Thinking About Memoir


Photo: Anne with Where My Deepest Dreams and Desires Are Hatched

Cold stove of 4:00 a.m., black iron

cast-iron-stove

Cold stove of 4:00 a.m., black iron, the lids in place on everyone but me, and down the chimney, through the damper’s pinch, the distant hoo-hoo-hooing of an owl. And soon, among the sticks of kindling in the box of words, the mouselike scritching of my pen.

~ Ted Kooser, February. The Wheeling Year: A Poet’s Field Book


Photo Credit: The Wild Free Spirit

Lived in the same house all their lives. Neither ever married.

identical-twins-Lukács

identical-twins-Lukács

Huffington Post, Heartbreaking Portraits Capture Two Identical Twin Farmers At The End Of Their Lives:

They are identical twins János and István Lukács in 1985. At the time, they were in their sixties.

They worked together on the Hungarian countryside, living in the same house they’d inhabited all of their lives.

Photographer Janos Stekovics followed along while the Lukács brothers accomplished their daily tasks. They’d wake up at four in the morning, tend to the animals until noon when they’d eat a lunch of bacon and bread, and continue working until dinner. They slept in a farmhouse built by their parents, with clay walls and kerosine lamps. Sometimes it got so cold the two slept in hay beds in the barn with the horses.

Stekovics developed a deep reverence and fondness for these brothers of another time, often photographed in matching ensembles from jeans and boots to humongous fur coats. Despite their identical appearances and predilection for wonderfully complimentary poses, the two maintained distinct personalities. As Feature Shoot explained: “Where István was more gregarious, János was more of the silent and stoic type; István preferred to keep the house, and János cared mostly for the animals. Neither ever married.”

DON’T MISS THE FULL STORY AND OTHER PHOTOGRAPHS:

Heartbreaking Portraits Capture Two Identical Twin Farmers At The End Of Their Lives


The War

rooster

A cock. A non-castrated capon. A cockerel. A reptilian, evil bastard.

His siren call would come before sunrise, echoing up the mountainside and back down again. And rush in, with piercing cock-a-doodle-do gusts into my room. My eyes, wide open, stare at ceiling. I shiver. The S.O.B. grabbed the psychological edge at 5:30 am.

His battle lines were indisputable. His was the coop. Yours was outside. You crossed the demarcation line, the clink of the metal hook on the dilapidated wooden door, and he was coming.

He attacked all comers.  He feared no one. All generations buckled: Deda, Father, and his pubescent sons.

He could smell Fear. The perspiration would stream and thicken in the soft armpits tasked with gathering eggs in a red, long-handled, five pound Maxwell House coffee can. Good to the last drop!

His flock of fifteen continued foraging, unfazed by the battle preparations. [Read more…]

American Value: Herb Dishman. This is our land.


“It’s a tradition that’s been handed down. Rice farming in the community has been a really big deal.  That’s what has driven our community for quite some time. I couldn’t wait to get into the field with my Dad. That was probably one of my favorite pastimes. He was there. He worked a lot. He worked very hard at what he did. He was always there to give me a hand…and give me just enough room to hang myself. When I originally left to go to school, that was my intention, was to go to school.  Fortunately, I was able to take those opportunities, and branch out and see different walks of life. I went into the restaurant business. Did that for a while. Then I went into the music business. I was always searching for something. Not always knowing where I was going or what I was trying to do. Just going and doing and trying to find that niche.  Where do I fit in? It’s a big question. Eventually when I was working on a documentary much as you guys are doing yourself, we went out into the jungle in Northeastern Cambodia. It’s a rice farming community as well. They plant everything by hand. Everybody is there together. Everybody is doing everything together. To help one another. Yeah, they butt heads, they fight just like everybody else. But their measure of worth is completely different.  And I realized that I had been missing the picture for a while. When it hit, I knew what I needed to do. I didn’t need to be anywhere else but here. Kinda have to figure out what you want to do. That was it.

As it grows. As you harvest. And make preparations for the following year, it’s the cycle of everything moving together. This is our land.”

~ Herb Dishman, China, Texas

~ Music: Bon Iver – The Wolves

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And the winner is…

The runaway winner among all the Superbowl commercials.  Dodge Ram Truck.  And Paul Harvey.  GOOD DAY!

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