LOCAL VIEW –Blighted Spring–

It’s been a drudging sort of week, full of duties one doesn’t plan for. Not much is blooming, but perhaps clouds of pollen from southern lands blew north, and everyone began sneezing. Or perhaps it was the common cold passing through town. In any case, who plans for that? It complicates things, and makes you make mistakes. Who plans for that? In your hurry you leave your key in the ignition, on the “on” position, as you are only hurrying inside for five minutes. But five minutes becomes two hours with phone-calls and other stuff, and when you hurry back to your car with an armload of other stuff, and are ready to rocket off, the battery is dead. Who plans for that?

We got by. Yesterday my battery was dead, but I wasn’t late to open the Farm-childcare as I got a quick jump from my wife’s car. Today her battery was dead at the Childcare, but she got a jump from me. To me it seemed very symbolic of how we get by, when we are not at our best.

Personally, I blame the delayed spring. Not that I wasn’t expecting it. Why? I think it was a queer mix of science and intuition and memory. I just noticed how a band of colder weather gave colder winters to places like Mexico and Syria and Thailand, even as places further north got a warmer winter, and I figured that band of colder weather would retreat north and get us. Meanwhile I recalled warm early springs in my past that got clobbered by May snowstorms, the worst being in 1977. Lastly, when you live as far north as New Hampshire, among Finns who immigrated here from much further north, you own a certain caution about warmth in March. Call it pragmatism or call it cynicism, I planted peas earlier than ever, but wasn’t surprised when snows followed, with record-setting cold.

But it needs to be said that such flip-flopping of weather is cruel. I am not being a selfish human, as I say this. It is not merely humans who get blighted. I can offer photographic evidence of the day-lily leaves with brown points, and the daffodils broken by frost.

Blight 1 FullSizeRender

Blight 2 IMG_2627

Blight 3 FullSizeRender

Of course these are imported species, (as are Finns and even Yankees like myself), but what really impressed me was a local swamp maple that seemed to get fooled. It formed a purple misted tree, in the post I did about frogs singing early, back in March. Currently it looks like it isn’t even going to start budding. I may do a post about what happens with that tree, but I’ll have to wait and see.

In any case, though spring seemed ready to bust out in March, here it is a month later and the treeline looks pretty leafless.

Blight 4 FullSizeRender

However though the spring can be delayed, it cannot be denied. On the blighted lawn purple splashes.

Blight 6 IMG_2629

And a few daffodil were more cautious, and now stand proud for being cowards.

Blight 5 IMG_2632

And the grey fur of the pussy willow suddenly is yellow with pollen.

Blight 7 FullSizeRender

And the wiser, more cowardly swamp maples now venture to bloom.

Blight 8 IMG_2654

And these tiny flowers, softening the treeline with a haze of reddish purple, always are worth a closer look.

Blight 9 IMG_2660Blight 10 IMG_2656

However, though my heart is softened by the loveliness, I will not be a sucker and a chump. I remember snows in May. So I look to the black cherry trees. In Washington DC their cherries may be fools, and come out only to be blasted by frost, but I like to think our northern cherries are smarter. And even this late they are only budding.

Blight 11 IMG_2643

So here I stand, betwixt and between. Spring will not be denied, but will not be a dunce.

The trees are distrustful; the very buds
Are reluctant; yet sneaking through the brush
Is a quickening of all creature’s bloods;
A hope that makes the grayest banker blush.

Who are you? Elf or zephyr or angel;
Invisible dancer swirling dead leaves;
You put us all through a long, slow, strange hell
Where the more one doubts the more one believes.

Logic dictates we distrust, and yet you
Seduce us with memories of past times
When you beat back that logic. Can you do
It again? In the face of this world’s crimes
Can you undo the loss of virginity?
Do that, and Oh! What a spring it would be!

Advertisements

LOCAL VIEW –Details, details…–

Spring can get to be an overwhelming time on even a toy farm like mine. You can’t ask anything or anyone to wait. The Time to Plant is the Time to Plant, and you can’t tell it to wait.

Even if you do plant on time, there are all sorts of things that can mess up your plans. Late frosts, hail, plauges of locusts, fat groundhogs, annoying environmentalists and the EPA may descend and cut down your seedlings. However you will not even have seedlings to be cut down, if you tell the Time to Plant to wait.

You have a chance, and you had better not blow it.

Of course, as a writer, I am always begging for mercy. It may be Time to Plant, but please, please, please give me Time to Write.

There is such a beauty in the Time to Plant, that someone should write about it. Someone should sing a song of praise. Someone should pen a sonnet. Someone should shout thanks up to the top of the blue sky. However it has been my experience that, if you actually do take the time to pen poems, you wind up forgetting to actually plant, because you are too busy thinking up rhymes for “forsythia”.  Next thing you know, it is another time.  It is Time To Pay The Bill Collector. He wants your harvest, and he seldom accepts payment in poems. If you haven’t gotten around to planting anything, then facing the bill collector becomes one of life’s darkest moments.

“But surely”, you naively ask me, “If you sing a psalm like King David, you are offering flowers to your Creator, and His benefit must be clear.”  Alas, I tell you, offering flowers doesn’t always make one a hit.

Spurned flowers 26

Therefore, as I am old and wise, I have learned I had better damn well take care of God’s business before getting around to praising God. I’m sure this seems a very pedantic and pragmatic thing for a poet to say, but, if the Time to Plant is worthy of praise, it is also worthy of enacting.

For, if you really want to see the beauty of planting, and really want to be remotely considered an authority on the subject, shouldn’t you actually plant?

And, if that means you have less time to write, so be it. It will make you a better singer and poet, in the long run.

Not that I don’t pity my fellow poets. We are not appreciated and helped, in a materialistic society.  And there surely will come times that it is true that

Every poet always wishes
That his muses did the dishes

However it is the poets that wind up dishwashers, doing lots of dishes that are not their own. It is part of the process. You need to get down and dirty and plant. In order to write poetry you need to know “you got to pay the dues if you want to sing the blues”, and you cannot harvest without facing a Time to Plant.

 

Therefore I will have little time for posting. If I was more pragmatic than I am, I’d close down this site for a couple months. However, as I own an impractical side that bill collectors don’t like, I think I’ll opt for very short posts.

Today’s post would be, “Planted some onion and garlic sets. The peas are already sprouting, though most years they wouldn’t yet be planted.”

Then there would be a bit of Haiku, and perhaps a photo of onion and garlic sets.

However, because this is a longer post, I’ll post a longer sonnet.

It is strange how some demand I prove
What only happens once. They cry, “Replicate!”
I bow to their science. And I remove
Once-in-a-lifetime love, and then I wait.

You see, the Red Sea parted only once.
To replicate that is asking too much.
By asking too much some wind up the Dunce,
And rather than wise they wind up out of touch.

What is touching? What has moved your heart?
What honeymoon made the child that you spoil?
Can you replicate that? Can you even start
To explain the illogic which science will foil?

Science wants logic. Does it want hate?
Or does it want love? I still sit and wait.

LOCAL VIEW –Rejoicing Over Wrinkles–

While looking at the ravages time carved onto the face of Robert Frost I decided plastic surgery is for fools.  I suppose some, who are maimed, might require such surgery, to avoid repulsing people with an unpleasant superficiality, but most of us are strangely improved by the battering of our features time gifts us with. This seems especially true of people who retain their sense of humor, and of beauty, despite hardship. Crafted into each wrinkle of their face is a hint that God is real, and death is not.

Robert Frost knew much about desperation, despair and darkness. He outlived his wife and four of six children, and had witnessed those dark landscapes made of a pain far worse than physical pain, misnamed “mental illness”, even experiencing a son’s suicide. How he got through it all is his secret and his triumph, and is written in his face more clearly than in any poem.

The best and most beautiful poem is but an attempt to express the self that already exists. I have no idea why it feels so sublimely satisfying to do this, for it is merely to copy. In fact I was always scolded for copying, when in school. However there are few things so fulfilling as speaking your heart, in a sense tracing what already exists with a tracing paper called “poetry”. Later, when the tracing paper is removed from the Truth you attempted to copy, you see all the imperfections. However when you first are focused on what the Creator has already created, it is completely absorbing, and you forget all your problems, even when you are tracing a problem called a heartache. That is why there is such a rhapsody in singing the blues.

An old face is no different from any other old object; it has a sort of patina that gives it value, as an antique.  A young face is sort of raw, in comparison. It lacks something very beautiful the old have earned.

I was looking at my face critically the other day, noting how amazingly aged a couple of hard winters have made me, and I started to stretch my skin smooth, making the face in the mirror look like those bizarre old people, quite common in Florida, who have paid money that might have fed the poor to make themselves look weird.  I burst out laughing. And when I laughed all the wrinkles gathered and made my face have far more character than I had when I was young, and was little more than a pretty boy poet.

Call it sour grapes if you will, but I suddenly felt sorry for the young, and glad to be wrinkled. Usually I cut off my beard when the weather warms, and a free scarf is no longer necessary, but this year I may keep my scruff, for a gray beard makes me look even older, and age is no disgrace. It is a badge of honor, given by the Creator. If nothing else, this attitude will save me a lot of money, and my boycott may put plastic surgeons in the position where they will have to save lives rather than egos.

One reason my attitude towards wrinkles has changed is due to sitting my granddaughter in my lap, and seeing her attitude toward wrinkles. I gather you have to become older than she is to be scared by age, for she finds wrinkles fascinating, and her observant eyes search my face as her little fingers poke. In a sense she reminds me of a student probing a poem, searching for the meaning in the lines.

Another reason may be that spring is absurdly early this year. I’m not fooled, for I’ve seen many a warm March give way to April snows, but one seed that can be planted as soon as the soil can be worked is peas. Usually we plant them on Patriots Day, April 19, and I’ve often planted them in snow, but this year I thought I’d see if it was possible to kill even a tough plant like peas, by planting them more than a month early, on March 16.

Planting peas IMG_1927

Of course there is something about spring and planting seeds that seems alien to wrinkles. Maybe it reminds the old of sex, when they were young, and tempts them to gobble that plastic surgery of the penis, Viagra, popping some Prozac as well to plasticize the brain.  However here too I burst into laughter, which was what Abraham and Sarah named the child they made in their old age. That is the only real reason for sex: Procreation. All the other reasons people give are proof they are using sex as a poor excuse for genuine poetry. If you really want the sublime self-forgetfulness of creation, make a child if you are young, but write a poem if you are old.

I never really wanted to be worldly.
I wanted to space out, and be away
From schooling that abused me, and then hurled me
Out onto a world of greedy gray.
My teachers had no clue of how men make a buck.
They dwelled in ivory classrooms, stuffed with must
And never dared depart from muck, when stuck,
And clung to coins that hoped, “In God we trust.”
Me? I roamed a world which didn’t pity me
And toiled with bleeding hands and bleeding heart
Facing worldly responsibility
Though I disliked this world right from the start
Until now, life ebbs, and laughter stings
For I’ve become a man of worldly things.

UNPRECEDENTED!!! THE GROUNDHOG DIED!

Sad news has come from Canada. The cute and cuddly woodchuck “Winnipeg Willow” expired early on Saturday, January 30. Groundhog Day willow-groundhog

Unconfirmed reports state that Winnipeg Willow was seen drinking heavily on Friday night, and was heard screaming, “I can’t take it any more, I tell you! I’m vermin! I break horses legs with my holes, and can demolish an entire vegetable garden’s worth of spring seedlings in one night! My Momma didn’t raise me to be no teddy bear! But for five years I’ve had to put up with this @%$#&^%,  @#(**&  @#$$^%. I can’t take it! Don’t they know the only time a woodchuck is ever good is in a stew?”

The caretaker could not be reached for comment.

The news that the groundhog died apparently set off panic in Canada’s large community of Global  Warming Alarmists, who have stampeded to the southern border, making it hard for our reporter to get north for interviews (and to see if they wanted the yummy woodchuck meat, which is hard to come by in February.)

Groundhog 2 traffic-jam

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/winnipeg-willow-dies-groundhog-day-1.3426922

BREAKING NEWS

Government officials, speaking under conditions of anonymity, state there is no truth to the leaks that suggest Willow was driven to drink by government pressures that she only forecast warming winters, when she wanted to forecast six bad weeks coming after the current thaw. Copies of emails suggest Willow was offered a 100,000 carrot scientific grant to see no shadow, but the emails have since been erased and Willow’s laptop has mysteriously disappeared, asserted an anonymous source speaking at an undisclosed site to an under-educated reporter.

Further government statements from multitudinous leaks leaking under a guarantee of strict secrecy absolutely deny that Willow was assassinated, which is odd, because no one ever suggested that.

/sarc

LOCAL VIEW —BURNING WEEDS—

BURNING WEEDS 1 IMG_1171

The goats busted out and ate the tattered Brussels sprouts and kale, as they have keen eyes and go for the last green things in sight, but that is fairly normal for my farm. It is so normal that my wife made sure to pick all the kale except for tufts at the tops, and my middle son and his girlfriend stripped all the sprouts larger than a pea from the Brussels sprouts, which is one reason they looked so tattered. I myself like to leave the sprouts and kale out a bit longer, as frost improves the flavor, but the family knows my goats. The goats are a reason the family doesn’t know how much frost improves the flavor. It is a flavor that I alone know about, and never have been able to share.

There’s still around 25 pounds of potatoes to dig, still in the earth, saved underground because the children at the Childcare get such obvious joy from digging them up, plus there’s also perhaps ten pounds of parsnips underground, which the goats can’t get to because they haven’t learned how to dig…yet. (I once had a dog who would sneak into the garden to dig up a carrot, and then trot off to surreptitiously eat it.)   (The pigs are off being smoked, or they’d be out there digging them up.) For the most part the garden is finished for another year, and its weedy earth stretches out as a forlorn mockery of my aspirations, and of a dream I wanted to share.

The dead weeds, which are plentiful and in some places tower six feet tall, are especially galling, as they remind me I’m older and couldn’t work, last summer, the way I once delighted in. (I was a strange young man, I suppose, because I got pleasure from toil. I suppose toil was for me something like jogging is for other folk, though jogging was an activity that almost always seemed a complete waste of time, to me. Why jog when you could get as much exercise and more from hoeing? Why work out in a gym when you could toil in a garden, producing stuff you could eat,  which tasted better than anything from any grocery store? If you toil, you should reap a benefit, either a crop, if the garden is your own, or a paycheck, if you garden for another. I can’t imagine paying a gym. It makes no sense to toil, and then pay others for the honor of doing so.)

Even more galling is the fact it is November, and I’m suppose to be counting my blessings and be brimming with Thanksgiving spirit. It is the time of harvest, and we should be grateful no hailstorms hit, nor clouds of locusts, and there is something to harvest. Not much, in the case of my garden, but a little is better than nothing. Instead I seem be harvesting a strong sense of irony.

I know I’m older and should cut back, and last spring I really meant to only have a little, modest garden, that a doddering old guy could easily manage, but the enthusiasm of others tricked me into the usual insanity of spring. There is a reason for April Fool’s Day.

The days were getting longer so fast everyone went nuts. They were filled with wild-eyed aspirations and a manic nature that convinced me that they meant what they said, and would help with the weeding and more. So I went and rototilled the usual quarter acre, and planted like crazy, and then, around the end of May when the weather got hot, I looked around and wondered, “What happened to the weeders?” After spring fever ebbs people come to their senses and go home, but someone must face the consequences. In my case the consequences happened to be one mother of a garden I couldn’t possibly keep up with.

My harvest is towering weeds, and I am suppose to be thankful? Unlikely. There is a reason for Halloween’s morbid ghosts and goblins. The days are getting shorter so fast that everyone goes nuts. Gloom and doom invade and infect the psyche, and thankfulness is work, and an exercise of vigorous spirituality. I’m not there yet. (This may explain why Thanksgiving occurs weeks after Halloween. It takes time to muster thankfulness)

At this time I am in the autumn of my life, and am reaping what I sowed, and, to be frank, on some rainy mornings it looks like towering weeds. I gripe to my Creator for making me the way he made me. Why did he make me the sort of guy who stands up to a corrupted boss and tells him to go to hell? That is no way to last the decades it takes to collect a pension. In my experience, it was a way to be immediately fired.

I really do marvel at my peers who managed to put up with abysmal jobs for atrociously long periods of time, and now can sit back and collect pensions as I work.   Of course, some died before they collected, and some died amazingly quickly after they retired, and some seem…and I do not know how to put this politely…stunted.

For example, imagine being a schoolmarm over the past thirty years. It just seems to me that there have been numerous things, which honorable people would object to, that they have meekly turned a blind eye to, because making waves might threaten their pension. Drugging small children might be one example, and teaching the scientific falsehood of Global Warming might be another. Now they get their pension, which is a god they have worshiped more than standing up for the Truth. They fully expect to benefit for behavior I find revolting. They expect taxpayers like myself to make their old age cushy. They will be extremely upset if they reap what they sow in another manner, and the economy collapses, and hyperinflation means their pension check supplies them with enough money to buy only a single biscuit,  even as the students they drugged at age six threaten them, as drugged adults aged thirty-six. Schoolmarms would call such a fate utterly unjust, which to me suggests that they lived intellectual lives that never looked too deeply into the long-term consequences of their actions, which just might indicate that, for the sake of a pension, they allowed their psyches to become stunted.

Of course, they are the ones now getting pensions as I work my fingers to the bone and likely will die with my boots on, so perhaps all my talk is just a bad case of sour grapes.

So what have I got to be thankful for? Over forty-five years ago my generation set out to radically improve the world, to make it a planet of “Truth, Love and Understanding”, but the way things have turned out it has seemed those who worship filthy lucre (and that includes pensions) have done far better than those who have been willing to sacrifice prosperity, promotions, and even pensions, for Truth.

In a symbolic sense it is as if back in 1969, during the so-called “summer of love”, I set out to make a fabulous garden of social reform, and now I am confronted by towering weeds, dead and brittle in the November winds. So what does a farmer do?  He adds fertilizing ash to the soil of his garden, by burning the weeds.BURNING WEEDS 2 IMG_1169

In the above example the weeds grew over six feet tall after the six foot tall edible podded peas were for the most part harvested. My excuse for not weeding was that peas have shallow roots, and weeding harms the pea’s roots more than it helps them (but the truth is I am old, tire quickly, and when tired I gain strength by writing about arctic sea ice, rather than weeding.) We got a fine harvest of peas in June and July, but the weeds had all August to climb the chicken wire and at their highest towered seven feet tall. They looked big and tough, but a single match swiftly reduced them to ash, which is better for next year’s crop than their seeds. It was a heck of a lot easier than pulling all those weeds up, and disentangling them from the chicken-wire, and lugging all the dead stuff to a compost pile. The flash-fire even sterilized the chicken-wire.

However, outside of my little garden, in the larger, symbolic example I have highlighted above, it is frightening to think of supplying such a match. This world has already seen such conflagrations. Anger towards schoolmarms manifested during China’s “Cultural Revolution”, when China got rid if all its teachers. They destroyed to such a degree that, once they got over their madness, no teachers could be found to teach the next generation. They had to seek out the undergrads who had managed to survive the madness, (perhaps by being part of the madness), and promote them to the position of professors in colleges. And in Cambodia under Pol Pat the madness was even worse, for it was not only the schoolmarms who were eradicated, but the students like myself who butted heads with schoolmarms. All you needed, to deserve death, was to have a writer’s callous on the middle finger of your writing hand. That would have included me.

Obviously I don’t want to promote any madness that kills me. I don’t want to wind up like Dr. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin, who opposed the death penalty, yet got his head chopped off by the devise he promoted as a more humane form of execution, during the time madness overtook France.

Therefore the match that burns weeds should be simple Truth.

Back in 1965 I was the youngest and smallest boy in my eighth grade class, yet had to confront a towering, grey-haired schoolmarm with her incorrectness. The “correct” answer in our textbooks and in her tests, concerning what built mountain ranges, was that the Earth was cooling, and cooling caused contraction, and therefore the skin of the earth buckled like the skin of a withering apple. However my older brother had given me a book about a new idea called “continental drift”. I had neither the power of Mao nor Pol Pot. All I could do was speak the Truth to an elderly woman who taught by the book. I still can recall the lost look in her eyes, when a little punk like me asked her to rethink the curriculum she’d been teaching for years.

Now, somewhat amazingly, fifty years have passed, and I still don’t have the power of Mao or Pol Pot, and yet still speak the Truth to schoolmarms who do things by the politically correct book. Or, at least, I think I do. From time to time I have to stop and take a hard look at myself.  Perhaps I am now the old, tradition-bound elder resisting new ideas. Perhaps the new ideas are to drug small boys and promote Global Warming, and I am just an old dog who can’t learn new tricks. But I always conclude that the very fact I am taking a hard look at myself is proof I am not hidebound, and am not stuck in some out-of-date textbook.

For Truth itself never gets old and never changes. It is a lodestone with which you test your ideas for their iron. It is only when your ideas become a curriculum you do by rote, year after year, never testing it, that we drift from truth into sterile traditions.

The politically-correct tend to sneer at scriptures as being merely musty traditions, and to feel they are following some sort of new and improved version of Truth, a sort of newer New Testament and glossier gospel. However if they actually opened their dusty,old Bibles and examined the ancient scriptures they might see their behavior described.  They might read the suggestion that bad things happen to those who focus more on smart-sounding, politically-correct political alliances than on being honest to Truth. The prophet Isaiah warned the Northern Kingdom not count on crafty alliances, but they didn’t listen, and the Assyrians led them off to captivity, and in the same manner Isaiah warned the Southern Kingdom, and they didn’t listen, and wound up led to captivity to Babylon.  In those cases political correctness and smart-seeming alliances didn’t pay off. However King David was utterly different, and likely looked nuts to those who promoted sacrificing Truth for political purposes and crafty alliances, for he put Truth first. In Psalm 118 the poet David states, (and I substitute the word “Truth” for the word “Lord”):

It is better to trust in the Truth
Than to trust in man.
It is better to trust in Truth
Than to trust in princes.

All the nations surrounded me
But in the name of the Truth I cut them off.
They surrounded me on every side
But in the name of the Truth I cut them off.
They swarmed about me like bees
But died as quickly as burning thorns;
In the name of the Truth I cut them off.

I was pushed back and about to fall
But the Truth helped me.
The Truth is my strength and my song;
He has become my salvation.

It is likely that David would appear to be a complete whack-job to today’s politically correct elite: A man prone to lust, rage, self-pity and black depressions. However David was a poet who was a king, and led his small nation to greatness against all odds. In like manner America’s founding fathers likely appeared to be whack-jobs to the politically correct royalty of Europe, for rather than accepting the Byzantine corruption of how things were done, they attempted to construct a constitution more closely allied with Truth, and in doing so they led a little string of colonies along a coastline to greatness, against all odds.

Truth seems to have the power to defy all odds, and to completely ignore political correctness. The next, great world power always seems to spring up from the most unlikely places. In 1480 Spain was two obscure kingdoms at the very edge of Europe. Great Britain was some offshore islands. If anyone had suggested, back then, that a pope would give Spain legal rights to half the planet, or the sun would never set on a future British Empire, the political experts would have scoffed. It would have been tantamount to telling modern experts that the Navajo Reservation would be a future world power.

Truth doesn’t care about the opinions of experts. Truth sees the truth, and if your establishment has become a field of dead weeds rattling in November’s wind, Truth supplies the match. There is no need for us mortals to raise the blood-stained hands of Pol Pot or Mao, for Truth can take care of itself. There is no need to plot the death of billions in the name of population control. Truth can take care of itself. Where mortals make a mess and a field of weeds, Truth enriches the soil with ashes.

And this applies to me as well. Should I become an old weed, I accept the match Truth shall light. I actually rather like the image of going out in a blaze of glory, and dying with my boots on rather than collecting a pension, and thinking how Dylan Thomas wrote,

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

BURNING WEEDS 1 IMG_1171

LOCAL VIEW —Weeds—

It is a hot and humid Sunday, with air temperatures in the evening over 80°F, but what gets you is the dew point, currently at 73°F. You can break a sweat by lifting your pinkie. Fortunately it is the Lord’s Day, a day of rest, when weeding is forbidden. Rather than my sitting-about being proof I own the sin of sloth, it is proof I am spiritual. Will wonders never cease?

Of course, there is a question about writing. Is that not work? Am I not working on the Lord’s Day?

Fortunately I’ve never made money writing. In truth it has gotten in the way of my becoming fabulously wealthy, and lighting my cigars with hundred dollar bills. Therefore my writing cannot be called work. In fact, even when I bash my head against writer’s block, or write experiencing such anguish that my pores all become polka-dots of red,  it is not work, or so I’ve been told.

It being Sunday, confession is good for the soul, and therefore I confess to you there have been times I’ve wanted to punch people in the nose, when they say, “Writing is not work.”

Be that as it may, the truth is that, when your writing makes no money, it does tend to become a form of star gazing. Rather than getting to work, you are avoiding the weeding. Because I didn’t mind being a staving artist, but did not wish to become a starved artist, I did concede to weeding a little bit, rather than only writing poetry. (Unlike many poets, I’m remarkably pragmatic at times.) In fact I became so pragmatic I actually, to my own astonishment, got rather good at weeding.

You may think I’m making this up, and no poet could possibly ever get so good at weeding, but I got so good at weeding I was able to raise five children by weeding.

I was able to do this because it turns out rich people do like the idea of gardens, but don’t like the reality, which involves sweat and grunt-work and worst of all, weeding. They will pay good money to poets if poets will do a bit of weeding for them, however one of the first things I learned is that the poet must never admit he is a poet. Rich people did not become rich by being foolish with their money, and if you say you are a poet they immediately step backwards with a hand protectively over their wallet, for they are wise to the ways of the world, and know that “poet” is just a word for “a crafty beggar.”

Therefore I would tell them I was a “landscaper.”

You’d be surprised how many landscapers majored in English in college, and once dreamed of being poets. An English degree is in many ways useless, in terms of making money, unless you are willing to be unscrupulous.

The unscrupulous English majors sell their souls, and become speech-writers for lying politicians, or work writing lying advertisements for Madison Avenue, or write what they are told to regurgitate for newspapers and call themselves “journalists” when they are merely parrots in an echo-chamber.  I feel sad for those fellows, though they do enjoy a certain time of wealth. One of the rules of poetry is that, if you want the founts to gush, you need to be honest and stand by truth, but if you sell your soul and become unscrupulous the well gets plugged up and the poetry dries up and you look in the mirror and know you are a has-been,  a poet who could have been champion but who sold his birthright for a mass of pottage.

Therefore the really good poets wind up as landscapers, but then face a second temptation. It turns out that the wives of rich men have realized how empty wealth is, and see the fellow in the garden holds more poetry than a millionaire, and try to purchase it, which results in poets falling and becoming mere gigolos in a garden.

Fortunately I was not tested in this respect, partly because my wife was young and extremely beautiful, and partly because my customers were older ladies who attended church regularly. Even so, my wife did refer to my customers as “my harem”.

In any case, I cannot hate either weeds or weeding, considering weeds fed my family figuratively, and at times literally.

Some weeds are delicious. Purslane tastes like beet greens, but is less stringy, more succulent, and tastes better if you get it at the right time. Stinging nettles are excellent spinach with surprising side effects, (in terms of stamina, not crazed brains), if you pick it (with gloves) when it first shoots up in the spring, because the sting vanishes when you boil it. All sorts of other weeds are edible, but have somewhat dubious flavors and can lead to astounding flatulence, if eaten straight. But who eats mustard greens straight? You have to know how to mix your weeds. The most superb spinach is lamb’s quarters, in my opinion, and it turns out lamb’s quarters was a staple in the vanished Mound Builder cultures, (due more to the quality of its seeds than the delicious leaves).

And I could go on, but you likely would think I was just inventing the excuses poets are prone to, when it comes to avoiding getting down on your knees in the dirt, and pulling the darn weeds up.

When I was younger, my customer’s gardens were weed-free, but when I got home I was tired, and my own garden tended to be a bit weedy. And now that I am older, and have managed to create a situation where my garden is actually part of my Farm-childcare business, my garden is still weedy, because the dratted thing is too large. In fact I have conceded half the garden to the weeds, because I am so old and pathetic I couldn’t even plant that side, this year. Fortunately my long study of English gets me off the hook, and when people wonder why that side is “weedy” I tell them it is “fallow”.

That still leaves me with half a garden to weed, and I’ve been fighting the good fight this past week. Much to my joy, my middle son found time in his busy schedule to join me on two days. He has a completely different strategy. Where I slowly plod down a row, leaving it utterly weed-free, he zooms down a row, only weeding by each plant, and leaving all other weeds in place. However you now can see there are rows, and beans don’t hold up top leaves like drowning swimmers midst thriving green.

As I worked I could not help but think to myself what a long love-hate relationship I have had with weeds. In 1973 I wrote not one, but two very long poems about a young poet complaining about weeds getting in the way of poetry, and a wise old farmer giving the young complainer sage advise.

How ironic it is that now I myself am the sage old farmer, and still I am wishing I could write poetry, as I weed. Usually poetry and weeding mix like oil and water, but last week I composed as I weeded, and then rushed to my pick-up truck and scrawled a rough draft of this:

When you sit back to think, the weeds keep growing.
They don’t take breaks, so you’d best keep going.
When mosquitoes swarm weeds won’t be slowing
So think all you want, but keep on hoeing.

Weeds don’t take breaks. They don’t say, “Poor me!
I have a deep thought! To dwell upon it
I need you to pull all my weeds for me
So I can sit back and finish this sonnet.”

The weeds keep growing in my soul as well.
If I sit back to think, my sloth will swell.
Poetic intentions pave roads to hell
So I must weed on, and I know it well

But pause. I pen this poem. I can’t resist.
My Love dubs me, “Hopeless Optimist.”

(In case you don’t get it, optimism is based on hope, and therefore to be a “hopeless optimist” is an oxymoron.) (However the point is that I wrote that sonnet, to some degree, while weeding, and therefore weeding does not necessarily oppose sonnets.)

And so a hot and humid Day of Rest draws to a close. All the static on the AM band of the radio is fading, the heat lightning to our west has died down, and it looks like we might again escape the thunderous wrath of muggy aIr being replaced by dry air. Tomorrow should be cooler and drier, and a good day to weed.

20150719 satsfc 20150719 rad_ec_640x480 20150719B rad_ne_640x480

LOCAL VIEW —The Forthright of July—

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978),

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978), “The Gossips,” 1948. Painting for “The Saturday Evening Post” cover, March 6, 1948. Oil on canvas. Private collection. ©SEPS: Curtis Publishing, Indianapolis, IN

I haven’t posted many “Local Views” recently, because they are suppose to have the charm of a Norman Rockwell painting, which can take the everyday and reveal something exalted. Such an aim may be brimming with idealism, but it isn’t always realistic. Norman Rockwell himself, in a typically self-depreciating mood, dismissed his paintings as “Pictures of how we wish life was.”

In actual fact God is in everyone and everything, and there is absolutely nothing that is not exalted, seen in the correct Light. My failure to see this beauty lies in my human inability and blindness. God’s beauty is right in front of me, as plain as the nose on my face. But I ask myself this: Have I ever really seen the nose on my face? (And I’m not talking about some second-hand photo or mirror image.)

Because I can’t see something as plain as the nose on my face, I ignore it and instead speak of “being realistic”. I miss the beauty and poetry all around me, even in those nearest and dearest to me, and I call this ignorance “sensible.”

What I admired about Norman Rockwell was that he really never attacked the status quo of “sensible” behavior. Rather he simply showed that status quo in such a way that a feeling was prompted that was not sensible: Pragmatism crumbled, and one laughed and felt affection for neighbors, despite their bad behavior.

Nothing in my recent life was making me feel that way, initially. Now I can laugh, but it took me a while to get the joke. And, during the time it takes me to get the joke, I find it is usually wisest to be quiet. (Not always, but usually).

The joke this time involved the simple fact I’m not as strong as I used to be, and need to downsize the vegetable garden. However last April people got enthusiastic, and there was a lot of talk about assistance. So, rather than putting in a smaller garden, I put in a big one. Then, when it came time for the assistance to manifest, guess what happened?

Charliebrown_football

The failure of assistance to materialize doesn’t occur all at once, like Lucy snatching away the football. Rather it happens by slow stages and degrees, for the road to a weedy garden is paved with good intentions. As it happens I work harder and harder, trying to make up for the failure of man-hours to manifest, but eventually I have to face the fact I just can’t do it alone. This year I couldn’t even keep up with the watering, during the early-spring drought, and couldn’t keep up with the planting schedule. And when the rains came and the weeds exploded, as they always do, I sadly gazed out over a garden that had gone the wrong sort of green.

I think in April people go mad. That’s why we have April Fool’s Day, so you can get it out of your system, but people never do. Instead it manifests as mad ambition, and in terms of a vegetable garden, people become enchanted by a picture Norman Rockwell never painted, (that I know of). It is a picture of people all working happily together under the hot summer sun, in a tidy garden without a weed, and baskets of bounty being canned and frozen by smiling folk who just love the job.

It is what the old timers called a “bee”, but what people forget is that a bee took a job that basically sucked, and made it be fun. Few women really liked to sew, and if they had to do it alone they likely would be cursing quietly beneath their breath, but when it became a “sewing bee” it was far more fun.  In like manner picking the meat from crabs was a tedious job that sucked, but I saw women up in Maine turn it into a crab-picking-bee, and it truly was a time of laughter and a joyous social event. However the thing of it was that these jobs were jobs that had to be done. Nowadays no one really needs to sew, so why bother? In the old days the farm garden kept you from starving, so you had better darn well make sure it was weeded. Now it is just a sort of appendage to your yard, and perhaps a way to get fresher food, but definitely not a matter of life and death.

I personally enjoy the exercise, because it does produce something that is far better than the stuff you get at a supermarket, and anyway, going to a gym always seemed a waste of time and money to me. A garden produces food, but a gym only produces vanity, and a salve for the fear of getting fat, unattractive and dying of a heart attack. A gym is all about the ego, but a garden is about other things, and you can forget yourself there.

I could go on at length on this topic, but I’ve already gone there and done that: https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2013/07/20/contemplating-crabgrass/

Now I am contemplating the fact that people may have a dream of working in the hot sun like a happy, healthy peasant, but when push comes to shove, no one (except, apparently, me), actually wants to be a peasant. In fact when I think of Norman Rockwell’s paintings they seem to be more about playing hooky.

Norman Rockwell Fishing had4680 I do take the children at our Farm-childcare fishing, but it is nothing like the Norman Rockwell view of fishing.Norman Rockwell fishing 2 il_fullxfull.221025553 When I take seven small boys fishing I basically spend hours untangling lines and trying to teach them to untangle their own lines, and baiting hooks and trying to teach them to bait their own hooks, and trying to keep hooks from flesh and especially eyeballs, and if we catch a fish it is a wonder. (A boy did catch a five pound bass last week, but that miracle deserves a post of its own.) The boys are aged three to seven, and I’ve learned a whole new definition regarding “the patience of a fisherman.” I explain things as elementary as the fact you cannot catch a fish unless you keep your hook in the water, and find my joys in the fact boys are boys. For example, it used to make me mad when, right after I said splashing would scare the fish, a boy made a splash. Now I simply ask, “Didn’t I say throwing rocks would scare the fish?” Then I watch, and await the inevitable answer. “It wasn’t a rock. It was a boulder.”

When I get back from these adventures I’m completely exhausted, (and usually carrying all the poles), (which are all hopelessly tangled), and the last thing I want to see is that the garden is crying out for care. The beans can barely be seen, and wave their topmost leaves like drowning swimmers. “Help us! Help us!”

What I really need is a patron who will donate a vast sum so I can hire a weeder. Fat chance of that happening around here. People around here won’t even donate much for widows and orphans, (let alone for poets who seem to goof off for a living), and yet these same impoverished people seem to have all sorts of extra money to have go up in smoke, when July fourth rolls around.

I suppose I should be understanding. When young I used to go through considerable risk to buy illegal fireworks in a back alley of Boston’s tiny Chinatown, but my views have changed since then. Physical fireworks are lame, compared to poetry. Heck, even LSD now seems like a slum, compared to really being high. However others, who have not a nickle to spare for charity, will pay two hundred for beer and a thousand for fireworks.

However I have little patience with people who haven’t grown up while I have. When I was young the daylight on July fourth never seemed to end, as I agonized waiting for fireworks. Now, after fishing with seven boys, and feeding goats, pigs, chickens and a rabbit, and even doing a small amount of desultory weeding, all I want on the evening of July 4 is a shower and my pillow. However before I turned in I did warn my middle son, who is younger and more energetic and had four college buddies dropping by, that he should not set off fireworks anywhere near our goats, because our goats are not patriotic.

Just as my head was nestling down into my pillow the cellphone call came from somewhere in the woods, from my son. The neighbor had set off a shell measuring several megatons that barely cleared the treetops.  The goats had totally freaked out, and behaved like cartoon characters who leave a hole of their size and shape, running through a wall, only the goats ran through a fence.

I caught up to my son halfway to Greenville,  and he told me he’d managed to herd the goats half the way back when the neighbor set of an even bigger display. He hadn’t yet caught up to the goats a second time, but we figured they must have veered away from Greenville, because an even bigger and more raucous display was going off in that direction, and they now likely were heading for the town of Temple.

I wondered about a lot of things, as the mad full moon rose orange midst the fireworks flashes of the night.  I wondered over the fact that only twenty years ago I would have been walking in woods, but now was in a transplanted Waltham, a hundred new houses.  I wondered over the odds of my being arrested for wandering through people’s backyards yelling, “Here Goats!  Here Goats!” I wondered why people moved to the country when they lacked the courtesy to avoid terrifying livestock. I wondered if this was God’s way of declaring my independence from goats, from farming, and of freeing my time for poetry. I wondered if the local bear would relish a good goat dinner.

I gave up when the fireworks were quieting only a little, at 10:30, (when they legally are suppose to stop). I recalled I was “deacon-on-duty” at church, in the morning, and it would not be proper to show up red-eyed and incoherent. Also the goats had headed into a swamp full of thirsty mosquitoes, and I have only so much blood. Enough was enough, and I went back to bed.

I was back at the barn in the twilight of dawn, yawning but dutifully ready to hunt down the goats, but the goats beat me back, and were waiting for me. They were not cut very much from their wild, panicky run through darkness, but very hungry, and as the day progressed they seemed to get sore and to limp a little, though not as much as I did.

When I got back from tending to the goats, still before sunrise and church, my wife showed me a couple Facebook exchanges she thought might interest me. The first involved people who had moved to the country to have horses, who were irate about how the fireworks had freaked out their horses, and who were rebutted by many, many Facebook pundits who said if they didn’t like freedom and fireworks they should move back to the city, and take their snobby horses with them.  The second exchange involved a photo of a black bear walking by the entrance to our church, close to the sign that says “All are welcome.”  I said we should add, “except bears”.

I find it odd that, even as people destroy the country by wanting to move out into it, they live such an indoorsy lives, tweeting and facebooking, that the wildlife is moving back into the suburbs. Even down near Boston deer, moose, coyote, beaver, ermine, fisher-cats, wildcat and black bear, (practically extinct in my boyhood), are now chowing down at backyard bird-feeders.

At my farm-daycare I am constantly asked by audacious children questions that point to a fantastic disconnect between man and nature. The children ask, wrinkling their noses, “Why do you get your carrots from the dirty dirt?”

Even more fantastic is the fact the parents are not much wiser. Where I was raised by the woods, they were raised by TV sets. Where my parents told me to get out and not to bug them until dinner time, their parents plunked them in front of a TV and told them not to bug them until dinner time. (Perhaps I am resorting to hyperbole, but there is a huge difference between generations.)

Now I have become an anachronism, an old Yankee who really doesn’t fit in. Strangely, despite my being a misfit, we have a long waiting list at our Farm-childcare. I suppose we are what the TV calls “green”, and are therefore desirable, though I am a conservationist and heartily despise all that environmentalists claim is “green” and “natural”.

It is difficult to describe the difference between a conservationist and an environmentalist, but I think Norman Rockwell could paint a picture of what conservationists represent. But try to imagine, if you can, a Saturday Evening Post cover portraying what environmentalists represent, in a manner that would make you smile and glad to be a member of the human race.

I doubt you can.  At best you would have a Pravda characterization of humanity, a propaganda poster, white-teethed and bronze-skinned Kens and Barbies marching on to the dictator’s utopia. Compare such unreal faces to the Rockwell faces in this post, and tell me which are closer to nature.

Considering my society is playing hooky from so much that is natural, and veering towards such unnatural madness, I hope I can be forgiven if, by the time Monday rolled around, I said the heck with weeding, and decided to play a little hooky myself. (Well, actually,  I couldn’t totally give up on the weeding, but rather than getting down on my knees and doing a good job, I just ran the rototiller up and down between the rows a little), and then…

Going to the beach on a hot July
Mid-morning with the stain of brass heat draped
On every bough and street, and in my eye
Even shadows hazed gold, nothing escaped
The heat…but I am. Like a boy
Playing hooky, the consequences fade
In the face of surging, giggling joy.

While it may be true we’ll sleep in beds unmade,
Face stern principles, grip hungover foreheads,
That’s all far away. Now we’re on our way
To the beach, and like flowering dawn sheds
The dark dreads of night, joy drives gloom away.

We’re all going to die, but boys playing hooky
Have light in their eye, and life’s their cookie.