In April, I was working on this poem and I had an idea of where it was going, how it was going to end, but I’ve forgotten now. I imagine that I was going to come back around to the brown thrasher again. The first is last. The stone that the builder refused. Low in the shrub line. Just out of reach. A glimpse and a red-brown flash of wings disappearing. But anyway, I can’t go back to April and finish it. It is June now and the poems are dried out of me. Here it is:
When I was younger I was a bit of a brown thrasher
Sometimes cocksure like a blue jay
Or a robin, generally open and wearing the world on my sleeve
As I grew I flew with the starlings
In speckled, choreographed dances with songs metallic clicking
In the grackle herd over the industrial ag fields and picking up corn with yellow eyes wide
The warblers then tempted me with tree top flutes and I was with them on cerulean wings,
Chestnut sides and a black mask
Now it is June and the spring projects linger. Livestock are taking more time. The harvest hangs on the bushes and mostly we aren’t able to collect it. Strawberries rot in the rows. There is only so much you can do.
Then the drought came and pond building became a priority. Drought is the only time to dig. And who knows when it will end. The forecast says a 50% chance of storms in the middle of the week. The 400 gallon tanks that collect water off the barn have been dry for days. Anyway, the grapes look great. Maybe the low moisture will contribute to less brown rot, black rot and other fungal diseases through the orchard.
The night comes late. We finish outside usually around 9 p.m. Rarely is there time for movies. But we did watch a very good one.
It seems there’s not even time to flip through books from the library. So Will Bonsall’s Essential Guide to Radical, Self-Reliant Gardening sits on the shelf, waiting for a string of rainy days perhaps. Anyway, right now I’m mostly sick of ideas. I’ve got ideas out the yin yang. Ideas to build a chickshaw, ideas to finish the barrel fly traps, ideas are a dime a dozen. The To Do list is too long.
But it does feel good to cross things off the list. Little things, the chickens got their calcium, the jujubees are repotted, the agrimony is in the ground, the mulberry pruned, the grafts repaired, et cetera, et cetera. Now if a few of those big items on the list could get done: grafting the walnuts and inoculating the shiitake mainly. Thing is, the shiitake inoculating relies on about 2 days of chainsaw work in the woods to clean up about 4 or 5 wind-thrown trees.
I’m not overwhelmed though. It is the state of affairs. This is the way it is farming in your spare time. Projects stack up and mainly you’re dealing with emergencies. Making sure the pigs are watered or the grass is clipped before it senesces. Mostly, you just keep moving. 20,000 steps in a day is average. It is close to 5,000 just getting morning work done.
So you learn to enjoy the moments that come up in the movement: taking a spider web from your face, finding a tick among your leg hairs, talking to the Bob Whites, the breeze across the pond blowing due East, the tree swallows above their nest box, the buzz of a ruby throat just above your head and yes, the brown thrasher moving out of the bushes 50 yards ahead of you – a bright flash of red wings, just out of reach.
Also, I took time to watch this Bob Dylan video the other day. I watched it on 1.5 x speed or maybe 2 x speed as I’ve been tending to watch videos that way lately. I don’t listen to much of Bob’s recent stuff but I liked this. I like how he says about regular grammar school reading: Ivanhoe, Gulliver’s Travels, Don Quixote, etc. Maybe he thinks grammar school kids read that stuff now-a-days. Maybe they do. I don’t know. Maybe they’re not all focused on competition and STEM. What do I know? … I know my grammar school kids are going to read those books though, just like Bob did.
Painting by by Dawn Marie Rozzo