Longing, we say, because desire is full
of endless distances.”

31 May 2011

 Letters from the Outside #44

Im ruminating on maretail clouds and Hindu swastikas (“auspicious mark of well-being”)when a turkey flushes from from the scrub and flaps urgently over our heads coming down through the opposite understory in a coda of snapping branches and shattering leaves. Calves successfully weaned from their mothers after a week of grievous bellowing that haunted the valley air. The seedlings are getting more and more nakey-sun-time out on the picnic table to acclimate to a more authentic lifestyle. Its been too wet to even plant the cold crops, but I think this weekend, if the weather holds, we'll till in some fine local composted horse manure and set the bevy in.

The yellows of May make way for the the violets of June as per the first lovely flowers of Dame's Rocket, the piebalds my heart goes out to, neither of one nor the other. The bloom is off the lilac and the apple trees, and theres less of a rush in the rills. Buds on the nut trees transform to tiny gothic cathedrals, the grand central spire unfurling, buttressed by an immaculate geometry of sweet leaves fractaling outward through the evening into fresh sheets for the sun to lie in, and other than a few reluctant hold-outs, Cloud Valley is green from hogsback to fen.

I fill in some of the bare patches in the perennial bed with seedlings found wandering in the garden. The strawberry plants are full of white flowers, and again and again am I awestruck at the miracle of green and growing things, from bloom to fruit, from seed to leaf. Wet and wet and the world is changing. Storm front of tornadoes and fire, hurricanes and flood, messengers presaging a coming cataclysm or maybe were just catching up with ourselves, level the playing field. Aliens and Eschatology hover in invisible wavelengths over my head while the seedlings spend another day under the indoors for fear theyll drown in the insidious drizzle. Ive pulled the ancient Sage plants from their beds and moved a Rhododendron.

Now the empty eggshells on the ground, speckled wombs sacrificed for the sky. The pacific northwest climates been a boon for the evergreens I planted on the boundary line, a lush spurt of soft green growth, the snails are legion, and the ground is a cup filled to the meniscus; last nights rain returns to the earth a familiar and unwelcome squish, the soft shoulder of the road churned by the drag of fleeting, sinking hooves. I find one foreleg of a fawn along the road, banks and culverts covered in buttercup and wild geranium, the cuticle of its wee perfect hoof still lustrous. I tuck it under some leaves at the base of a Witch Hazel and wait to see what time will leave for me. Bob Dylan is seventy years old.

When the Sun comes out it as as Light on the face of the waters. And man welcomes summer in, strewing loose garlands of cans and bags and wrappers along the road while bumblebees hover over the russian honeysuckle and the Willow shows her summer robes. A dragonfly. The days I get my allergy shots are always a little weird, as im required to load up on benadryl and still function. Always that half-hour or so when I sit there staring at the sunlight through the hoya leaves. Which isnt so bad, I suppose.

Thunder woke me last midnight and I went out in nothing but my slicker to keep the seedlings I had left out on their first overnight outside from drowning in their wee plastic beds. This weekend we plant out what we can. There hasnt been a hard frost all May, so its not a killing cold that quails me but the rain. Every day the rain. Every day the looming threat of rain. Its getting a little psychological. 

June and not one sweep of the tiller, not one seed in the ground. So the last monday in May I transfer some of the seedlings to their place on the Earth, move a few more pioneering coneflowers, move some notoriously-impossible-to-transplant Sunflower volunteers toward the margin; within minutes theyve fainted away, but only time will tell.

The Hopi Tobacco has gone in, as has the Calendula, Zinnia and Mugwort. There is still standing water in some of the garden. The strawberries are hard green bristly seeded heads, the blackberry still beaded fists.

Theres always thunder in the evening, and the days prove humid and bright. But its good to be out in the heat and the light, listening to the birds and feeling the breeze on my face. Its good to try and work with the Earth, bring something peaceful and beautiful and good into the world which sorely needs it.

My grandfathers factory fan comes down for the summer, tuesday we get our manure and then the tilling and the tomatoes go in, then the gardening in earnest, and the summer, and time moving out in all directions toward your return.

The last evening of May is wide open; quiet and pale and smelling of mown turf and evening dew. We keep at what must be done, patch by patch, and there are the closer hopes and the farther dreams, like small islands and the imperceptibly shifting stars, in search of Home.

"And if the question were asked: What is more real, the mundane or the sublime? most would hesitate before they gave an answer. On the one side, details: say, the aftermath of a breakfast, dirty chipped plates in the sink, their rims encrusted with egg yolk. Against this, the unnameable: small aching heart with boasts, what can you know? Outside the cage of everything we ever heard or saw, beyond, outside, above, there lies the real, hiding as long as we shall live, there stretch and trail the millions of names of God burning across the eons. When all through this our end will come before we even know the names of us.

For many the egg yolk prevails." -L.M.

"Love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is done well."

"The perfection of the Absolute where all Becoming stops and pure Being, immutable, timeless, unchanging, hangs forever like a ripe peach upon the bough." -E.A.

"...and the whole incident was incredibly frazzling and angst-rod and filled almost a whole mead notebook and is here recounted in only its barest psycho-skeletal outline." -D.F.W.

"At the top of the mountain, we are all snow leopards." -H.S.T.

"Only when we are no longer afraid do we begin to live." -D.T.
"Cometh a voice: My children, hear; From the crowded street and the close-packed mart I call you back with my message clear, back to my lap and my loving heart. Long have ye left me, journeying on by range and river and grassy plain, to the teeming towns where the rest have gone - come back, come back to my arms again. So shall ye lose the foolish needs that gnaw your souls; and my touch shall serve to heal the fretted nerve. Treading the turf that ye once loved well, instead of the stones of the city's street, ye shall hear nor din nor drunken yell, but the wind that croons in the ripening wheat. I that am old have seen long since ruin of palaces made with hands for the soldier-king and the priest and prince whose cities crumble in desert sands. But still the furrow in many a clime yields softly under the ploughman's feet; still there is seeding and harvest time, and the wind still croons in the ripening wheat. The works of man are but little worth; for a time they stand, for a space endure; but turn once more to your mother - Earth, my gifts are gracious, my works are sure. Instead of the strife and pain I give you peace, with its blessing sweet. Come back, come back to my arms again, for the wind still croons in the ripening wheat."
-John Sandes, The Earth-Mother (excerpt, 1918)