Archive for April 2011 | Monthly archive page
Dying people die sometime before spring, if they can. Fierce and implacable, and demanding: spring has that face. The green surge, the endless evening light, the stupor of a curled, private sleep now broken by something strong in the air: all of this makes a claim on the living. It says: If you are going to stay, ready yourself for work. The work of finding a way out of the web of life is work enough for dying people. The work of the living is to obey, to stir, to rise up again.
Deciding to live is not always an obvious, automatic thing, not a reflex. The flat screen news brings you new disasters and ending of all kinds, encouragement to the addicts of the end times. Then, the open window brings you something like a breath, a rumour that something old might be new again, a memory of warmth. Somewhere in there, you have to decide. You decide.
All blessing on the hard stirrings of your life, on the unlikely green now upon us, on the corner of the world you find yourself bound to, on its need of your willingness to continue. In the last few days geese have traced their way down the river in front of our farm. Early this morning a few of them found long circles of rippling life in the quickening current, sorted and settled their feathers, and sang out what I hope was their prayer to the dappled light, because they could. Because of that, we continue. May you continue.
Because of a wet, cold spring, because everything went out too early, we didn’t have bounty this year. But – and I don’t really know why – we did have corn. And here is the marvel: our Blue Hopi corn, child of the desert, grew the best of all.
Corn, the faithful teacher, starts its towering life indestinguishable from grass, and it teetered this year on the edge of every too cold, too hot, too wet, too dry day. It’s first emerald feathers made straight for the sky, tongueing as the young of every made thing does the starry, sunny udder in hopes that the old sky mother would let her milk rain fall. Against the odds the plants grew a foot, and then two. Gravity doesn’t explain this, but soon thereafter, when the corn seemed certain it would make it, those same adamant leaves began bending to the ground, all but the topmost. As the summer went on the proud male of the corn went twelve feet and higher, but beneath it all the leave tips bent themselves groundward.
In early August the blue corn’s wild confidence – the pollen – seemed to draw each flying insect and the wind itself. Every morning at dawn the dusty heads were alive and humming with the promise of corn and honey. In those mornings, so intense with life surging towards itself, we saw that the young corn cobs were swelling up from the fizzure between leaf and stem that was made by that groundward bend, and the story of the thing was written upon us. The cradle of the new corn was the longing of the old seed for the ground, for home. It was as if the memory of those days of blue seeds in damp ground were there in every leaf. A few weeks ago friends from the city came as they do each fall to bless our fields, and as they do each fall came away with armfuls of blessing.
Now we have two sweetnesses in our house: bushels of ripe blue desert corn, impossible in this part of the country, and the dusty liquid gold of all our bee’s labours. I know there are religions and psychologies that caution us where human longing is concerned, that it can’t but make misery or suffering, and maybe in some places they’re right. And the longing for home is usually abandoned by people in their twenties trying to outgrow their early years. But the corn and the honey of my farm wasn’t persuaded by the warnings this year, and neither were we. The old longing for home and for the first things seems the place where the hoped for and the untried earn their keep. That willingness to long for the old ground is the real beginning of the harvest. At the end of the gathering season, under the swelling harvest moon, the bees and the corn surely believe in longing – the weathered bushel baskets are full of the evidence – and we who gather the ending of their lives believe in it too.