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.