Friday, December 5, 2008

the satisfactions of the mad farmer

I don't know that I can really call myself a farmer. A gardener certainly. But farmer might be stretching it. If I were in a position to live off the fruits of my labors . . . well, I wouldn't live very long if I were in that position. But I do dream of it and maybe someday will be able to realize that dream. That agrarian blood runs deep in my veins. My maternal grandfather still lives, now in his late years, alone on his many acres in East Texas. And my father's line all began as farmers in the Heartland. So for those reasons, and many more, I have been in love with Wendell Berry and his earthy fabulous poems for decades. The land just sings through his poetry, and his love of that land is palpable.So today I bring you:

The Satisfactions of the Mad Farmer

Growing weather; enough rain;
the cow's udder tight with milk;
the peach tree bent with its yield;
honey golden in the white comb;

the pastures deep in clover and grass,
enough, and more than enough;

the ground, new worked, moist
and yielding underfoot, the feet
comfortable in it as roots;

the early garden: potatoes, onions,
peas, lettuce, spinach, cabbage, carrots,
radishes, marking their straight rows
with green, before the trees are leafed;

raspberries ripe and heavy amid their foliage,
currants shining red in clusters amid their foliage,
strawberries red ripe with the white
flowers still on the vines--picked
with the dew on them, before breakfast;

grape clusters heavy under broad leaves,
powdery bloom on fruit black with sweetness
--an ancient delight, delighting;

the bodies of children, joyful
without dread of their spending,
surprised at nightfall to be weary;

the bodies of women in loose cotton,
cool and closed in the evenings
of summer, like contented houses;

the bodies of men, able in the heat
and sweat and weight and length
of the day's work, eager in their spending,
attending to nightfall, the bodies of women;

sleep after love, dreaming
white lilies blooming
coolly out of the flesh;

after sleep, enablement
to go on with work, morning a clear gift;

the maidenhood of the day,
cobwebs unbroken in the dewy grass;

the work of feeding and clothing and housing,
done with more than enough knowledge
and with more than enough love,
by those who do not have to be told;

any building well built, the rafters
firm to the walls, the walls firm,
the joists without give,
the proportions clear,
the fitting exact, even unseen,
bolts and hinges that turn home
without a jiggle;

any work worthy
of the day's maidenhood;

any man whose words
lead precisely to what exists,
who never stoops to persuasion;

the talk of friends, lightened and cleared
by all that can be assumed;

deer tracks in the wet path,
the deer sprung from them, gone on;

live streams, live shiftings
of the sun in the summer woods;

the great hollow-trunked beech,
a landmark I loved to return to,
its leaves gold-lit on the silver
branches in the fall: blown down
after a hundred years of standing,
a footbridge over the stream;

the quiet in the woods of a summer morning,
the voice of a pewee passing through it
like a tight silver wire;

a little clearing among cedars,
white clover and wild strawberries
beneath an opening to the sky
--heavenly, I thought it,
so perfect; had I foreseen it
I would have desired it
no less than it deserves;

fox tracks in snow, the impact
of lightness upon lightness,
unendingly silent.

What I know of spirit is astir
in the world. The god I have always expected
to appear at the woods' edge, beckoning,
I have always expected to be
a great relisher of this world, its good
grown immortal in his mind.

from The Collected Poems of Wendell Berry, 1957-1982


Don't you just love the sun setting through this tangle of trees, and those fluttery golden leaves, and the rose parading itself along through late fall and into winter? As I took these, my one year old was rocking away in her tiny white rocker, too cute for words.

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