Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Apparelled in Celestial Light

In my last post I described the way the snow threatened the Magnolia blossoms. Days later, James got a job and the sun shone magnificently and I was able to plant. The Magnolia blossoms opened up after all, although plenty were singed, brown on white, like roasted marshmallows.

I try to read the trees and the skyto interpret what is writ large. This spring, after such unprecedented long and cold winter, I look at the land with suspicion. We know we are very lucky: James got a wonderful job that will allow us to stay on the land. Meanwhile, I have been reinventing myself. The temporary return to teaching (and consequent neglect of my seedlings) was an opportunity to reexamine what it is I'm supposed to be doing here. (Am I writer, teacher, homesteader?)

The homesteading project, as it has always been conceived, is dictated by what is happening right here, where the grasses and woods and gardens are. So I look around. Spring must come, but will it be what I've come to know as spring at this address? The redbud blossoms are few, the berry tree is not vibrant, the peach tree blossoms are late. In fact, all tree blossoms are disappearing more swiftly than they arrived, or, instead of heralding leaves, appearing in tandem with them. All except the Bradford pear, whose white blossoms are a comfort, but which I just learned is particularly susceptible to damage from high windsand the winds are so powerful right now that birds appear fixed in the sky when attempting to fly against them.  

Redbud, April 2014

I stand up close to confirm that the redbud is not dead... 

Redbud, April 2011

...and remember that this is what it looked like our first spring here:

Meanwhile impermanence comes to mind. I think I am reinventing myself, but everything is already in flux. Even resting DNA quivers as its hydrogen bonds swap; all life is refashioning. This means my identity crisis has been confused: to ask who am I? is to ask the wrong question. I change so often, what's remarkable is that any sense of self remains relatively steady for the duration (birth to death). We reinvent ourselves whether we are willing or not. 

Another chicken died. I was heartbroken. This winter braced me for heartache. I was in perpetual fear. Now that the sun is shining, intermittently, and the harbingers of spring have popped up, albeit sparsely, I have to relearn to hope. 

There is splendor in watching the grass grow. Will the native grasses come up this year? Will we see any partridge pea in the native grass field, as we did the first year? That field shifts in the same way our bodies swap atoms with the world. One year, it is awash in Black-eyed Susans. Another, speckled with purple coneflower. Impermanence. That, and something about how vibrant it all seemed when it was new:

    THERE was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,
    The earth, and every common sight, 
    To me did seem 
    Apparelled in celestial light [...]

     But there's a Tree, of many, one, 
     A single Field which I have looked upon, 
     Both of them speak of something that is gone [...]

     O joy! that in our embers 
     Is something that doth live, 
     That nature yet remembers 
     What was so fugitive! [...]

     What though the radiance which was once so bright 
     Be now for ever taken from my sight, 
     Though nothing can bring back the hour 
     Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower; 
     We will grieve not, rather find 
     Strength in what remains behind; 
     In the primal sympathy 
     Which having been must ever be; 
     In the soothing thoughts that spring 
     Out of human suffering; 
     In the faith that looks through death  [...]

Wordsworth, signifying that even death is not the end of the story. And for the particles in motion, it's not.

Redbud, April 2011

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Farm Diary: April 14, 2014

The Magnolia Star trees in our front yard had finally begun to bloom, but this morning, the cream buds were wilted and coated in snow crystals. 
Our hens are barely laying. We’ve been getting about an egg a day (down from three) since Marie Curie went broody and we had to “break” her. It might be my imagination, but I think the girls are getting aggressive. I chose Buff Orpingtons because they are supposed to be the most docile breed. Maybe we’re all just tired of this winter encroaching into spring.
The grass is a contradictiongreen and covered in patches of snow. It’s hard to read the sky: there is a bit of blue peeking through some white billowy cumulus clouds, but the clouds directly below those are dark gray and ominous—my guess is that some weather-wise person would classify these as stratocumulus. All I know is the ambiguity is exhausting.
Maybe I’ve no right to complain, but complaining about the weather is the most natural thing for a grower to do. For so many months, the sky and the land were decidedly bleak, in no way open to interpretation. The rhubarb would not have poked through, the magnolias would not have budded, and the grass would not have turned green if we hadn’t finally had a glimpse of warmer weather. We did, and thank goodness for that. 
But it’s mid-April, and I have not worked the ground for the cooler season vegetables. Usually I plant something in March. Seed packets are piling up: cilantro, arugula, chard, radishes, beets … all usually in the ground by now. On the greenhouse-porch, my tomato sprouts are weak and small compared to every other year.
Nature is all metaphor. No need to use my imagination; here in rural Indiana, the metaphors are plain. The drought coincided with reconciling to not having children, and this eternal waiting for spring has dovetailed perfectly with our waiting for a job that will allow us to keep the house and land. We don’t know what will happen, and I haven’t posted to this blog because I keep thinking an answer will come and all this reflection will be moot. I could get on with it and care for this house and land. At this moment, it’s snowing again ... .