Today the Farm Seemed Small

Today the farm seemed small
I was with the trees all day

In the branches, pruning, looking
Circling clockwise on the ground

Circling clockwise on the ladder
In the branches, pruning, looking

I like to prune a peach most
I like to prune an apple least

I am very lenient with the cherries
But still I indulge in aesthetics

The snow is crusted and worn
There is lots of standing and my feet were cold

I took multiple breaks, for Irish Breakfast tea
To warm my bones and see what’s doing here

And nothing is doing here
I feel I should apologize

I hope you can tell when I write
What is happening, what is going on

I hope you can tell how convinced I am
I hope you can tell how asleep I am

Running the course, the mind wanders
I used to run and pray

I used to think the mind could overcome the body
But perhaps the mind just convinces itself of things

We’ve just started you know
We’ve never met

And still
We will never meet again

I have two good things that I am waiting for
And I have two things I am waiting for to fall apart

Tomorrow Uncle John will come
We will eat guest food all weekend, like a birthday and make a cake

Monday he will go away
And I will have lunch with my father

I don’t like to think of what I will say
I don’t like to think of what I’ve said

There is only one goose laying
The wife is gathering them up, keeping them at temperature

The evaporating pan in on the porch slathered in vegetable oil
The buckets are dusty and unwashed, the taps yet to be boiled

The tulip wood we sledded out and over the creek is finally split
It pops loud in the stove and sometimes the sparks sneak down to the ground outside

We were out on the new beaver pond for perhaps the last time
The ice was thawing in layers, cracking under my feet

I watched the children’s last slides down that slide
Down that slide, down that slide and down that slide

All day the barred owl was calling in the north
All day I was listening to him

Wife went out to pick up the split logs for stacking and she saw him
Sitting in the sycamore close by, then flying over to the red maples there

She called me and we got out the binoculars and
I looked at him too

I saw him sitting there in stripes looking at me
The one who I’d been listening to all day

This, this is all nothing
You know that right?

I’m just letting this slip through my fingers
You know that right?

There is nothing here, you know that right?
Please don’t make there be anything here

Hear me call
See me sitting in the tree

Watch me fly away
And I’m gone

Today the Farm Seemed Small

She Always Did Just What She’s Supposed To

I used to sing in a band. That was 25 years ago. I was horrible. I remember destroying a cover of ‘The End’ by the Doors particularly well. We happened to have a ‘groupie’ at practice that day and thankfully she told me how bad I was.

Now though, I’m a lot better singer than I used to be. My wife thinks I’m alright anyway. I like to sing It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry, that Fugazi song Merchandise, and I found out the other day that I can sing like Mike Stipe pretty good. Also, I can sing a dead perfect version of Furr by Blitzen Trapper. (I’m totally kidding. I’m still a horrible singer. It’s true about Furr though.)

Long time ago, we checked out from the library a box set from Smithsonian Folkways called Best of Broadside. I think it burned on to five discs for me (I still listen almost exclusively to CDs & cassettes). So for going on maybe five years this has been one of the only albums that I can say I’ve truly enjoyed listening to through the good times and the bad. It’s been one of those rare ones that’s stuck with me. I recommend it. Not every song but a lot of them.

When we had the library copy the liner notes had a photographed letter from Dylan saying how he admired what Broadside was doing – like a little note of solidarity. Maybe it was that note and the fact that I never wrote down who the artists were but I returned the library’s copy and started listening to the burned discs and there were a few songs I was absolutely certain Dylan was singing on. I thought he put down some tracks with them under an alias to give them support. I thought Song for Patty was a Dylan song.

In Song for Patty, I like to sing this part really loud and look out the sun-room window to the south with the speakers next to me on one side and the wood stove on the other: Patty dear, I know you sights are on the milky way and the avaricious scorpion is begging you to stay. Please meet me at the holocaust valley and you can tell us all about it someday.” (I don’t know why this YouTube recording has 4 minutes of ‘nothing’ after the song – which is about 4 minutes long)

I don’t know much about the story of Patty but it is the kind of thing that interests me. I mean, look at that picture of her. A wealthy heiress doing that is sure interesting. I like learning about things like that, about lines getting crossed. I suppose Bin Laden’s story is kind of similar and those of all those Jim Jones followers too. Understanding radicalization is important, espeically self radicalization. The line between cult and religion is sometimes a blurry one. When you look for truth you keeping coming back to stories like these.

I listened to Song for Patty for 5 years thinking it was Bob Dylan and now I know that it is not Bob Dylan but Sammy Walker. Illusions are funny things.



The Hugs of a Landscape


We have this phrase printed out and decorated in a frame near the fridge: “We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.” I heard it from Laura Markham.

I forgot to set my alarm. The kids have these giant footsteps coming down the stairs and that woke me up. Luckily, it was seven-thirty. They’d gotten up a little early and it was a good time for me to still make it into the office by 9 am. I like a lazy morning. I like pittering (add this word to your dictionary).

We subscribe to our local, county-seat newspaper. I think it is one of the few news dailies that still exist being supported and centered around a town with a population of less than twenty-five hundred people. I’ve been neglecting it lately, for months really. I haven’t even been reading my favorite weekly column by a “nature writer” who is like a jewel in this county. I’ve felt okay about it though because the wife still peruses it. But anyway, today I looked through it a little. I read a bit about what the commissioners are up to. They’re fretting over what to do with a free, flat-screened television that they were gifted by a Japanese company. Good fellows, their heart is in the right place.

Today the county’s March “home buyer’s guide” was inserted in the paper. I don’t know if they even provide this insert in January in February. Maybe they do but I don’t think many transactions are taking place those months. Spring is the time for home shopping and I like looking. I flipped through it for a minute or so until I saw an ad for 20 acres of woods for $40,000 surrounded by State Forest land. I told my wife we could sell our place and buy that and have a debt free new start in life. She knew the implications and how I was thinking, I didn’t have to explain anything.

I haven’t done any calculations but I think if we sold the cattle and a lot of the odds and ends we’d come out at least $40K ahead. It may be close. I don’t know.

Everybody was sitting in the sun-room as I said this, the kids in their pajamas, the wood stove starting to kick off good heat. “If we were crazy and the kids…” I said and my thoughts trailed off. My wife was imagining too. She was standing there looking very sexy (like usual) wearing my son’s red robe with a pink heart on it that comes down to mid-thigh and of course lots of other clothes too because our house is cold. “I might become very crazy” she said in a good, positive way but then she demurred. This was about the time I was thinking about putting the kids in through something like that. She added, looking around “I like it here, we’re on top of a little hill and I can see across the pastures” she said as she kind of spun around, looking in all directions.

I am a product of driveways and sidewalks. One of my earliest memories is of lying in a bed of peonies along our driveway and looking up at their buds. I laid there for long time watching ants climb up the stems to work on opening the flowers. It was the first time I understood such things and nobody taught it to me.

I’m a product of the class room. I hated sitting through the classes and most of the teachers. In fifth grade though, Mr. Jones the biology teacher let me learn how I wanted. He gave me packets to work through each week and said I could do whatever I wanted after I finished them. I worked through them quick because there were these big fish tanks filled with pond water and mud and all I wanted to do was look at the micro-invertebrates, amoebas and such found in drops of sediment under the light microscope. God bless, Mr. Jones for this allowance.

I am a product of neighborhood creeks and culverts pouring into pools filled with leeches and discarded, pet goldfish. I’m a product of farm land stripped of topsoil and riversides mined for stone. My being is infused with pavement and impervious surfaces, the shining light of screens and neon signs, the patterned spanning that emanates from an urban core. I’ve drunk in a lot of landscapes across the world and now my landscape is different but this is the landscape that I come from, one where balance has been overwhelmed and nature finds the tiniest refuge.

Funny, where we live now the balance is perhaps perfect. I know this is just a concept, a mental construct, and a personal (human) opinion but we have whippoorwill, bobwhite, beaver, mink, coyote, red fox, grey fox, fox squirrel, grey squirrel, red-headed and pileated woodpeckers, rough green and black racer snakes, box turtle and bob cat. There is room for these animals. With the proper education of the human animal, one could envision, elk, black bear, even timber rattlers and mountain lion coming back in. We would take extra precaution with our livestock. We would take extra precaution with our children in the woods.

amur leopard
[These woods look a lot like ours. Could you imagine this in your woods? – an Amur leopard. How magnificent it would be to share woods with this creature!]

I remember a few springs ago my brother visited and we went out in our woods. We walked the trails. At one point, my brother and his son started playing, running in hide-and-go-seek fashion around a tree. I noticed the way they were stepping on the forest floor. It was almost like it was a living room carpet of theirs. I don’t remember saying anything to them but I moved them on and down the paths. My children don’t play like that in the woods. I’ve not taught them anything specifically but in every season we look at what is on the ground and around us. There is ginseng and goldenseal. There is poison ivy and greenbrier. There is jack in the pulpit and squirrel corn. There are the wild gooseberries and Virginia bluebells we transplanted. There is the paw paw where the hoary bat was hanging. There is the spicebush where the giant imperial moth (Eacles imperialis) was hanging. They know these things. They move differently in the forest.

I suppose my children will be a product of this place. Also, I am changing. It is being infused in me. My wife too, it is changing her. But she is a product of the steppe. An important part of her is that dark-eyed, dark-haired figure on top of the mountain surveying the distance in all directions, wearing traditional clothing with one eye on the sheep and another eye on a rolling storm miles and miles and miles away.

There are all sorts of steppe songs but this is a happy one for her. (Sorry if you are distracted by the YouTube images but I couldn’t find any other version of the song.)

[Ч.Бат-Эрдэнэ – Миний нутгийн нуур]

Lead painting by Zayasaikhan Sambuu (The Art of Zaya)

The Hugs of a Landscape

Voyeuristic Substitution


I bungie down my saw along with a bag holding with fuel, bar oil and a sandwich to an old, pink, plastic sled and set off through the snow. Its morning grey and the cows are having breakfast. I don’t bother to unwire the gate, just slide through the second and third wires of the fence and into the woods.

I spend all morning out there doing what is in front of me, going in circles, cutting grape-vine and multiflora rose, bucking trees I dropped last year, moving wood to the edge of the log road, dragging out big pieces of sassafras top and prepping fuel wood for sugar camp. All day I cut till I collapse and then lay there for a while. I carry logs till I collapse and lay there a while.

That part of the woods is changed now. My tracks are everywhere in the snow. Certain paths are developed.

There are times when I see ideas very clearly and I feel I could tell great stories about simple things like going out to cut firewood and work in the woods. Very rarely, I’m able to sit down with these ideas and see them come out in words on paper.

    “Hunger is your friend.”

The radar is a rainbow of color
Blue, green, pink and yellow across our region

The calf is out of the barn for the first time
Running in the new powder
Born again into wonderland winter

Snow is falling
Powder on powder
Spring is gone again

    Never tell anyone outside the Family what you are thinking again.
    – Don Corleone

I’m in and out, lost and found. Sometimes I’m gone for hours. Maybe I’ve been gone for days. I don’t know anymore. Other times, it’s just moments that I’m out and I notice quickly and am back.

Practice is always changing. It’s like a new religion every day, religions like clouds blowing by. A few weeks ago while writing the Banjo poem, practice was playing with the idea of death. Before that, it was going back to birth. Lately, it’s just been playing with the eyes.

The eyes
All day with the eyes
Everything they see is what I am
I am the seeing and I am the seen

The eyes see sunset
The eyes see pornography
I am that
I am all of it

If you are like me then you will have more than one practice. Perhaps you can have one. Perhaps you are not like me. Perhaps your one practice will be “Who am I?”
Verily, all practices are the same practice

The important thing is this:
When I sound like I know
Laugh at me

    “Call it a voyeuristic substitution into an actual connection with a friend, but I really liked it.”

Sixteen going on seventeen
Be Here Now on my tray in the cafeteria
Jail, boarding school, mental hospital
Sliding along the metal rails

Going beyond seemed like disappearing
On the edge, thinking I could do it
Ready to do it
But for her

Mara is masterful
Ego is supremely beautiful
She needs just one thing, you know

When I sound like I know
Laugh at me

    “It’s not me. It’s him.“

Don Corleone: Tell me, do you spend time with your family?
Johnny Fontane: Sure I do.
Don Corleone: Good. Because a man who doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real man.

Somebody should tell that to my father
But then, who would pick the log out of mine own eye

“You think you’re enlightened? Go spend time with your family”
– Ram Dass

I’m with you, sometimes there are motes and sometimes logs
But I have also seen through clear eyes that
There is no happiness but this

Are you with it?

There is no happiness out there when some condition is achieved: when the kids are grown up and able to wipe their own asses, when we live on a sustainable, little farm with the mortgage paid off, when relationships with family are ‘repaired’, and so on and on – it’s never-ending.

Stop it.

The whole time she is screaming in my ear and even sometimes hitting my head – I am happy. Of course, I don’t like it. Of course, I hope that she will stop. She is the purest of teachings, the purest of beings, more real and present than Chauncey the Gardner and constantly walking on water.

We found the teachings in Denny’s by ourselves as children
Going deeper and deeper, coffee pot after coffee pot

Seems it is just a process
To remain open (and questioning)
Then recognize in more and more places
The truth in more and more ways

You are the teaching
You are the truth
Thank you

    “That said, I don’t think it’s not enough to “be the change” (Gandhi, a believer in civil disobedience and activism, never used that phrase).”

Be something other than yourself
Be everything other than yourself

Do not deny the greed, bigotry, violence in yourself
It will cause you suffering

“We are all bigots so filled with hatred
We release our poison

Instead, like a newborn, cry when you are hungry
But do not resent when you are not fed

And when I sound like I know
Laugh at me

I went out to try to cut up those tulips I’d dropped along the fence line to the north. The snow was too deep to do much work but I found another tulip that needed dropping. I opened the face to the south and put two wedges in the back cut. She was standing dead and her diameter was just less than my saw bar. My chain cut through her and she fell with a great crashing thud.

I walked back over persimmon creek toward the house following the footsteps I’d made coming out. Coming up over the hill, I was looking through my eyes. “This is what life wants to see through me,” I thought. I didn’t dwell on it, but I knew that I never really had any choice in the matter. I stopped at the cows lunching on round bale. I scratched Ruby’s poll and asked politely how she was doing.

Do you know what she told me?


Voyeuristic Substitution

Love Poem


I love you
I love you for the same reason that
I love myself

My imperfection like flowers
My seeking like pollination
My fruit like stopping and surrender

And the seeds are life
With truth as much outside
As in

Perfection in its essence
Has room for imperfection
You see that?

Thus you are perfect
And so I love you
Your imperfection and mine


Love Poem

Wish on Today’s Mooon


I don’t have time to post (don’t you love saying stuff like that?). But I wish I did because I feel like posting again. There’s lots I want to say and many things to tell. Crazy things were happening all day yesterday with the eyes…

Anyway, that’ll have to wait. I’ve got all sorts of places to be and things to do relating to the lunar new year holiday. Plus we ran out of firewood so we’ve been burning green, lumber ends from the saw mill. I’ve got bucked, dried logs out in the woods and some on the landing in the old orchard and a few fence-line tulips down not too far, so it’s not like it’s an emergency or anything. It’s just operating on the razor’s edge of procrastination – which, apparently, is where I like to live. So, this is a long way of saying that instead of writing anything substantive, I’m going to post some pictures. I’ve had some of these for a while.

I guess it’s best that you make your own meaning out of them. I’m not going to provide the context they have for me in my life, not right now anyway.

Last thing, as I was driving home yesterday I saw the ‘first moon’ hanging in the sky. Beautiful. Today though, according to custom, if you see ‘the new second moon’ you’re supposed to wish on it. So, wish. If you see the sliver of moon rising today, wish.

And may your wish come true.




Wish on Today’s Mooon