Monday, July 08, 2002

This morning while going down to the barn, I heard the sound of a small gas engine on the hillside. My father-in-law, out early, cutting down weeds and thistle to clean the pasture. In my work day as a lawyer, everything is up for negotiation. At times it seems that facts are slippery things, sliding out of your grasp into a sea of interpretation. Here in the fields, working with the flock, reality is made of sterner stuff. No matter how good a story I tell, weed and thistle will grow, streams will run or go dry, sheep will thrive, or die. A good farm comes from labor and prayer, together with a measure of grace disguised as luck. Clever talk has little to do with it. Farming can make you rich, but not in any sense an economist or self-help guru would recognize. In a "post-modern" world having a reality that pushes back at you is itself a treasure. "The fact is the sweetest dream that labour knows." said Robert Frost in his poem Mowing. I post it here to prove again that poets (and farmers) are wiser than lawyers.

There was never a sound beside the wood but one,
And that was my long scythe whispering to the ground.
What was it it whispered? I knew not well myself;
Perhaps it was something about the heat of the sun,
Something, perhaps, about the lack of sound--
And that was why it whispered and did not speak.
It was no dream of the gift of idle hours,
Or easy gold at the hand of fay or elf:
Anything more than the truth would have seemed too weak
To the earnest love that laid the swale in rows,
Not without feeble-pointed spikes of flowers
(Pale orchises), and scared a bright green snake.
The fact is the sweetest dream that labour knows.
My long scythe whispered and left the hay to make.

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