Selasa, 06 Mei 2008

May 6

Tommy is working on a....contraption. It' s a cardboard box he brought home from school, it's in the driveway, and it is somehow going to be used at the cottage next winter, though I haven't completely deciphered the details. He is applying tinfoil to the base right now, in preparation for something. There is also a ball of yarn, a roll of tape, and an empty shampoo bottle involved. I am sitting on the porch. We had hoped to visit my Grandpa, who is 103 today, but as it turns out I don't have a car. I got a flat on my way home from work. I had a flat tire in February, and one in April. I think I should be all set now until June.

I am sorry to miss out on a trip over to my Grandpa's, but it is a beautiful day and being carless is one letter away from being "careless," which, if thought about in the right sort of way, is being without cares, or "carefree." The afternoon feels restful and calm. I pulled out a collection of Linda Pastan's poems and read, among others, "Dreaming of Rural America." It made me think of "Sweet Land," which we rented recently. It's a great movie: slow and deliberate, with grand, sweeping shots of Minnesota farmland. The Norwegian bachelor farmer (not, actually, a Garrison Keillor character) is the sort of farmer Wendell Berry might write about. It is time for me to return to some of Berry's work, and to his imagined community of Coulters and Feltners and Beechums and Catletts. "Sweet Land" features a wrenching farm auction scene, redeemed, in the end, by the Norwegian bachelor farmer, who says a few times, "farming and money don't mix." Oh, what a movie. Here is some of Pastan's poem:

I want to enter the ticking heart
of the country and in a rental car
drive for miles past fields scored
with the history of wind; past
silos, those inland lighthouses,
where corn smolders to golden dust.
I want an RD number and a tin mailbox
filled with flowers instead of letters.
I want to bathe in a porcelain tub
under a ceiling sloping towards heaven,
and farmyard smells will drift
through the window like notes
of pungent country music.
When I am scrubbed clean,
let a child who has searched
the barn for the perfect egg
offer it to me on her open palm
as if it were the gift of a jewel
on a velvet cushion. In the dream
of rural America, farmers have lost
the knack of despair.

The knack of despair! And there I stop and think of my Grandpa, who is 103 today, and who, to my knowledge, has never shown despair. My Uncle Stan remembers bringing in apples on a cold October night, after dark. My uncle was young -- in high school, I suppose -- and he was worried about the harvest that might be lost. He told my grandpa the apples were starting to freeze, and my grandpa listened, looked out at the orchard and up at the sky and the moon, and said, "Well Stan, it's a beautiful night."

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