Artful Land Care

Tomorrow

In Poetry on May 19, 2019 at 10:00 am

Should reincarnation include animals,
then I hope for the duck.
What life is so wonderful,
as one who can swim,
fly, and walk.

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April

In Landscape on April 28, 2019 at 10:00 am

When the sun warms and turns to April there is little reason to travel far from home.  Yet spring is the time of year when church, business, and non-profit meetings come out of the woodwork.  Created within each of us, I imagine, is a springgene of sorts kicking in an emotional calling to engage in spiritual search.  Sometimes with others.  Sometimes alone.  After winter’s indoor confinement and outdoors heavy coat and boots and pants and gloves, the light jacket of spring pulls upon an ancient inclination to watch newborn grass break ground, rabbits browsing upon breaking leaves of greasewood, or a hawk catching an updraft.  However, much life has shifted from the body’s seasonal nature; too often we are left with little more than meetings and conferences to fill our post-winter emotional and spiritual needs.

Luck has it my away from home April meetings were canceled.  Allowing springs call to give an ear to wind and an eye to landscape.  Such good fortune should not be wasted but known for the joy to use winter’s learned skills of living quietly and slowly.  In this season of rapid change, a bit of gentle listening and watching may just bring one close as Creation crafts birth, remembrance, and reconciliation. Yesterday’s mundane of cold and motionless explodes in this season—minutes, hours, days—to movement and action.  To miss a spring moment is to miss a multitude of unknowns.  The thought has me turn my collar up against a light but chilly breeze, leave the farm behind, and walk toward the ridge.

The drainage ditch is flowing unhurriedly as I reach it.  A hen mallard slips from the reeds and ten hatchlings furiously paddle behind her. She stops paddling, the current carries her down through the brood to the last hatchling, she groups them up and moves them further upstream away from me.  A good move, the ridge is downstream.  I turn and walk away from them.

To the east a farm still has three-foot cornstalk in the field from Novembers harvest.  Folk have turned cow-calf pairs into the field who now feed on  the dry cornstalk.  Grasses will soon have the height and sugars to become this season’s feed.  Maybe the stalk will be enough, without buying more feed, to get the cattle to grass.  The farmer to the west has stored feed remaining and is busy discing last fall’s cornstalk into the dirt.  With a steady sound of a tractor behind me I reach the old wood-plank bridge that crosses a branch of Toppenish creek.

The creek is high, but its movement even less visible than that of the ditch.  Cresting its banks sometime in the last few days, the creek tells the flood plain of warmer weather upstream.  The road on the other side of the bridge has water flowing over it for the next thirty feet or better.  Crossing to dry road means getting wet.  Just how wet depends if water comes over my boot tops.  I take the chance and hope for no more than two or three inches of water.  A couple steps and I know luck isn’t mine today as boots fill with water who remembers itself as melting snow forty miles upstream.  Fine then.  I’ll count on a decent circulatory system and feet warming boot water.  Soon.  At water’s edge I leave the dirt road and walk downstream.  Finding a piece of ground twenty feet from a small eddy I sit down. Grasses rise above my head.

Ditch Bank

In Landscape, Seasons on March 21, 2019 at 7:02 am

 

My experience of spring seldom has much to do with the vernal equinox.  Most years the landscape has warmed to spring well ahead of the equinox.  Others afterwards.  Seldom does the feel of landscape match the relationship between sun and earth.  Not so this year.

The snow melt-off has begun.  Spring grass may be long off but sinew of arms and legs feel the green lying in the ground.  I give thought to folk still residing in the clutches of sub-zero weather and snow, but it slips away as fast as I slip on ice hiding below the melting slush.  Unstable footing is life for the next few weeks as slush turns to the ground below to miserably cold mud.  Mud that clutches boot just long enough for either the foot to slip out or the body to lose balance.  Either way, mud becomes intimate sooner or later.  No reason to complain though.  Just a few days ago it seemed winter had a good mind to hang on through spring’s season—leave spring out in the cold—and meet summer for the first time.  Sun had a different opinion and I am happier for it.

East-west ditch banks know this lingering transition of winter and spring better than anyone. The sun and earths relation may be in equinox, but ditch banks in this landscape know the sun’s mid-day run lingers to the southern horizon.  The north ditch bank who faces the sun knows it well and welcomes its heat.  Soon a sliver of ground breaks through the snow. As that bit of dirt warms the sliver spreads and soon the north ditch bank is clear.  The southern bank who faces north tells a very different story. Sunlight leans over its back on its way to the northern bank without so much as a hello.  Lying in its own shadow the southern bank looks to the north with an icy stare.

A natural truth resides in the east and west ditch bank relationship.  They are sister and brother of their home ditch.  They are birthed of one dirt.  They have the same spring water running past their shoulders. Yet in this season they are treated differently.  They experience two different worlds.  Associated life is similar.  North bank worms know warming spring ground while southern worms continue to live in winters grasp.

A thing or two from east-west ditch banks.  We are birthed of one landscape, one valley, one continent, one earth, one creation.  We carry the same imagination, same inhibitions, same fears, same sanctity.  Contrary to what many of us would like to think, nothing sets one human apart from another, except the ditch-bank.  In our raising we find ourselves on two sides of one ridgeline, two sides of one track, different sides of one city, experiencing sun and shade, wet and dry and wet, hope and despair similarly but differently.  Little wonder our culture is different from our kin’s just across the way.

Ditch banks may be no more than dirt, but on this spring day they help us recognize folk who think and act differently than ourselves as kin. For after all, each of us are little more than walking dirt of the ditch-bank.