Archive for June, 2008

Reporting in from summer at home. Every day i’ve spent at least a couple of hours outside doing manual labor. Can hardly wait to get out there each hot afternoon. Today’s (Saturday’s) to-do list, read as follows: cut sweet gums (meaning, using lopping shears to knock down a thick growth of saplings, hundreds of them, just west of my house in what should be a pine thicket; a task that has already taken days and will take a good number more), move stumps behind house (meaning just that, moving oversized firewood stumps that have been piled up behind my house for a couple of years; maybe 20 of them), weedeat for Dad at their house, cut and split firewood (meaning the continuation of chainsawing a downed red oak tree into firewood length and splitting pieces with a maul), and trim vines around the house porch. …  By 5:00 this afternoon, i had cut sweetgums for a couple of hours and pretty much finished with the cutting and splitting of firewood.  …  i’m exhausted and happy. Seems like pretty uneventful work to write about but, really, it is as satisfying as writing a song. Maybe you can explain it. … 

   Interesting image: splitting firewood in the suffocating heat of June. …

  The forest is good company to keep and full of the noticeable.

              A line of poetry, fresh read, by Wendell Berry stands out to me:

              “I sing

              Where the water striders walk like Christ,

              All sons of God.”


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Caleb married Amanda yesterday. My nephew has a bride, she a husband. At the rehearsal on Friday night, brother Gary and i played a song written just for them, in which we excommunicated Caleb from the BOB, the Brotherhood of Bachelors. It was, fear not, a happy song. In the course of typing it up on the computer, i accidentally hit a wrong key. …  It’s interesting how the mistaken word is sometimes so much more appropriate or descriptive than the one originally intended. i meant to type “wedding” but got “weeding” instead. It seems to fit pretty perfectly. Marriage is a garden, a more complete human, in the making; from the outside looking in, matrimony is a tool, a good one, for exposing, rooting out, replacing the unfruitful with something good. I’m praying that these two find the work pleasant, rewarding and as painless as possible. Thankfully, the weeds are young ones and, hopefully, have shallow roots

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i’m at day four of 7 weeks at home and, even with the heat, am thoroughly enjoying the sense of being settled. Travel makes it hard for me be fully here and also keeps my stomach full of butterflies, something that i thought i’d be over by now. So far, i’ve had things i want to get done each day but there’s no rush, no deadline, no need to wear a watch. This morning, after the weekly porch gathering here at my place, i wrote a song for my nephew Caleb’s wedding rehearsal party tomorrow night (may be we’ll video it for the site), picked blueberries for an hour or so, practiced tomorrow night’s song with Gary (he’ll play banjo), and then spent most of the very hot afternoon cutting down hundreds of sweetgum trees with hand held lopping shears. i’m happily worn out just now, ready to read a bit and to quietly end a full, tiring, pleasant day.

              One thought occurred to me as i worked outside today. This time of year, snakes are something to always be on the lookout for. There are sticks everywhere on the forest floor just now and no small number of them look very snakish. More than once, i found myself jumping back at what i thought was reptile, when it was in fact only tree branch. Even dropped the shears one time and ran when i was convinced i heard a rattle. The longer i worked, the more comfortable i got, and the less vigilant i was. No, i didn’t see a snake or get struck, but it did occur to me —  as long as all the sticks look like snakes, i’ll be OK because i’ll be careful. When all the sticks look like sticks, or worse, when i stop paying attention to them at all, i’m in trouble. …  i believe Annie Dillard uses a phrase – sensible to conditions – that describes an awareness of the world around us. A little caution, in this jungle we live in day to day, is a wise state of mind. Never know what venomous thing is out there to catch us unawares.

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Quick thanks to folks who shared Saturday and Sunday evening with Bebo Norman and myself in Columbus. Columbus is where both of us grew up. Hamilton is about 20 miles north of there. The River Center for the Performing Arts is a remarkable venue. Fill the room with people who love one another, who love the same things (which just happen to be the right things), and who listen with their hearts and it’s hard to have a bad night. Bebo accurately pointed out though that playing for hometown people is a bit unnerving because they’ve grown up with you and know so much about you. The typical scenario of “blow into strange town and look your best for a few hours before blowing out of it again” doesn’t work very well when you know you might bump into many of those same people in your day-to-day stay-at-home life. The folks we played for this weekend though, knowing as much as they do about us, are forgiving, gracious, and were delightful to be with. If you happen to have been one of them, thanks much.

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Agrarian writer Wendell Berry has been encouraged to get a computer, to ‘help’ him with his writing. He responds that it would be to get a solution for a problem he doesn’t have. … This blog just might that same thing for me, but in a nod to the marvels of technology and as part of an intervention to deal with website stagnation, we’re giving it a go. At this point, i’m really quite excited about the prospects. … My objective and earnest intention is to write frequently, in small bites, about goings on, books read, songs written, conversations encountered, and people met. If you’ll stop by every few days, i’ll try to have something new for you to chew on. Thanks much

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