Art, Poetry, Music, and Nature for the New Year
Thursday, February 11 2021
The Reverend Dr. Katie Snipes Lancaster
Blessed are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers; but their delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law they meditate day and night. They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper. Psalm 1:1–3
The photo on Laura Grace Weldon’s twitter account is her with a goofy look on her face and a stack of books piled on her head. I love it when poets don’t have to take themselves too seriously. She calls herself a “writer, poet, editor, farm wench, wonder junkie, awkward empathy, failed hermit.”
As a farmer she says, “In our rural area, those who have a full-time occupation tend to describe themselves by their primary occupation with the tagline ‘and I farm.’ Women who farm are even less likely to call themselves farmers. I understand. Words have power. Perhaps overusing the term “farmer” diminishes a status earned through grueling and often thankless labor. Shake anyone’s family tree and you’re likely to find farmers down most branches. Their farms often fed no more than their own families, but our farming ancestors were remarkably self-reliant in ways now lost to us. The average person possessed an extraordinary range of skills in order to keep tools and implements in good repair; livestock healthy and productive; family members clothed and cared for from birth to death; food planted, harvested, and stored. It’s more than a crying shame that the average person’s productivity would likely come to a sudden halt with the loss of electricity. People who farm, even if harvesting enough to feed only their families, are at the cutting edge of a new revolution. Daily experience helps them understand more directly the perfect intersection of water, soil, and sunlight necessary to create food.”
She asks us to remember the farmers in our family tree and then in her poem Forgetting Names, Weldon remembers how easy it is to forget. She traces the more spiritual experiences of vastness and mindful thoughtlessness alongside the wild but ordinary human name of a vet (…was it Dave?) skittering across her memory, forgotten or not yet unearthed. At the center, a cow with a fever. She blesses the ordinary—farm and farm animal alike.
God of the most ordinary, bless the farmers, bless the grueling thankless labor, bless the feverish cow, bless my skittering memory, bless the vast and perfect remembering. Amen.
“Forgetting Names,” by Laura Grace Weldon
I can’t call up the familiar name
of our vet, who walked out back
with us through heavy snow
to check our feverish cow
in this day’s quickening darkness.
My skittering memory
only shows me
his thick hair and kind gaze,
his hand gently resting
on our old dog’s head,
a blessing easily bestowed.
No name comes to my lips
a space in my mind
prompts the letter D.
I drift into that space
like a fish free of a net
swims gratefully into open waters.
There I remain, no thought at all
for long moments, when somewhere
behind my eyelids I see
a complicated garment
sagging at the shoulders
where it’s held
as if by invisible hands.
I know this
is the lifetime my soul wears.
Vastness like a perfect secret
stays with me
as I open my eyes,
remembering of course
we’re outfitted in ordinary guises,
going by names
as if simply human.
And I recall the name he wears.