Sunday, 16 February 2014

Blast from the Past

I just stumbled across a poem that I wrote a long time ago....almost exactly 10 years to the day  (February 2004).  In the absence of making any kind of New Year's resolutions I thought that maybe I reflect on this and see if I'm being consistent with the kind of life I envisioned a decade ago, when I was a scraggly haired hippie, living on a farm and studying Latin poetry in graduate school.  A lot has changed obviously, but I think I still identify with the core values that I wrote about back then.  You have to get past the bad poetry, but I think i was kind of writing a manifesto of sorts on the idea of simplicity and authenticity.  As Kierkegaard wrote, "Whoever you are, eternity asks you just one thing: whether you have lived authentically or not."  The title refers to an ancient Greek political/philosophical concept roughly translated as 'self-rule', or what might be extrapolated to self-reliance or self-sufficiency (I was reading a lot of RW Emerson at the time). Some of this stuff is still what I'm trying to convey with this blog.  I.e. the real good shit in life (be that in the realm of fitness or more broadly) doesn't have to cost anything.  It isn't complicated or hard to grasp.  It's right in front of you at all times, if you care to see it.  I look at this poem now and I see a lot that still resonates with me today.  When I wrote this, those 'straw-haired children' were just a glimmer in my mind's eye, still many years off.  But nowadays, with them 5 and 3-years-old and growing so fast (although only one has blonde hair), I still can't think of a happier way to spend a day than sitting beside them, putting worms on hooks and tossing lines into the water.

Split wood, blow life into woolen hands,
frosty beard.
Stalk deer in the crackling dawn
of November.
Study overnight cottontail triad prints in the soft powder,
piecing together the scene.
Drink Lapsang Souchong on a stump in the vernal woods.
Wade swift trout streams with your straw-haired children.
Gather cattail pollen by bicycle, shaking seedheads into Tupperware,
Bake golden bread.
Sprout mung beans and lentils in glass jars on the windowsill.
Build a stanchion from scrap wood,
To milk your goats.
Pick beets and kohlrabi,
Steam and eat with butter.
Gather acorns from the white oak, boil out the tannins
Several times.
Learn to carve wood like your grandfather.
Build wind turbines like your great-uncle did
In dust bowl Saskatchewan nineteen thirties,
Outta the rear axle of an old Ford van.
Learn the plants,
Gather mallows as Hesiod did, and lamb’s quarters,
Mint for headaches, wild ginger for the stomach,
Plantain and spotted touch-me-not for stings.
Clip fiery blossoms of staghorn sumac,
For sun tea, sweetened with honey from your hives.
Plant a Linden tree for the bees,
Learn the craft from Aristaeus,
Smoke from burnt sumac calms them.
Waft sunset clove cigarettes,
Reclining on porch steps.
Learn the language of birds,
Coverse with crickets in the dewy crepuscule.
Re-use everything.
Catch rainwater in beautiful glass vessels.
Save seeds.
Scribble poems on rafters,
Read Milton by firelight,
Watching wax drip from the candelabra.
Shudder beneath Orion
And the inky black of January skies
To glimpse chimney smoke and the brilliance
Of undulating snowbanks refracting the moonlight.
Make noontime love in the summer grass
Backs of your knees sweating.
Take long hesperial walks along dusty roads,
Holding your wife’s slender hand.
Feed your chickens
Grains and crushed eggshells, like your grandmother said to.
Cut lilac sprigs for the kitchen table
Stain your teeth violet
With wild grape wine
And howl at the coyotes.
Value simplicity.

- DB (2004)

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