Tuesday, August 16, 2005

To every thing there is a season

Composting Time
By Verlyn Klinkenborg
One of the reasons I moved to the country was to try to have a more deliberate awareness of time. I imagined a sugar maple coming into bud in spring, then leafing out and darkening into the overshadowing presence a maple becomes in midsummer. I imagined watching it lose its leaves in fall and somehow banking what I'd seen, as if those images would help me experience time more fully.

But I had no idea how much time the country contains. I thought the seasons would come and go and that that is what I would pay most attention to. Instead, I find myself watching what the seasons leave behind.

When we moved here, nearly eight years ago, an old honeylocust loomed over the vegetable garden. Its ashes have long since been spread. A pair of white spruces are beginning to tower over me, though I planted them as whips. There are finally apples - 11 of them - on young trees not far away. The posts in the rail fence beside them have just about reached the end of their useful life.

I think of myself, naturally enough, as the still point amid all this change. My leaves never fall. If I lie fallow for a while, I'm not suddenly overcome with nettles and vagabond hollyhocks, as is the vegetable garden. The ducks and geese molt, the horses hair up and shed, but my coat is constant.

I have banked nothing, or everything. Every day the chores need doing again. Early in the morning I clean the horse pen with a manure fork. Every morning it feels as though it could be the day before or a year ago or a year before that. With every pass, I give the fork one final upward flick to keep the manure from falling out, and every day I remember where I learned to do that and from whom. Time all but stops. But then I dump the manure on the compost pile. I bring out the tractor and turn the pile, once every three or four days. The bucket bites and lifts, and steam comes billowing out of the heap as though I had set it on fire. It is my assurance that time is really moving forward - and decomposing us all in the process.

NY Times, 8/15/2005

For more on this theme, read Ecclesiastes, Chapter 3, or one of my favorites by Robert Frost on the impermanence of things, and of human labors, The Woodpile.


Blogger Mac said...

Ah--also Aldo Leopold, Annie Dillard, or Henry David Thoreau.

This was lovely, Schroeder. Thank you.

9:24 PM  
Blogger Schroeder said...

Thanks Mac. Are there any titles that come to mind. I've read Thoreau - in college. That was years ago.

Being interested in environmentally sustainable land use as a grad student, and being from Wisconsin, A Sand County Almanac was an inspiration.


8:43 AM  
Blogger Mac said...

Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek might be a book you'd like. A Sand County Almanac was the title I was thinking of, from Leopold. :)

4:33 AM  
Blogger Schroeder said...

Thanks Mac. I appreciate the recommendation. I've jotted it down, and will look it up.

11:36 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home