“Nobody wanted your dance, Nobody wanted your strange glitter – your floundering Drowning life and your effort to save yourself, Treading water, dancing the dark turmoil” ~ Ted Hughes, from “God Help the Wolf after Whom the Dogs Do Not Bark”
Sunday afternoon, partly cloudy and quite warm, 90 degrees.
Yesterday was the birthday of notable British poet Ted Hughes (August 17, 1930-October 28, 1998).
I know that I said I would continue the NRA post today, but I just can’t. I need a break. I worked on that frigging post for over eight hours, and my body hasn’t recovered. When I get into intense writing mode, I don’t pay attention to my posture, and I tend to sit with all of my muscles tensed. Of course, the result is that I pay for it afterwards. Today my shoulders are a bundle of knots, as is my lower back, which negates any relief I may have gotten from the trigger point injections.
I’m still awaiting a prior authorization on my Robaxin (muscle relaxer), which is what I take during the day, every day. I really need that. Well, that, or a masseuse. Don’t have either at the moment.
Corey and I both got a lot done yesterday: I wrote a thoroughly researched article, and he finished the fence on the back pasture for the goats. Hoorah, hoorah.
Anyway, back to Ted Hughes, who some of you may know as the husband of the poet Sylvia Plath; their marriage and her suicide negatively colored his reputation as a writer until his death, but he was incredibly talented in his own right. Unfortunately for Hughes, the woman for whom he left Plath, Assia Wevill, killed herself and their 4-year-old daughter Shura after Plath’s death. Hughes spent the remainder of his life writing and farming with his second wife, Carol Orchard.
If you want to know more about Hughes and Plath, the 2008 book The Letters of Ted Hughes is a great read, as is his 1998 book Birthday Letters. I own the latter but not the former; it’s on my wish list. I enjoy reading the correspondence of writers as the majority of them lay themselves bare in notes and letters. It always strikes me as being much more immediate than a biography.
You can find a good biography here on the Poetry Foundation site. The Paris Review interviewed Hughes for its “Art of Poetry Series” (No. 71) in 1995. You can find the article here. In the following quote Hughes discusses how location affected his writing, something I am always pondering myself:
Ever since I began to write with a purpose I’ve been looking for the ideal place. I think most writers go through it.
. . . When I came back to England, I think the best place I found in that first year or two was a tiny cubicle at the top of the stairs that was no bigger than a table really. But it was a wonderful place to write. I mean, I can see now, by what I wrote there, that it was a good place.
I chose “A Woman Unconscious,” the poem below, because once again, its content seems so timely, especially in light of the recent nuclear missile explosion in Russia
More later. Peace.
A Woman Unconscious
Russia and America circle each other;
Threats nudge an act that were without doubt
A melting of the mould in the mother,
Stones melting about the root.The quick of the earth burned out:
The toil of all our ages a loss
With leaf and insect. Yet flitting thought
(Not to be thought ridiculous)Shies from the world-cancelling black
Of its playing shadow: it has learned
That there’s no trusting (trusting to luck)
Dates when the world’s due to be burned;
That the future’s no calamitous change
But a malingering of now,
Histories, towns, faces that no
Malice or accident much derange.
And though bomb be matched against bomb,
Though all mankind wince out and nothing endure —
Earth gone in an instant flare —
Did a lesser death come
Onto the white hospital bed
Where one, numb beyond her last of sense,
Closed her eyes on the world’s evidence
And into pillows sunk her head.
But this is the very condition of existence. To become spring, means accepting the risk of winter. To become presence, means accepting the risk of absence . . .” ~ Antoine de Saint Exupéry, from The Little Prince
Monday afternoon, partly sunny, 82 degrees.
Well yesterday was interesting. Temperatures in Roanoke were hotter, and the AC in the truck doesn’t work; by the time we got home, my eyes were dry and hurting from the wind coming in the windows. We picked up the two female Nubian goats. They already have names: Sylvia and Roberta. Sylvia I can handle, but Roberta? Never liked that name. She’s young enough that maybe we can switch her name to Bobby. We’ll see.
Unfortunately, Sylvia had her babies prematurely, and neither survived. One died on Saturday, and the other died before we got there yesterday. Bobby is still pregnant, so we’re hoping that everything goes okay with her. The woman from whom we bought them says that she thinks it may have been a mineral deficiency. As Bobby is Sylvia’s daughter, we know that Sylvia can have successful pregnancies, so at least there’s that.
All of the animals were worked up by the time we got home. Tillie and Bailey went for each other, but luckily, Corey and I were both on hand to break it up. Roland is hoarse today, so he must have been bleating for hours, which makes me feel guilty, but we couldn’t take him with us because we thought we’d be bringing a baby goat home. At the moment, Roland thinks that he’s one of the dogs; it will be interesting once he’s bigger to see if he still acts the same way—i.e., wanting to take an afternoon nap on the couch.
“Not only rational and irrational, but even inanimate creatures have a voice, and speak loudly to men, and it is our duty to learn their language, and hearken to them.” ~ Ralph Austen, from The Spiritual Use of an Orchard or Garden of Fruit Trees
We’ve learned that the temperatures here on the ridge tend to be a bit cooler than surrounding areas. I think that it’s because we’re pretty much situated in a bowl, so we always have a good breeze. The downside is that breeze can really be a fierce wind at times. We’ve been discussing shelter issues for the outside animals, and we had talked about one of those metal buildings, but I’m afraid that if it isn’t fixed properly, the wind will just pick it up and drop it.
More than once we’ve wished that we could have a barn building like the Amish. Remember that beautiful scene from the Harrison Ford movie Witness? But we’re missing one or two of the key components for such a thing: people and lumber.
Ah me . . .
Yesterday, just as we were getting ready to leave for Roanoke, Dallas showed up. I knew that he would because Corey had slipped and told him that we were going to Roanoke. I was afraid that he’d come while we were gone to try to take Sassy back, but he didn’t bring the horse trailer. Instead, he said that he was coming to fish in the ponds, which is fine, as long as he doesn’t try to take back the last horse that we have.
“I must wash myself clean with abstract thoughts, transparent as water.” ~ Jean-Paul Sartre, from Nausea
I took the opportunity of having him in front of me to confront Dallas about still having Napoleon, but he claims that he still needs him for stud. Originally, he had told me that he’d only have Napoleon for two weeks, but I should know by now that he just tells you what he thinks you want to hear and that the truth rarely escapes his lips. I did tell him that Sassy is lonely as horses need the company of other horses, and I pointed out how overgrown the pasture is getting, so he ultimately agreed to bring over some more horses. We’ll just have to see, I suppose.
Look, I know that technically, the horses belong to him; I’m not unaware of the reality. But we take much better care of the animals that are here than he ever could, not to mention the fact that when he first brought the horses here, he said that he was giving them to me. But again, it’s the matter of him saying one thing while meaning something completely different. We’ve learned that he has a habit of taking things back when he gets mad at someone; he’s done it repeatedly with different people—he giveth and then he taketh away.
Dallas is a prime example of being both a boon and a curse. And quite frankly, we’ve had way to many curses in the last few years. I tire of them. I tire of never getting ahead, never making forward progress.
“Animals, at least, don’t experience fear until it’s upon them, immediately. But our nerve reactions can convey worry about the future, until the fear insinuates itself into the present, into everything.” ~ Sylvia Plath, from a letter to Eddie Cohen, September 11, 1950
We hit rain on the way home even though the forecast had not called for any, and then as we neared the ridge, it was apparent that there had been a big storm while we were gone. I think that’s part of the reason the dogs were so riled when we got home. Tillie is very afraid of storms, especially if no one is around to comfort her, and I think that Bailey senses that unease.
As we came down the drive, the trees were heavy with rain. So everything was close to the sides of the drive, almost as it was the first time that we came to the ridge, and everything was so overgrown. At least the gas company fixed the part of the drive that had washed out, but they just cut into the side of the mountain, which is essentially compacted soil, so it’s a temporary fix at best. The next big wind and rain storm will undoubtedly wash out more. It would be nice if they’d build up the embankment with rock, but unfortunately, we have no control over what they do with the drive.
I saw the big excavator that the company had parked on the side after carving more of the mountain side on the drive, and I told Corey that it’s too bad that we don’t know how to hot wire it and use it for a few days. We could scoop up some of the loose gravel that’s around the wells and dump it on the drive. Or we could dig out a hole for an in-ground pool. I’ve always wanted to drive something like an excavator—how awesome would that be? It’s an interesting fantasy.
“The sky is lowering and black, a strange blue-blackness, which makes red houses pink, and green leaves purple. Over the blowing purple trees, the sky is an iron-blue, split with forks of straw-yellow. The thunder breaks out of the sky with a crash, and rumbles away in a long, hoarse drag of sound.” ~ Amy Lowell, from “Before the Storm (III)”
This morning the dogs were doing their fierce, alert barks, and Corey looked out the window to see a bear in the pasture again. Oddly enough, Sassy didn’t seem to be afraid of it. She was at the trough and took a few steps towards the bear. I’m hoping that it’s the same bear and not another one. Knowing that one bear is nearby is unnerving enough; I’d hate to have to wonder about several.
I do wonder, though, where he or she was hibernating; I’m hoping the bear is male because a female with cubs can be very vicious when in protection mode. We haven’t really come upon any caves in our walks, but I would imagine that there have to be some around here. Here’s hoping the dogs will be enough to keep the bear from coming too close. Corey says that Llamas and Alpacas are good to have for herd protection. That’s something to think about for the future.
The future is something I don’t really want to think about at the moment. We find ourselves in a precarious position yet again, and truthfully, I’m really tired of living this way, never really knowing how we’re going to survive, pay the bills. The fear of losing everything yet again never seems to be far away, and the really weird aspect of all of this is that I know that we make more money than many people around here, and trust me when I say that living on my disability is not making a lot of money.
Again, I know that if we can survive the year, that things will change, that getting started on a farm is precarious at best, but damn I’m tired of precarious. I’m tired of always worrying. I suppose I’m just tired, but who isn’t any more?
More later. Peace.
Music by Welshly Arms, “Legendary”
The Trees are Down
—and he cried with a loud voice: Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees— (Revelation)
They are cutting down the great plane-trees at the end of the gardens.
For days there has been the grate of the saw, the swish of the branches as they fall,
The crash of the trunks, the rustle of trodden leaves,
With the ‘Whoops’ and the ‘Whoas,’ the loud common talk, the loud common laughs of the men, above it all.
I remember one evening of a long past Spring
Turning in at a gate, getting out of a cart, and finding a large dead rat in the mud of the drive.
I remember thinking: alive or dead, a rat was a god-forsaken thing,
But at least, in May, that even a rat should be alive.
The week’s work here is as good as done. There is just one bough
On the roped bole, in the fine grey rain,
Green and high
And lonely against the sky.
And but for that,
If an old dead rat
Did once, for a moment, unmake the Spring, I might never have thought of him again.
It is not for a moment the Spring is unmade to-day;
These were great trees, it was in them from root to stem:
When the men with the ‘Whoops’ and the ‘Whoas’ have carted the whole of the whispering loveliness away
Half the Spring, for me, will have gone with them.
It is going now, and my heart has been struck with the hearts of the planes;
Half my life it has beat with these, in the sun, in the rains,
In the March wind, the May breeze,
In the great gales that came over to them across the roofs from the great seas.
There was only a quiet rain when they were dying;
They must have heard the sparrows flying,
And the small creeping creatures in the earth where they were lying—