Friday Journal: The World Keeps A'Working

It's been a peaceful time here at the Tiny Farm. Last weekend, Titus and I walked the property with my camera, and we tried to capture the close of summer and the coming autumn. We are in a season of change, there is no doubt. The pears have been picked--at least for the most part. The few stragglers cling to the trees for dear life, turn brown as the worms suck their life from the inside out, as the moths feast on the leathery, sun-tanned skin from the outside in. Every living thing eats; every living thing dies. In the words of Kurt Vonnegut, "and so it goes."

Though a harvest-wasting pestilence, the pear-munching moths are a beautiful subject matter. Their wings resemble the inner-workings of a lava lamp. Waxy, round bubbles rise from the base of their wings. These moths find the deadest pears, the ones whose carcasses are easiest pickings for their winged-coyote jowls. A friend told me once that moths and coyotes should be dispatched before they reproduce. Call me a romantic, but I'd rather document than dispatch.

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One of the pear trees has been stricken by a blight. We intend to call the tree doctor and an arborist, but the truth is, this one has one root in the grave. Of dating relationships, my uncle used to say, "when the horse is dead, dismount." I think the same analogy applies to sickly pear trees. I don't expect to see this one next year unless it's in the wood-burning stove.

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The hazelnuts have clustered up together like green, leafy grapes. Truth is, I've never had a hazelnut tree, and I'm not quite sure when to pick the fruit of its effort. I looked them over for pestilence, but they appear disease and bug free. This might be a minor miracle, but then again, it might just be the nature of this exotic shrub-like tree.

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The thistles have dried up and turned to prickly skulls atop wispy bones. Titus broke the skulls off, cracked them open to reveal what looked like hair growing from the inside down to the tufted seedbed. He scattered the tufted seeds to the wind and laughed without consideration of the fact that he is planting thistles in my yard. I let him have a go at it despite the fact that this will likely create weed control problems in the next spring season. The way I see it, though, the wonder of 3 is a once in a lifetime thing, and it only lasts for a year. I'd rather not crush that wonder.

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Past the thistles, the last of the flowers are hanging on. I don't expect they'll make it more than a few weeks. I tried my best to take them in, but in the process,  Amber called through the open window. "Seth, could you help me with..." she said, and Titus and I turned toward the door, turned to the practical nuts-and-bolts of maintaining a house. The insects and seeds to continued their small work on the Tiny Farm.

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This piece of Ozark land has been working itself for many years now; I expect it will keep working itself for many more. I'm grateful for it.

BOOKS:

I noticed a roughed up copy of Walker Percy's Lost in the Cosmos, The Last Self-Help Book, on the bookshelf last night, pulled it down for sharts and giggles. If you haven't read much Percy, I recommend it. According to the book cover, in 1983 the New York Times said that the book was "charming, whimsical, slyly profound." Boy, were they right.

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As an aside, I'd love to package a novel in this old, pocket paperback style one day. There's something about holding this book that conjures a sense of nostalgia, and the near-hieroglyphic artwork on the cover ushers you back to a time before the Kindle, Nook, and other e-readers. As an aside to the aside, let me encourage you to do a book a favor--visit your local used bookstore and pick up an old pocket paperback (perhaps of the Sci-Fi genre); you'll be glad you did.

LINKS:

Next month, my good friend and fellow writer Preston Yancey is letting releasing his first book, Tables in the Wilderness: A Memoir of God Found, Lost, and Found Again. I've read Tables and let me tell you something--that Preston Yancey can turn a phrase. Is this a book for those who struggle of fitting into their current church setting? Yes. Is it a book for the angsty, college student who's processing his or her place within the church family at large? Yes. Is it a book for Anglicans? Most definitely. The truth is, though, it's a journey book, a coming of age book, a book for everyone.

If you like a good story, fine word pictures, and some musings on the efficacy of holy icons, PREORDER TablesYou'll be glad. I promise.

MUSIC:

There are few groups I enjoy this much.

*****

If you haven't heard the BIG NEWS yet, sign up for the Seth Haines' Tiny Letter: A Compendium of Projects, People, Places, and Things. The Tiny Letter is a personal newsletter sent to subscribers once (sometimes twice) a month, and it highlights my personal projects, a few good folks, the places I go, and the things I like. The inaugural edition--the newsletter containing the BIG NEWS--has already been sent, but if you sign up for the newsletter, I'll forward you a copy!

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Friday Journal: Tiny Farm, Tiny World.

It's been a good week here at the little farm. A neighbor from a few doors down, Buddy, stopped by with his tractor, asked us whether we'd like to have our corn rows cut. The stalks had browned up, and where lush, productive arms had once reached toward the God of the Ozarks, there were only gnarled bones. Amber told Buddy to have at it, and he was down lickety-split with his tractor. He made short work of those dried-up stalks. Buddy left behind an empty garden plot. The summer's vegetation gone, only a few rooting vegetables now lag behind. The boys make good use of the shovels and spades, digging out what's left of the sweet potatoes. Isaac works the big shovel, smiles ear to ear when he hits a run of potatoes and says, "look daddy! I found a big one!" The sweet potatoes are, for the most part, small, and so one the size of a nine-year-old fist is a gem of a find.

IMG_1261.JPG Isaac asks nearly every day whether we can have sweet potatoes for supper. I laugh, tell him he's likely the only child in the history of the world who's begged this much for sweet potatoes. He tells me he's just so proud of his work and wants to taste the product of his labor. His words are a tangible reminder of why we moved to this tiny farm in the first place.

"Let's teach our children to work some land, to see their effort produce something tangible" Amber said when she first saw the listing for the tiny farm. "Yes," I replied, "let's." That was nearly two months ago, and today, we're here. And though we thought we'd have to wait until next summer's harvest for this place to pay off, the previous owner left us the gift of sweet potatoes (and a few watermelons) so that we could taste our dream early.

But it's not all work and no play around here. Our next-door neighbor is a kind and quiet church. They have a basketball court behind the sanctuary, and have given us a standing offer to use it whenever we like. Their property joins ours directly, and in the evenings we walk across the gravel drive and shoot hoops together. Isaac is getting his layups down, while Jude does his best to get the ball up and over the rim. Ian--God bless him--dribbles like he has two left feet for hands, laughs at his own lack of coordination. Titus joins the lot of us, runs onto the court, strips off his shirt and shoes, and yells "pass, pass!" He falls down in laughter at some personal joke that shoots right over our collective heads.

BOOKS:

I was happy to receive Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi, by Richard Rohr, this week. I've been reading a great many books about St. Francis since I gave up the bottle. Last night I began to wonder whether I've replaced my alcohol dependency with a books-about-St. Francis dependency.  Better the latter than the former, I suppose. Anyhow, if you pick up a copy, let me know. I'd love to discuss it with you as I make my way through it.

LINKS:

A friend of mine--a peace-loving Muslim friend--has been posting a great number of articles on ISIS (a/k/a ISIL, a/k/a IS), gaza, and the war in Afghanistan. I check his Facebook feed every morning because he is curating the best articles on the subject. Yesterday he posted this piece about Phil Robertson's comments regarding radical Islam, how he said we should "you have to convert them (which I think would be next to impossible)... or kill them." And though my friend is not a "radical Islamist," (to use Fox News' words) I wonder how he felt about this clip.

Tsh Oxenreider is one great lady. Have you been keeping up with her family as they prepare a year-long globetrotting tip? In preparation, Tsh wrote this piece, "5 Lessons in 37 Years." Take a gander, and remember, "it's not too late to completely change your mind."

MUSIC:

This is where nostalgia and current geopolitics meet:

Thanks for stopping in this week. Have a great weekend!

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If you haven't heard the BIG NEWS yet, sign up for the Seth Haines' Tiny Letter: A Compendium of Projects, People, Places, and Things. The Tiny Letter is a personal newsletter sent to subscribers once (sometimes twice) a month, and it highlights my personal projects, a few good folks, the places I go, and the things I like. The inaugural edition--the newsletter containing the BIG NEWS--has already been sent, but if you sign up for the newsletter, I'll forward you a copy!

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Friday Journal: Tiny Letters and Ironic Post-Hipster Bluebirds

We'd been in the coolest summer snap in all of recorded Ozarkan history before that old dog Summer decided to growl. I’d was bragging to a friend in southern California about how we’d barely broken 90 degrees, was in the midst of really hamming it up when Hades himself decided to visit his fiery wrath upon Fayetteville. He came with a vengeance and brought a sweaty, sweltering electric blanket with him. By-gum if all this heat hasn’t made me half-crazy. Yesterday, I was sitting at my desk when this thought came to roost: I’d like to have a pet bluebird; I’d take it to a tattoo artist and have a human inked on its wing. This, I realize, is probably an impossible thing, but in this age of waning hipster relevancy, it struck me as an ironic post-hipster culture thing to do.

Of course, a friend or two poked fun at the notion. Alex asked exactly what the bluebird would do when its feathers started sagging in old age. I’m not sure if that’s a possible thing for a bluebird, but as my first grade teacher Ms. Burr used to say, “there’s no such thing as a stupid question.” My seventh grade football coach said much the same thing, but added, “only stupid people,” which is neither here nor there for purposes of this discussion. (Or is it, Alex?)

Digressions aside, the heat has gotten to me, has made me long for Autumn here in the Ozarks. Autumn is, without a doubt, my favorite time of year in this fair college-town. The people of Fayetteville love their autumnal sports, Arkansas Razorback football being chief among them, and they drive their Razorback vehicles to and fro, begin to dress exclusively in their University-sanctioned Razorback gear. It is a sight to behold.

Last year, I passed an old man on the town square who was wearing a red suit accented by a Razorback tie with matching pocket square. He wore red bucks and a white straw hat and swung a cane with razorback topper. My gaze must have lingered a little too long, because as we neared each other, he stopped and asked “you think it's a little much?” I chuckled. He chuckled back and offered, “I suppose that was a stupid question.” I looked at him dead in the eye, cocked my head and said “my seventh grade football coach used to say there was no such thing as a stupid question.”

*****BIG NEWS*****

I’ve had a good time here at SethHaines.com. In the past few years, I’ve enjoyed the community that’s gathered around the virtual fireplace, that’s stretched into my poetry, prose, and general ramblings. And though I don’t plan on going anywhere, I’m starting a new side project—a Tiny Letter.

“What’s a Tiny Letter?”

I’m glad you asked (or rather allowed me ask for you).

The Tiny Letter is my monthly (sometimes bi-monthly) newsletter in which I’ll be discussing everything from my personal creative projects, to my favorites in music, books, poetry, and general creative tomfoolery. I’ll likely introduce you to a friend or two, and perhaps give you the inside scoop on the places I go. I’ll be a little less filtered, and will deal in greater depth with my struggles in coming clean from dependency and addiction. The Tiny Letter will be delivered directly to your inbox, and you’ll be able to respond by way of email.

In September’s Tiny Letter, I’ll be breaking some fairly big news (as far as I’m concerned, anyway), and the scoop will only be available to my Tiny Letter subscribers. So, if you’d like to join this little community, subscribe here:

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And for those of you who haven’t yet subscribed to receive my blog content in your inbox, allow your eyes to wander to the left hand side of the screen. See that red box? Enter your email and subscribe for my blog updates. (You know you want to.)

*****

Today, I'm refraining from sharing any links. Instead, let us turn our thoughts today to Martin Luther King.

*Photo by Doug Wertman, Creative Commons via Flickr.

Friday Diary: Forgetting Ferguson

Friday Journal

"Every time in history that men and women have been able to respond to the events of their world as an occasion to change their hearts, an inexhaustible source of generosity and new life has been opened, offering hope far beyond the limits of human prediction." Henri Nouwen, Reaching Out

I said to a friend, "in six months, when the cameras roll out of Ferguson and the news coverage shifts to some other world injustice, I'm afraid we'll forget." It was a very white, middle-class American thing to say, the words of one who owns a small but lush one acre homestead boasting peonies, hazelnut trees, and an ample garden.The stalks of corn and maples are the only things always reaching for the sky here, and police brutality is a non-notion.

Forgotten, I said, and the stark contrast of the word against the images I've seen in the recent Ferguson news coverage left me embarrassed. I consider the police playing Afghanistan dress-up, firing teargas canisters and rubber bullets into a crowd. I consider the images of women flushing their eyes with milk. I consider the images of hurled molotov cocktails. How can such a thing be unremembered? How can such a thing be reduced to a footnote in the collective consciousness of country, much less in my own life?

The stark reality is this: forgetting such a thing is the luxury of those living a life of convenient short-term memory.

I don't want to forget Ferguson. I want it to be an etched memory, one which leads me to keep my ears to the ground. I want to keep listening to those living a wholly different American experience, and to show generosity in understanding their particular reality. And yes, I used the word "reality."

I'm not quite sure how the remembering will look, but I hope it gives rise to an "inexhaustible source of generosity." Maybe if enough of us remember, we can work together toward creating a better, more generous reality. Maybe that's romantic idealism, but some ideals are worth chasing.

I'm just a middle-class white fella in Northwest Arkansas. I'm not a frontline journalist or an urban dweller. I'm not a policy maker or pundit, not a historian or history-maker. I'm just a normal joe, and I'm promising not to forget the folks of Ferguson.

*****

A Few Good Weekend Links:

1. "When Going There Means Going There," by Deidra Riggs;

2. "Because it's not #Ferguson. It's Ferguson." Preston Yancey, "When We Go Quietly?";

3. "Don’t let me bury my son alone. I don’t want the cameras, reporters, bloggers there. No tweets required. But friends – come." Kelley Nikondeha, "The Scars of Our Sons";

4. "I once read of a sort of euphoria that overtakes the body in drowning."  On Rest and Stillness, by Guy Martin Delcambre.