I'm no poet. Far from it. But I guess I have some poetic inclinations. Just look at the title of this blog post. It's got "poetry" right there in the damn title!
Anyway, what poetry really means to me is feeling something subtly indistinct, yet decidedly real, in an everyday activity. Today that activity was doing some mowing of open areas on our ten acres in rural south Salem, Oregon.
l use a walk-behind DR Field Mower with the lawn mower attachment. I used to put on the field mower attachment once a year to cut grass after it had gotten really tall by early July. But that was a lot of work, and now that I'm 71, for several years I've been leaving the lawnmower attachment on, raising the blade height as far as possible, and cutting tall grass that way.
I just need to mow the fields, or open areas, two or three times a year rather than just once. With two blades, rather than the one on the field mower attachment, the mowing goes quicker. And the wheels on the front of the lawn mower attachment mean much less wrestling of the DR Field Mower.
Everybody else in our rural neighborhood uses lawn tractors, or actual tractors, to mow their fields. However, I like the increased intimacy of my walk-behind mower. When we moved here in 1990, for a few years I used a John Deere lawn tractor. It would get stuck in muddy areas, though. And I worried about it tipping over on steep slopes.
This is the just-cut Bamboo Field past the rear deck of our house. The clump of non-spreading bamboo on the right of the photo was planted by me from bamboo that i brought from the house in Salem that I lived in before Laurel and got married in our current house back in 1990.
When I maneuver the mower past it, walking by at a slow mowing speed, I enjoy how the bamboo got transplanted at about the same time as Laurel and I pulled up our connection with where we'd been living before and made the commitment to a fresh life together -- me after getting divorced, Laurel after being single until our marriage.
There'a a lot of fear and anxiety going around these days. Entirely justified. COVID-19 often kills. Or causes people great suffering. Watching the news on television is something I can't stop doing, because I want to know what's going on. Mowing helps keep me sane.
The grass is growing this year just as it does every year. Green and fast.
That's the way it is in April. Next month the grass will grow more slowly. In June, slower still. Then it stops growing at all in the fields during Oregon's dry and warm summer. There's something reassuring about the steady cycle of nature. It's dependable. The coronavirus makes me anxious. Mowing grass makes me feel like I'm doing something real, even precious.
Life comes with no guarantees. I don't know how long how I'll be alive, or how long I'll be healthy enough to keep on doing the field mowing. Sometimes Laurel asks, "Don't you want to pay somebody to do this?" I reply, "No. I enjoy the mowing." This is the next open area down from the Bamboo Field.
When we moved here, it was completely covered with blackberries. Basically, impassable. We hired someone with a tractor to cut down the blackberries and till up the roots. Then we planted grass and trees. A lot of work, but we were much younger then.
After mowing this area, which I think of as the Oak Arch Field (a large branch of a massive oak fell off in a windstorm; we left the arch of the branch where it was), I went back to the house to get my iPhone to take these photos. A deer seemed curious about the recent mowing.
Around here, the deer are almost tame. They're used to people and don't run away. I felt like I'd encountered a friend. Who didn't have to worry about social distancing, pleasingly.
By the way, at the right end of the Oak Arch is where the ashes of Tasha, the German Shepherd Laurel had when we got married, were put. I think of Tasha when I mow around the fallen branch. It was nice of the branch to fall just in the right position -- not over Tasha's ashes, just close to that spot.
Actually there were several deer friends in the field. I believe this is a mother and her two deer children. They were browsing in the tall grass that's on my mowing to-do list for tomorrow.
This is what awaits me. It's the most difficult field that I mow, because the ground is so uneven. The heavy rains in 1996 caused torrents to flow through this part of our property, leaving a gully that is impossible for me to forget, because the mower bucks like a bronco if I don't guide the mower at just the right angle.
These are two redwood trees that Laurel planted a few years after we moved here and had done away with the blackberries. It seemed a bit crazy to be planting itty-bitty trees some 28 years ago. Now look at them. They remind me that nature knows what it is doing, even if we humans often don't.
We probably watered the redwoods at first. I can't remember for sure. But we definitely have paid them little attention over the years. They simply do what trees do: grow on their own.
Times are rough for people now in this Coronavirus Era. "Now" though soon will become "Then," leaving a fresh present moment that will be an outgrowth of what we're doing now. There's no guarantee that things will be better, but I believe they will be.
Mowing today refreshed my spirit. That's the power of being out in nature, doing simple things.