At Heart, A Rural Poet

Writer Donald Hall, who served as Poet Laureate of the U.S. in 2006, passed away last Saturday at the age of 89.

The Poetry Foundation says his poetry “explores the longing for a more bucolic past and reflects [his] abiding reverence for nature.” A prolific creator, Mr. Hall also wrote works of fiction, essays, plays and children’s books including the Ox-Cart Man which won the Caldecott Medal in 1979.  In 2010 he received the National Medal of Arts.

He retreated to his family land — Eagle Pond Farm — in a small New Hampshire town, where he spent over 40 decades living, writing, reflecting. The farmhouse was his “Muse,” said the New York Times in a 2006 profile.

In tribute to this giant among poets, here’s Mr. Hall’s masterpiece, Names of Horses.

Names of Horses

All winter your brute shoulders strained against collars, padding
and steerhide over the ash hames, to haul
sledges of cordwood for drying through spring and summer,
for the Glenwood stove next winter, and for the simmering range.

In April you pulled cartloads of manure to spread on the fields,
dark manure of Holsteins, and knobs of your own clustered with oats.
All summer you mowed the grass in meadow and hayfield, the mowing machine
clacketing beside you, while the sun walked high in the morning;

and after noon’s heat, you pulled a clawed rake through the same acres,
gathering stacks, and dragged the wagon from stack to stack,
and the built hayrack back, uphill to the chaffy barn,
three loads of hay a day from standing grass in the morning.

Sundays you trotted the two miles to church with the light load
a leather quartertop buggy, and grazed in the sound of hymns.
Generation on generation, your neck rubbed the windowsill
of the stall, smoothing the wood as the sea smooths glass.

When you were old and lame, when your shoulders hurt bending to graze,
one October the man, who fed you and kept you, and harnessed you every morning,
led you through corn stubble to sandy ground above Eagle Pond,
and dug a hole beside you where you stood shuddering in your skin,

and lay the shotgun’s muzzle in the boneless hollow behind your ear,
and fired the slug into your brain, and felled you into your grave,
shoveling sand to cover you, setting goldenrod upright above you,
where by next summer a dent in the ground made your monument.

For a hundred and fifty years, in the Pasture of dead horses,
roots of pine trees pushed through the pale curves of your ribs,
yellow blossoms flourished above you in autumn, and in winter
frost heaved your bones in the ground – old toilers, soil makers:

O Roger, Mackerel, Riley, Ned, Nellie, Chester, Lady Ghost.

by Donald Hall

New Discoveries

We were lucky enough to catch Chris Thile’s Show last weekend at The Town Hall in NYC. And this little gal came on with her guitar midway through the show and simply blew us away. As in tears flowed it was so beautiful. We are now BIG fans of the lovely and talented Sarah Jarosz. From The Blue Heron Project, commissioned by the FreshGrass Festival in North Adams, Massachusetts, here’s her Painted Blue. 

 

Sweet Melodies

We are getting super excited about the long weekend ahead…filled with good friends, great music, camping, cookouts and lots and lots of fun. Hope your holiday weekend is memorable as well!

We’re especially delighted to get to see this gentleman play under the stars on Friday night. Here are two sweet songs: “Cotton Lullaby” and “Choccolocco Two Step” by local artist Tony Yardley.

 

#genius

From the first summer we moved in, a few old toads have come to hang out each night by (and sometimes in) the pool. Not all have survived us. Dogs got one, cats got another. And someone ran over a big one with the car. But these stoic toads keep coming back every summer — probably to catch bugs under the outside floodlights. Mike even bought them a little house.

Last summer, a young man from our town took this visiting toad experience to a whole new level…creating custom hats for one patient, and obviously fashion-forward, amphibian, in order to help cheer up a child who had lost his pet toad. He only shared the photos just recently, and they spread like wildfire overnight. Since posting, over 1 million curious folks have clicked to see the toad millinery. Read all about the Toad and his Hats on BuzzFeed.

imgur.com

Wide enough…for thee and me

A beautiful and comforting essay for this tumultuous week in America. By Kristin Kimball, who makes her life and living at Essex Farm in Essex, New York.

“This world surely is wide enough to hold both thee and me.”  – Tristram Shandy

essex-farm

 

Photo by Kristin Kimball, Essex Farm