On the way out of the Hannafords there is a used book bin. Sometimes I stop and make room for words beside the bread. In a book of lists, 1977: "12 Windiest Cities in the U.S. … 1. Great Falls, Mont. 13.1 mph.” It was in another book, years before, that I learned that we are made of wind, or from it; that in the spirals of our hair we know it; that in the whorls of our fingertips we see where, at our birth, it left us. Thirteen point one miles per hour. Where all day we'd call out, "prepare to jibe," or "coming about," or "reef the main, let's make some lunch." Where in the midst of long silence we might hear ourselves speak, "spinnaker;" our heart finally interjecting the word for what it had felt itself become. Maybe not so incandescent to most, but diamonds in the rough to me, the things I found there. All that wind, and this: "Pregnancy or Gestation Periods of 20 Animals. … 4. Porpoise. 360 days.”
360 days. One year.
One year, now, on this farm. And like our seeds, like our porpoise in the slipstream of its mother, it is a long time after planting that we find a thing born. The marshy passage where the heron fished, and the arc it turns up to the field that I named 'sunrise;' we walked it every day, and though there is not a thing we grew there but silence, that quietest part of the farm bears the whole plenitude of the autumn harvest. And is it only we farmers who feel to our bones how, when the nights at last acquire a coldness, and the weight in our forearms subsides, we harvest so much more than the squash and the carrots? Even in the day, now, these fields contain the moon, for the nights I have walked them, and the lightness they have had then. And, at times more and more, with the sun washing red over the corn, and the beans, and a long day done, I have seen what it is we have been doing. I mean, when it is not just the last flare of day I see burning in the cells of everything, but a glow that marks the stopping of time.
One year. One more year. One more ring in the heart of all these trees that rise above us, and so more ghosts for all the things that were but went. The shed, for instance, with its north-side shade. I will write a song for you, and it will be a love song of a kind. I will sing it a hundred times, and one day there will be a warble.
Thinking, who are you T'ang Yin, you ancient and lost in my book of Chinese verse. What were your stars like, and your years, that you wrote this—could write this?
Each year has its portion laid beneath the wild grass.
Beneath the grass how many are the tombs, high and low?
Each year has its half that no one tends.
-- T'ang Yin, "Song of a Life"
It was fall when I lit my wish lantern. The flame consumes, the lantern fills, and a precise moment comes when the fingertips sense the weightlessness of its ascent. Of all that we are given, it is a gift to truly feel a rising thing. And this one bright and warm, the sky so black around it. I can tell you now, you would still feel it rising. I do. Like one last seed to plant in autumn, though this one to the sky. I had thought to speak some truth as it went up, but these things are their own prayer.
We hardly ever know it then, that it is the end of a thing that we witness. We go up the hill with our lantern and our lighter in one season, we come down in the next.
How can one sit down to review a year without memory going back to find them all; or, weighing it out—them all out—and wanting more, looking deeply to the next?
Everything I want, I want more of. Quiet, the stars at night above my sleepiness, daybreak, the long work of summer like the bones that hold us standing. I do not know how we do it, but there comes a time when there is nothing left but this to do: Coleman Barks in his translation: “Rumi says, we've been walking in the surf holding our robes up, when we should be diving naked under, and deeper under.” We should speak of wind the same as water; of Great Falls, Montana; of everything we have sensed but never followed. Beside my groceries and the weekend movie, months ago, these words: Thoreau, near the end of his life, a little lost, gravely imploring: "If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behavior. What demon possessed me that I behaved so well?"
A long bow,
PS1: This is the last note.
PS2: It was years before the years ago that I found T'ang Yin that I first caught on an italicized line in a poem of Charles Wright's. I prefer this succinct translation: Each year has its fields that no one tends.
PS3: In a book that a friend sent me in the mail this summer: Sogyal Rinpoche: “All effort and struggle come from not being spacious.”