Sunday, July 18, 2010


 alfalfa field, in full bloom, next to our house
ah, the sweet fragrance!

Here is a problem, a wonder for all to see.
   Look at this marvelous thing I hold in my hand!
This is a magic surprising, a mystery
   Strange as a miracle, harder to understand.

What is it? Only a handful of earth: to your touch
   A dry rough powder you trample beneath your feet,
Dark and lifeless; but think for a moment, how much
   It hides and holds that is beautiful, bitter, or sweet.
Think of the glory of color! The red of the rose,
   Green of the myriad leaves and the fields of grass,
Yellow as bright as the sun where the daffodil blows,
   Purple where violets nod as the breezes pass.

Think of the manifold form, of the oak and the vine,
   Nut, and fruit, and cluster, and ears of corn;
Of the anchored water-lily, a thing divine,
   Unfolding its dazzling snow to the kiss of morn.

Think of the delicate perfumes borne on the gale,
   Of the golden willow catkin's odor of spring,
Of the breath of the rich narcissus waxen-pale,
   Of the sweet pea's flight of flowers, of the nettle's sting.

Strange that this lifeless thing gives vine, flower, tree,
   Color and shape and character, fragrance too;
That the timber that builds the house, the ship for the sea,
   Out of this powder its strength and its toughness drew!

That the cocoa among the palms should suck its milk
   From this dry dust, while dates from the self-same soil
Summon their sweet rich fruit: that our shining silk
   The mulberry leaves should yield to the worm's slow toil.

How should the poppy steal sleep from the very source
   That grants to the grapevine juice that can madden or cheer?
How does the weed find food for its fabric coarse
   Where the lilies proud their blossoms pure uprear?

Who shall compass or fathom God's thought profound?
   We can but praise, for we may not understand;
But there's no more beautiful riddle the whole world round
   Than is hid in this heap of dust I hold in my hand.


  1. Ah, the smell of was another element in the mix of many plants I loved, driving up the Central Valley last month. Thanks for the reminder; I had already forgotten by the time I wrote about it.

  2. I'm always learning something new from you. I had no idea alfalfa bloomed. I am not sure I've ever seen any before.

  3. The poem. I'm speechless because I've spent the last two days reading Wendell Berry's Jayber Crow. I might write a post about it, if I can find the words. I thought of you and your husband, farming and ranching the land, following in family footsteps. Have you read Jayber Crow?

  4. Love the soundtrack Jody - it goes perfectly with your posts.

    A beautiful poem!

    And gorgeous bike baskets - you and Hazel Peach will be some stylish bikers!!


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