Monday, June 20, 2011

Letters From The Barn

Letters from the Barn

Sometimes I sit in the barn and read the bible. Okay, I flip through psalms. It's a dollar store copy so that even if poor Adam and Eve wind up in a goat's stomach, it's no real loss. I have learned to tuck it up in the rafters and that helps the tiniest, and I do mean tiniest bit in that regard. I have also learned not to bring library books in there.

Thus, we have the dollar store bible. Most psalms can be read in between a goat kick to the head and a mosquito slap on the arm, making them very convenient. Someone once asked renowned African American poet Lucille Clifton why she wrote poetry instead of novels. Basically, she said, that's the amount of time I have while my kids are napping.

I wonder how many women feel that way, no matter what their job. Even those of us without kids must juggle our lives so that our souls as well as our pocket books are sustained somehow. Occasionally, some jobs may even do both.

I have wooed quite a few literary companions in the barn. All at one point or another have fallen in the creek and later been hung up on the clothesline to dry. There is a wonderful biography, A Life In Nature, about Beatrix Potter's life as a gentlewoman farmer. It comes complete with sketches she drew of the real animals, before they were morphed into more delicate children's fare.

One of my other long time companions is Robert Frost. Frost, too, was a gentleman farmer. Much of the hard labor he wrote about in his poems he acknowledged himself that he chose, bringing in hired hands for the jobs he didn't enjoy. Perhaps one day I will be one of them, no longer scraping by on my own labor but with the cash to pay others for repairs, daily chores, and the like. Or, to put it more bluntly, to have things done right the first time.

Can you imagine me lazily reclining on a 600 pound round bale of hay, ever so charmingly reading a book of these columns, as farmhands Phil and Philomena gently pull out just the right amount of hay for each goat? I hope I have better balance in your imagination than mine as in my version I rolled right off, wishing I had taken log rolling lessons as a child.

And, as it turned out, poor old Phil had a drinking problem and dear, dear Philomena had sticky fingers. I never did find that grocery money I kept stashed in the cookie jar. So, maybe I'm better off doing chores in my own rather odd, backwards manner. Just know that if you see a goat with duct tape on its horns or a woodshed that tilts only slightly to the side, that it's not my fault. Clifton or Frost or Potter was distracting me and teaching me a very important lesson along the way. Do not chop wood while reading a book.


Meriwether O'Connor is a columnist and short story writer. She works one on one with folks trying to get their writing where they would like it to be. Please contact her through this ungodly contraption called the internet if you'd like your own writing to be quicker and less painful. She'll sit down with you weekly over tea, the telephone or the godforsaken email and surprise you with how much a small chat can help you when you need it most.

***Look for Letters From the Barn at the Dew in the future, we are working on making this a regular column! ***