Friday Journal: Tiny Farm, Tiny World.

It’s been a good week here at the little farm. A neighbor from a few doors down, Buddy, stopped by with his tractor, asked us whether we’d like to have our corn rows cut. The stalks had browned up, and where lush, productive arms had once reached toward the God of the Ozarks, there were only gnarled bones. Amber told Buddy to have at it, and he was down lickety-split with his tractor. He made short work of those dried-up stalks.

Buddy left behind an empty garden plot. The summer’s vegetation gone, only a few rooting vegetables now lag behind. The boys make good use of the shovels and spades, digging out what’s left of the sweet potatoes. Isaac works the big shovel, smiles ear to ear when he hits a run of potatoes and says, “look daddy! I found a big one!” The sweet potatoes are, for the most part, small, and so one the size of a nine-year-old fist is a gem of a find.

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Isaac asks nearly every day whether we can have sweet potatoes for supper. I laugh, tell him he’s likely the only child in the history of the world who’s begged this much for sweet potatoes. He tells me he’s just so proud of his work and wants to taste the product of his labor. His words are a tangible reminder of why we moved to this tiny farm in the first place.

“Let’s teach our children to work some land, to see their effort produce something tangible” Amber said when she first saw the listing for the tiny farm. “Yes,” I replied, “let’s.” That was nearly two months ago, and today, we’re here. And though we thought we’d have to wait until next summer’s harvest for this place to pay off, the previous owner left us the gift of sweet potatoes (and a few watermelons) so that we could taste our dream early.

But it’s not all work and no play around here. Our next-door neighbor is a kind and quiet church. They have a basketball court behind the sanctuary, and have given us a standing offer to use it whenever we like. Their property joins ours directly, and in the evenings we walk across the gravel drive and shoot hoops together. Isaac is getting his layups down, while Jude does his best to get the ball up and over the rim. Ian–God bless him–dribbles like he has two left feet for hands, laughs at his own lack of coordination. Titus joins the lot of us, runs onto the court, strips off his shirt and shoes, and yells “pass, pass!” He falls down in laughter at some personal joke that shoots right over our collective heads.

BOOKS:

I was happy to receive Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi, by Richard Rohr, this week. I’ve been reading a great many books about St. Francis since I gave up the bottle. Last night I began to wonder whether I’ve replaced my alcohol dependency with a books-about-St. Francis dependency.  Better the latter than the former, I suppose. Anyhow, if you pick up a copy, let me know. I’d love to discuss it with you as I make my way through it.

LINKS:

A friend of mine–a peace-loving Muslim friend–has been posting a great number of articles on ISIS (a/k/a ISIL, a/k/a IS), gaza, and the war in Afghanistan. I check his Facebook feed every morning because he is curating the best articles on the subject. Yesterday he posted this piece about Phil Robertson’s comments regarding radical Islam, how he said we should “you have to convert them (which I think would be next to impossible)… or kill them.” And though my friend is not a “radical Islamist,” (to use Fox News’ words) I wonder how he felt about this clip.

Tsh Oxenreider is one great lady. Have you been keeping up with her family as they prepare a year-long globetrotting tip? In preparation, Tsh wrote this piece, “5 Lessons in 37 Years.” Take a gander, and remember, “it’s not too late to completely change your mind.”

MUSIC:

This is where nostalgia and current geopolitics meet:

Thanks for stopping in this week. Have a great weekend!

*****

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Two Cents Worth

I have a pocket
of unread poems,
one cent pieces,
which
on occasion
I fondle;
fingers in pants,
I imagine
highlights,
shadows,
the textures
of Honest Abe’s
emancipation.

While chatting of
God-cares what with
God-cares whom–
“cold winter coming,”
or “did you see
the jugs on that one?”–
I push
pocketed poems
against each other,
feel friction
of relief
against relief,
until the whirr
of words
is shushed by
hushed rubbing
of coins.

Poems are pocketed
like pennies,
distractions
of poor
purchasing power,
stamped with images
of ideals
murdered at
the best show;
they are good
for small things:
paying the
tag end of a tax;
occupation in the pocket;
distraction from
lazy words;
or, for spilling on
concrete and
counting people
passing,
unstooping,
unlucky.

*****

If you haven’t heard the BIG NEWS yet, sign up for the Seth Haines’ Tiny Letter: A Compendium of Projects, People, Places, and Things. The Tiny Letter is a personal newsletter sent to subscribers once (sometimes twice) a month, and it highlights my personal projects, a few good folks, the places I go, and the things I like. The inaugural edition–the newsletter containing the BIG NEWS–has already been sent, but if you sign up for the newsletter, I’ll forward you a copy!

powered by TinyLetter*Photo by Kathleen Conklin, Creative Commons via Flickr.

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Another Look at Psalms Past

Last year, I penned the below psalm as part of my Monday psalm writing series–a series in which I attempted to create some more liturgical poetry. It was inspired by the text of Psalm (Psalm 2), which begins with the following:

Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the Lord and against his Anointed..
.

As appropriate as the psalm seemed to the geopolitical climate a year ago, it seems even more appropriate now.

*****

Psalm #4

If I might impose;
allow me to to suggest
a reinstatement, a return,
a coming like the splitting
of another veil, the fission
of this present from the
eternal Real,
so that men might tremble in
the memory of their once
Edenic
selves.

Could there be a quickening
return of the Immediate
Dramatic, a natural
transfiguration of clouds,
from mist to Face, a thundering
rising from the
earth’s bowells,
ozone steaming, rising
upwards like
asphalt
incense?

Were I so bold, might I request a
trumpet, a white horse,
an inimitable, fierce army of
the once low, poor saints?
Might the air be filled with all
that Is, so that those who would
breathe life
are filled with life,
and those who breathe death drink
only
dread?

On the mountain called expectation
do the suffering poor wait for the
terrifying, Vehement
Beautiful.

In the deserts of war
do the greater men fill
their mouths with the orders
of
bones.

*****

If you haven’t heard the BIG NEWS yet, sign up for the Seth Haines’ Tiny Letter: A Compendium of Projects, People, Places, and Things. The Tiny Letter is a personal newsletter sent to subscribers once (sometimes twice) a month, and it highlights my personal projects, a few good folks, the places I go, and the things I like. The inaugural edition–the newsletter containing the BIG NEWS–has already been sent, but if you sign up for the newsletter, I’ll forward you a copy!

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*Photo by Shawn Semmler, Creative Commons via Flickr.

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Friday Journal: Tiny Letters and Ironic Post-Hipster Bluebirds

We’d been in the coolest summer snap in all of recorded Ozarkan history before that old dog Summer decided to growl. I’d was bragging to a friend in southern California about how we’d barely broken 90 degrees, was in the midst of really hamming it up when Hades himself decided to visit his fiery wrath upon Fayetteville. He came with a vengeance and brought a sweaty, sweltering electric blanket with him. By-gum if all this heat hasn’t made me half-crazy.

Yesterday, I was sitting at my desk when this thought came to roost: I’d like to have a pet bluebird; I’d take it to a tattoo artist and have a human inked on its wing. This, I realize, is probably an impossible thing, but in this age of waning hipster relevancy, it struck me as an ironic post-hipster culture thing to do.

Of course, a friend or two poked fun at the notion. Alex asked exactly what the bluebird would do when its feathers started sagging in old age. I’m not sure if that’s a possible thing for a bluebird, but as my first grade teacher Ms. Burr used to say, “there’s no such thing as a stupid question.” My seventh grade football coach said much the same thing, but added, “only stupid people,” which is neither here nor there for purposes of this discussion. (Or is it, Alex?)

Digressions aside, the heat has gotten to me, has made me long for Autumn here in the Ozarks. Autumn is, without a doubt, my favorite time of year in this fair college-town. The people of Fayetteville love their autumnal sports, Arkansas Razorback football being chief among them, and they drive their Razorback vehicles to and fro, begin to dress exclusively in their University-sanctioned Razorback gear. It is a sight to behold.

Last year, I passed an old man on the town square who was wearing a red suit accented by a Razorback tie with matching pocket square. He wore red bucks and a white straw hat and swung a cane with razorback topper. My gaze must have lingered a little too long, because as we neared each other, he stopped and asked “you think it’s a little much?” I chuckled. He chuckled back and offered, “I suppose that was a stupid question.” I looked at him dead in the eye, cocked my head and said “my seventh grade football coach used to say there was no such thing as a stupid question.”

*****BIG NEWS*****

I’ve had a good time here at SethHaines.com. In the past few years, I’ve enjoyed the community that’s gathered around the virtual fireplace, that’s stretched into my poetry, prose, and general ramblings. And though I don’t plan on going anywhere, I’m starting a new side project—a Tiny Letter.

“What’s a Tiny Letter?”

I’m glad you asked (or rather allowed me ask for you).

The Tiny Letter is my monthly (sometimes bi-monthly) newsletter in which I’ll be discussing everything from my personal creative projects, to my favorites in music, books, poetry, and general creative tomfoolery. I’ll likely introduce you to a friend or two, and perhaps give you the inside scoop on the places I go. I’ll be a little less filtered, and will deal in greater depth with my struggles in coming clean from dependency and addiction. The Tiny Letter will be delivered directly to your inbox, and you’ll be able to respond by way of email.

In September’s Tiny Letter, I’ll be breaking some fairly big news (as far as I’m concerned, anyway), and the scoop will only be available to my Tiny Letter subscribers. So, if you’d like to join this little community, subscribe here:

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And for those of you who haven’t yet subscribed to receive my blog content in your inbox, allow your eyes to wander to the left hand side of the screen. See that red box? Enter your email and subscribe for my blog updates. (You know you want to.)

*****

Today, I’m refraining from sharing any links. Instead, let us turn our thoughts today to Martin Luther King.

*Photo by Doug Wertman, Creative Commons via Flickr.

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On Infighting, Social Media, and Weedy Noise

“Somewhere we know that without silence words lose their meaning, that without listening speaking no longer heals, that without distance closeness cannot cure.” ― Henri J.M. NouwenOut of Solitude

1.

If home is where the heart is, we moved our hearts to a tiny green house on the outskirts of town.  When I say “tiny house,” think less of the stuff of Netflix documentaries; think less of a 500 square foot dwelling built on the back of a truck trailer. When I say “tiny house,” consider more a house that provides a tight fit for a family of 6 with a tiny dog.

 

The tiny green house is situated on the outskirts of Fayetteville, just across the White River Bridge in what was once the tiny community of Baldwin before it’s annexation into the city limits. Next door sits a tiny Church of Christ, and its members, our neighbors, have welcomed us well. There are certain things that make for a happy home, they say. First among those things is a happy wife. Second among those things is a good relationship with your neighbors. By all accounts, we’re off to a good start.

The tiny green house boasts a lovely English garden on both sides of the tiny walkway to the front entrance. And when I say “English garden,” think less of a well-manicured green space in which one might choose to sit for tea. Instead, imagine two deep beds of perennials overgrown by a serendipitous mix of well-intentioned herbs, wildflowers, and a mess of greenery most would consider “weeds.” There is a morning glory that has vined up from the ground, and it grows every which way, strikes out in all directions like the snakes on Medusa’s head.

In the garden of the tiny green house, there is a particularly invasive weed that stands on a 2 foot stalk. It has spread into every corner of the garden, has swallowed up every spare inch of available soil. It has become a veritable redwood forest to the colony of ants that carry out their tiny work in the weed shade. Last weekend, as I was considering how to best attack this herbaceous infestation, I noticed a hint of pink peeking up from under the weed canopy. I pulled back the stalks and unwrapped a beautiful peony flower like a late summer present. The peony is my favorite flower, in part because it reminds me of the old rock house inhabited by 4 generations of Haines, and in part because it is the flower of the tattoo emblazoned on my wife’s right shoulder. The peony reminds me of the rooted work of home, and of love. It reminds me that even the tiniest seeds can grow into bold and beautiful flowers.

2.

This is not piece about tiny houses, English gardens, or peonies. This is not a piece about sexy tattoos or neighborhood churches, either. This is a piece about weeds and noise.

Weeds hide the ants marching, the tiny but necessary work of surviving under the shade. The green noise of weedy foliage obscures the beauty of the peony bud, the way it pushes up from the ground in rooted glory. Weeds beat back the true prizes of the garden. Weeds, a metaphor in-and-of themselves, distract from every other good garden metaphor.

Consider the weeds and the noise of the day. There are people marching at home and abroad; there is work being done, and work left to do. And yet, the noise from the 24 hour news cycle and social media consumes every spare corner of thought and silence, distracts us from the boots on the ground. The infighting is at a fever pitch–the war of words is louder than ever–and if you listened, you might think that reconciliation is a pipe dream.

I wonder, “where is the beauty of rooted work?” And then I remember; it is hidden somewhere under all these distracting, noisy weeds.

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