Last Chance to Plant

Chard

“Do remember that each kind of work has its season…” Hesiod, Works and Days

A simple, mundane truth about the end of August. The mid-Atlantic growing season is moving toward its completion, so now is the last opportunity in the garden to plant something that can grow to fruition this year—such as a few more radishes, or greens. Time is short.

But all life, and dare we say all good things, start as ‘seeds.’ Seeds sown by someone; in love. And so all of us need to be, in some sense, sowers of seeds–of various kinds.

And there will come our last chance to plant—in this person, in this community, in this place… whatever the kind of seed. Perhaps even just a word of praise, or gratitude.

In the bustle of life, we might miss the last chance to plant in the garden. We should be especially careful not to miss other last chances to plant seeds.

 

Photo: Swiss Chard: one of the gardener’s most dependable and nutritious delights; it will grow right up to and beyond the first frost. Like other hearty greens, planted in August it might over-winter if well-mulched.

Hesiod (8th century B.C.) was a Greek contemporary of Homer, and likewise an epic poet. His Works and Days sketches the year-round work on a homestead.

Posted in Wednesday Quotes | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Hearing the Shenandoah

shenandoah-river1

“Oh Shenandoah, I long to hear you…” American Folk Song, traditional

What is it about hearing a river? This past spring I stood next to the flooding Mississippi in St. Paul, Minnesota; the sound was positively forbidding. But perhaps there is something even more awesome in the quiet, unhurried flow of a river in summer. Like the Shenandoah that lies outside my window, and down the hill.

No one knows for sure the context of the lyrics of the great song. One thing is clear: someone is in love; and the love is intertwined with that rolling river. The words, and melody, capture a longing—a longing that somehow we all seem to share. Especially when we hear that song, or that river.

Fouled by industrial excess, haphazard housing development, and the carelessness of too many of us who recreate there, the Shenandoah nonetheless continues to be itself. A feast for the eyes, and for the ears, it still speaks to us.

Oh Shenandoah; I do indeed long to hear you. Would that we could hear you better.

 

Sissel and Paddy Moloney perform Shenandoah.

Posted in Wednesday Quotes | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Nothing Incomplete, Nothing in Vain

Oak,Peattie

“Now nature makes nothing incomplete, and nothing in vain…” Aristotle, Politics

Sometimes we might wonder about Aristotle. Was he observing the same world we are?

One thing is clear: Aristotle spent much time studying the natural world. For instance, his knowledge of fish, including their distinction from mammals of the sea, is vast. Indeed he is considered the father of biology. Surely his judgment about ‘nature’ is rooted in his empirical knowledge.

But his judgment stems not simply from a close study of earth, plants and animals. Somehow his perception has been honed—or in any case not blinded—so that he can see more than earth, plants, and animals. In them. He grasps something deeper: an order, indeed an intention, that at once reveals itself, and remains hidden. An order and intention that is not ours; but certainly not alien. Here is an object of wonder, of reverence.

To some of us his vision might seem to be a reading-in, an imposition on reality. But isn’t it always so—that those of us who do not see, think that those who can see are telling tales?

Aristotle (384-322 B.C.), student of Plato, tutor of Alexander the Great, has been considered by many to be the greatest ancient philosopher.

Image credit:  Quercus Alba, the great eastern white oak, king among trees. Donald Peattie, naturalist, author, artist.

Posted in Wednesday Quotes | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Throwing Nothing Away

SeedsandFlower

“Nature like a good householder throws away nothing of which anything useful can be made.” Aristotle, On the Generation of Animals

It is delightful to think that nature already does what I am supposed to be doing: be a good householder. What a gift it is to me that my calling, my challenge is to imitate and participate in a marvelous order already being enacted all around me.

What might appear as profligacy in nature—perhaps the countless dandelion seeds, or the showers of acorns—is in reality a well-measured abundance. Even generosity. Humans might waste seeds. Nature does not.

Everything in nature has its place. But we humans sometimes shape for ourselves things that really don’t belong. Then, we need to throw some things away.

There are many real needs to be fulfilled: our own, and others’. There is no call for extravagance, and no place for waste. But well-ordered generosity can be the measure in our homes, in our lives. As it is in nature.

Aristotle (384-322 B.C.), student of Plato, tutor of Alexander the Great, has been considered by many to be the greatest ancient philosopher.

Posted in Wednesday Quotes | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Rising at Night

Candle

“…and when anything needs doing it ought not to be left undone, whether it be day or night. There are occasions when a householder should rise while it is still night; for this helps to make a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” Aristotle, Economics

I wonder what occasions Aristotle had in mind.

A need to attend to some seasonal work of the household, or some repair that otherwise simply will not get done?

Staying up with an ailing child; and perhaps not administering a drug with dubious side effects?

Or getting up very early most days of the week, just to hold a job needed to support the family?

Maybe rising before others to set aside the time one needs for silence, reflection, and prayer?

Today I completed a two day visit to a Trappist monastery, where men rise at 3 AM, while it is still night. Every single day of their lives. This makes me ponder again, just what is health, wealth, and wisdom. And for what am I willing to rise, while it is still night.

Aristotle (384-322 B.C.), student of Plato, tutor of Alexander the Great, has been considered by many to be the greatest ancient philosopher. The work cited, ‘Economics,’ is attributed to him, but might have been authored by his students.

Posted in Wednesday Quotes | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Care for a Wife’s Health

BeskowReading

“Seeing, then, that such care is lavished on the body’s food, surely every care should be taken on behalf of our own children’s mother and nurse, in whom is implanted the seed from which there springs a living soul.” Aristotle, Economics

Aristotle is reflecting upon the practices of a good husband. He draws attention to the care, for body and soul, that is due to a wife.

I worry sometimes that even among those who greatly value childbearing, the good health of the mother can slip from the forefront of attention. Where it belongs. This is she who is sacred soil; nurse and educator. Wife and mother.

Every care should be taken—to the extent it is within human control—that she be well-disposed for this undertaking. Husbands need to make this the special object of our intention, deliberation, and action. Who else will? This demands much of us. Among other things, it requires a spirit of self-sacrifice; sometimes even in the form of abstinence. Too many woman, too many wives, are not the object of such care, even from those who truly do care for them.

I’ve heard that in some African cultures men and women engaged to be married  observe a special diet together in preparation for child-bearing. An instance of common sense that has become uncommon. The vigilant care of husbands for the bodily and spiritual health of their wives leads both to such simple, and other more demanding practices.

 

Aristotle (384-322 B.C.), student of Plato, tutor of Alexander the Great, is considered by many to be the greatest ancient philosopher. The ‘Economics’ is attributed to him, but might have been authored by his students.

Posted in Wednesday Quotes | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

What Will Make Me Grateful?

FieldFlowers

“The greatest benefits will not bind the ungrateful.”
Aesop’s Fables

The farmer, finding a frozen snake, pitied him and placed him in his bosom to thaw. The revived snake, unmoved by gratitude, inflicts a mortal wound.

Such ingratitude is especially repulsive. But what about the ingratitude that consists in simply not-being-grateful?

Gratitude should have prevented the snake from harming its benefactor. Yet it should also move me to act in certain positive ways—to act out gratitude.

If I am not actually, shall we say actively grateful, then am I not truly ungrateful? This is a bracing thought, especially in view of Aesop’s moral. Even the greatest benefits do not bind, do not move to action those who are ungrateful. This gives me pause: I should be concerned lest ingratitude render me impervious to the call of gifts received. Especially since evidence of my own ingratitude is real.

Flowers in my field.
Much more, my wife, the mother of my children.

When will my life, my every day, be truly bound, formed by what I have received? Gratuitously.

May we be set free, by being bound, by the greatest benefits.

Aesop (born circa 620 B.C.) was a Greek story teller. Little is known of his life, and no written works by him survive, though many ancient authors refer to his famous stories-with-a-point.

Posted in Wednesday Quotes | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments