Sunday, August 7, 2011

Sunday Morning Coming Down

It's still early morning in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Perhaps the morning mist is just starting to lift and the sun is barely peeking over the trees on the sharp edges of the rocky slopes. This is where Gary Snyder, poet laureate of my heart, still sleeps (I'm sorry, Mrs. Snyder, it's just a turn of phrase). Perhaps just now he's rustling into wakefulness, in his eighty some years of mornings. I hope he doesn't mind that I'm talking about him, here in my kitchen in Minnesota, second cup of coffee almost gone. You see, there were many things clamoring for my attention this morning, mostly things that really don't need my attention. I think the world needs something else from me. Maybe it needs me to remember that poetry exists. Maybe that's enough for today.

So I thought of you, Gary, there in the foothills, knowing you'd have something to take away this sense of despair that wants to impose itself, this roaming dismay with the world and its ways, all belief in anything but the good people do.

Here is what I found in this book that rests on my table, words of strange comfort on this first Sunday in August, with another haying yet to come.

"Hay for the Horses"

He had driven half the night
From far down San Joaquin
Through Mariposa, up the
Dangerous Mountain roads,
And pulled in at 8:00 a.m.
With his big truckload of hay
   behind the barn.
With winch and ropes and hooks
We stacked the bales up clean
To splintery redwood rafters
High in the dark, flecks of alfalfa
Whirling through shingle-cracks of light,
Itch of haydust in the
   sweaty shirt and shoes.
At lunchtime under Black oak
Out in the hot corral,
--The old mare nosing lunchpails,
Grasshoppers crackling in the weeds --
"I'm sixty-eight" he said,
"I first bucked hay when I was seventeen.
I thought, that day I started,
I sure would hate to do this all my life.
And dammit, that's just what
I've gone and done."

~ Gary Snyder

Photograph: Margaret Bourke-White

The title of this post is taken from a song written by Kris Kristofferson.


  1. This poem meshes with the dream you wrote about a few days ago. It's written in the voice of someone who just kept drifting down the river. I'm not sure we're supposed to think that's a bad thing, given the poetic description of the work of haying.

  2. Hello Teresa:
    What a glorious black and white image to illustrate your post today. Such aninteresting angle from which to view the farmworkers at their haymaking.

    And, as usual, you find the perefct words for the moment. It is wonderful that you have found a poet, Gary Snyder, who expresses the very innermost thoughts of your being as that gives such inspiration to your own thoughts, ideas and hopes.

    Wishing you a happy and relaxing Sunday!

  3. I feel for Gary, too. I would hate to have done something when I was seventeen and found myself still doing it at sixty-eight. The only thing I'm still doing now is eating three squares a day. Done it all my life.

    Thanks for the great comments on my Eye blog this morning. We are sisters!

  4. I'm still making lists. And reading.

    "This roaming dismay with the world." So descriptive.

  5. Nicely done. One gets pulled in by the words.

  6. Hi Teresa, thank you very much for the nice comments. Great post and photo here.


  7. I enjoyed the post well.He a real fun read.

  8. It makes me wonder if he is still doing a job he hates, or if over time he grew to like, or love, the job, seeing things differently and in a new light as the years go by.
    I think poetry can't be forgotten as long as I keep my mind open and looking for new ideas or new understanding of old ideas.

  9. Margaret Bourke-White's photography continues to shine. What a wonderful eye she had.

    Glad you chose to go for "something else" rather than the things that were "clamoring at you". Lovely post and so very, very close to my heart. Have been working, mentally, all week on a post about the cattle drives that used make that same journey from the San Joaquin valley up to Mariposa and the edges of Yosemite. My husbands dad, my uncles and so many others I knew, annually coaxed them up the hills. Before all the fences and houses settled in place.

    Wonderful reminder of home and family, a new poet to me and your fine writing. All packed into this piece. Custom fit, like a good pair of boots.

  10. I suppose it depends on how well we like the thing we began when we were 17. I bet Gary loved writing poetry.

  11. Teresa: A most interesting way to start the morning, reminding us that poetry does exist and is timeless. I never thought I would be in Texas for most of my life.

  12. Nancy, I agree. I think the tone says that's possibly a good thing. Often we see people who have done that as missing out on something, but maybe, just maybe, we are the one's missing out on something.... For better or worse, I believe I fit in the category of Not doing the same thing all my life. And I have wondered... especially now that I'm back to pretty much where I started.

    Going down a river is one thing, being up a creek without a paddle is another.:)

  13. Jane and Lance: It was that angle that really caught my eye and made the decision to post. Isn't that nice?

    I came to Gary Snyder rather late. I'm making up for lost time... :)

    I hope you've had a fine day, too.

  14. Hey DJan, I rarely eat three squares and obviously it makes a difference. Look at you, all that hiking and swimming and skydiving. My lord, woman.

    Now I have to take a nap, sister. :)

  15. LINDA M, Reading and making lists. That's as fine a thing to do as any. Thank you for you comment.

    MICHAEL AND HANNE, Thanks so much. Very appreciated.

    ADRIAN, They're beautiful shots. Period. :) thanks for visiting.

    STEVE, Thanks much. Hope you had a good Sunday.

  16. LINDA, I think we learn over time to see things differently. I certainly have, and I suspect most do.

    I like that: a "new understanding of old ideas." Maybe that's all we are ever doing.

  17. Chris, You always make me smile. I love the stories you've shared of your own past. You have such a fine "voice." It's a pleasure to read.

    Thanks for your very thoughtful remarks.

  18. MANZANITA, I bet he did, too. :)

    JACK, Life's funny that way.

    Thanks for your own blog remarks about Sitting Bull and walking barefoot on the earth. Very nice.

  19. Life can get so busy we sometimes need to take a while to think about something else - I mean something that's not to do with everyday life.

  20. A lovely Sunday morning meditation.
    Gary s
    Snyder looks to me like someone I should explore right now. Thank you for bringing him to mind.

  21. Morning Teresa Evangeline. Thanks a bunch. I'd somehow forgotten about Gary Snyder, slipped clean out of my mind beginning I-don't-know-when. I used to have a lot of his work on the bookshelf. Enjoyed him a lot.

    I'm going to have to keep an eye peeled in the book sections of the thrift-stores where I pick up most of my reading material. I've noticed when I put out a request to the Coincidence Coordinators for such things they have a habit of waving it around in front of my eyes so I can't miss it before a lot of time passes.


  22. JENNY, Yes, sometimes we need to get outside ourselves and be open to seeing things differently. It always propels me forward.

    FRIKO, Your poetry page always illumines something for me. I hope you find something by Gary that stirs you as well.

  23. Good Morning, Jules, I have a new understanding and respect for Gary Snyder's work, so it's great fun to re-discover poems by him. He seems to be a gentle soul. All that Zen Buddhism I suppose. The Coincidence Coordinators (love that btw), working on my behalf, have brought some fine things into my field of vision, as well. I'm learning to pay better attention.

  24. A true Beat legend,
    A man of the gone people -
    Kerouac smiling.

  25. "I thought, that day I started,
    I sure would hate to do this all my life.
    And dammit, that's just what
    I've gone and done."

    This is a great truth.

  26. Cletis, This is what I have come to love about Snyder's poetry, the quietly profound ideas that exist there.

  27. That poem is a great read!

  28. Montucky, I'm glad you thought so, too. Hope you're having a great week!

  29. I love this poem, and, once again, the photo is perfect for it. Gary Snyder really gets one to thinking, doesn't he, with those ending lines? I think, sometimes, that we all end up doing what we were doing in the start of our lives, we just don't recognize it anymore. Hm. You've give me much to ponder today, with the poem, the picture, and your wonderful prose.

    I know that I can come here, Teresa, and so very often find poems I know, and those I don't yet, and always be inspired to look further.

  30. Penny, I think of my own life and it seems very true. I'm basically back where I started, but with a lifetime of experiences. I'm really the same person I was then, with more sense about me. I think.

    Thanks for stopping by. Sharing poetry that speaks to me is a very fun part of my life. I'm glad you find inspiration through them.