On Germination

Of his younger sister’s (Wilhemien) literary work—a piece on plants and rain—Vincent van Gogh wrote:

 You can see yourself that in nature many flowers are trampled underfoot, frozen or scorched, and for that matter not every grain of corn returns to the soil after ripening to germinate and grow into a blade of corn – indeed, that by far the greatest number of grains of corn do not develop fully but end up at the mill – isn’t this so? To compare human beings with grains of corn, now – in every human being who is healthy and natural there is a germinating force, just as there is in a grain of corn. And so natural life is germination. What the germinating force is to the grain, love is to us.


What the germinating force is to the grain, love is to us. I was thinking about germinating forces earlier this morning, as I peered into the brittle head—still bulging with seed—of this sunflower. Here, stubbornly anchored to the ground, you can see the force of which van Gogh wrote. The floret has gone to seed—either clinging to the disc, taken by the sparrow, or fallen to the ground (where, perhaps, taken by the goose), in which case it may end there, in some animalia digestive system. (Which is what happened this past spring at Franklin Farm, when the seeds were not buried deeply enough, and the birds, big and small, gobbled up the grain.)

On the other hand, should the seed make its way safely underground, we may see the sunflower, reincarnate, late summer next year. Overground, germinant, gold and giving.

What love is to us. Yes.

In Which I Explore Nature, Art, Photography…

Vincent van Gogh, sunflowers, Cumberland’s beloved Franklin Farm, and more.

An excerpt from my newly published essay, Devotion (you can read the entire piece online, page 12 at The Tishman Review):

[T]he sunflowers do tell a dyed-in-the-wool tale of the vagaries of time. The cycle of life. The land and the people. Sunflowers are at once beautiful and tragic: they are vivacious and bright, a bloating bloom of sustenance, a bee’s libation, a bird’s victual, and no sooner does the bee syphon its last bit of nectar from the crowded disc of florets than the sunflower sheds its last seed, curls inward and fades. Like farmers rolling hay in the field, they fold for the season.


September Notebook

Image 7

From the Field.

She sees them.

They stand next to one another, tucked in a narrow channel, in the opposite field. They are tall and strapping, and she doesn’t remember them ever looking so well-cultivated.

They talk to one another. Ask questions like, “Which way’s the wind blowing?” Even though it’s evident, by the way in which their heads bow, and the angle at which the grass streaks across the pasture, that the wind rushes westward, waves goodbye, teases their earthbound bodies. But perhaps they are confused, because many of them no longer look directly at the rising sun. It is late summer, and the time has passed.

The manner in which they all gesture under the sun, their bodies arching to the left, to the right, make them look as if they are the parenthetical acknowledging themselves. The youngest—a statuesque fellow—is in a quiet moment of contemplation, We’re here for the duration, he thinks. It is not a terrible thing to know one’s destiny. The youngest one has never pedaled a bike or steered a tractor or, even, been to school (though he’s been schooled in nature and his nature has been schooled) but he is blessed with the color of summer. And he is as wise as the old one hunching over at the end.

Clouds shaped like sharks swim across the sky, pressing a shade over the field, and cooling the evening air, causing the young one to shiver. He shakes the dried pollen from his locks. “Well look up at that, Pops,” he says to the old one. “Just a second ago that sun was as yellow as an egg yolk, but now it looks like we’re in for a soaker.”

“What do ya say now?” pipes the old one. “You say I’m some kind of sucker?”

The young one chuckles; his youthful countenance betrays what he knows: the golden rays that frame their faces will soon start to fade and crimp, and the rains and wind will scatter the seeds of their soul. When this happens they will kiss the soil in praise. Another season’s work done—not merely incidental. Now, they have set down tracks, and the others, the ones who follow, will inherit the land. Only, he doesn’t think of this in that exact order or with those words. It is just a sense, a sense of knowing and accepting.

“No Pops, no. I’m saying it’s going to rain. Rain’s coming. Soon, soon.”

A breeze runs through the channel and their heads mop lightly against each other as they nod in agreement.

She turns to her car as the sky darkens, and tucks the camera in her black bag. Every time she stops by she hears their voices, silent as they are, there in the tall grasses of the field, blowing, blowing in the wind.