Tag Archives: farm blog

The Ways of Water

by Laura Parker Roerden

As a child, we had a hand pump
over an artesian well
by a white, double-decker chicken barn.

It was the only water
for hundreds of birds
growing on that land.

The pump required
several hard thrusts
of the handle to raise the water

like spirit, to the surface.

Then each long,
resistance laden
pull of its arm brought up

a triumph of water;
a river

spilling
into a galvanized bucket

spraying
foam and mist
in confusing and thrilling planes

that felt like rafting on whitewater.

Everything in the dim eastern
light would turn
silver and metallic,
reflective and animated

like balls of mercury
jump around a bathroom floor
when you drop
a thermometer.

The pump had long ago
been painted dark green,
but it had weathered

with flecks of peeling paint
gathered on the creaky boards capping
the well below;

the patterns held my imagination
while I pumped
the water,

drawing in the cold
air, with each long pull.

“Learn the ways of water,”
I was told

one morning

and I listened,

plunging my hand into the icy
bucket, as if the winter air was finally
ready to explain itself to me,

as if the every day
need of water

carried a promise
I had not yet

understood.

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Laura Parker Roerden is the founding director of Ocean Matters and the former managing editor of Educators for Social Responsibility and New Designs for Youth Development. She serves on the boards of Women Working for Oceans (W20) and Earth, Ltd. and is a member of the Pleiades Network of Women.

 

Cold Poem

by Laura Parker Roerden

When life crowds you with the call of too many mean words,
words that line the very highway you are walking,

words that tumble along ghost town prairies as dangerous tumbleweeds gathering seeds, spreading like wildfire
and threatening to crowd out truth,

try to find the center of the pendulum,
though it swings out of control,
though it threatens to rip apart the fulcrum with every swing.

The center is not a place or ideology,
but the essence of the very moment
you are in, even as it weeps with the s
oft acknowledgement of wounds.

This morning, I turned on the spigot
of clean, cold water in the barn
to fill an empty bucket. The sound of purity spilled unbridled,

while I gave hay to the sheep first, then llamas, then goats. Navigating the barn, the sound sparkled like glass marbles,

clinking and

climbing

a ladder of notes,
higher,
then higher

still while the bucket filled. I stayed tethered
to the sound as if navigating a canyon,
or the head of a river, or womb.

I knew the pail was full when the sound
slightly muffled, so I dropped the hay
and ran to the valve, turning it

deftly and decidedly to off. And then I saw it:

a tiny field mouse,
floating dead on the surface.

It had been trapped in the empty bucket.
My carelessness had left it gasping
while I hummed to the music; the water

–poised to give life, as well as take it away–
the voice of the fulcrum itself.

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Laura Parker Roerden is the founding director of Ocean Matters and the former managing editor of Educators for Social Responsibility and New Designs for Youth Development. She serves on the boards of Women Working for Oceans (W20) and Earth, Ltd. and is a member of the Pleiades Network of Women.

A Small Poem

by Laura Parker Roerden

Small things sometimes call us home, like the two birds I saw
circling the hay field this morning on my way back from
farm chores. Their shrill vibrating whistle, a half warning, half invitation
stunned me awake from a deep dream—even though

I should have been sufficiently awake from an hour of shoveling
manure. Why would two seagulls have come so far inland? I wondered,
as I mentally calculate whether the recent hurricane
or an errant trash heap had thrown the birds off course.

Then I saw the unmistakable thick body and spiraling flight of
predators:  a grey morning sky backlit like a metallic robe
about to hit the ground in full favor of nakedness, no pretense.
The birds were not seagulls, but red-tailed hawks.

I hadn’t noticed that our free-range hens were already
scattered outside like balls on a pool table hit particularly well
by a skilled opening break. The roosters were on high alert and
had surrounded the hens, several of which were on a

chaotic sprint towards the low lying platform my father had built
as a roost, but we now used for a refuge and cover outside
for moments just like this, for times when hawks were double-
or triple-teaming the hens. The hawks have lost interest

in the hens, for now. But suddenly the hayfield has come alive,
shaking in the wind with vulnerability. A small toad or mole: now the sole subject
of the hawks’intention. I start to draw closer, but my boots on the newly paved road
are too loud. The trite intrusion draws my attention to a small rivulet of

water from last night’s rain along the side and I think just how insufficient
a surface asphalt is, as rain can no longer follow a true path to the sea
and how so often our way is bridled by obstacles of our own making. The sun,
still hidden beneath a grey cloud cover, shimmers as if stretched

across our skies in shredded ribbons. So I take off my
muck boots and wait, while the heavy strain against the birds’ wings
appears to hold them aloft and the hawks soar ever freer
in the stark fact that existence is connected to these moments.

Laura Parker Roerden is the founding director of Ocean Matters and the former managing editor of Educators for Social Responsibility and New Designs for Youth Development. She serves on the boards of Women Working for Oceans (W20) and Earth, Ltd. and is a member of the Pleiades Network of Women.

 

 

 

The Garden Spider

by Laura Parker Roerden

Every single evening
in her short life
the garden spider spins

a web of concentric
circles. Each anchored
to five

or so holdfasts,

simple spokes
on a wheel,
against which everything hinges.

Around and around she goes,
adding to her work,

bridging the distance from
one holdfast

to another, length by length,

adding depth
and perspective as she telescopes inward,

moving deftly to a center only
the edges can project, filling
in a spiral with detail.

Her strange and perfect offering
completes itself in zigs and zags like a zipper
on a fine golden purse to safely carry expected coin.

By morning the light and dew
create a hall of mirrors,
drawing her prey down

now lit corridors,
the mirage of open
space an enticement to beyond,

but instead a dead end.

A goldfinch flies over the garden
on his way to a field where evening
primrose offers buttercups of nectar

and darts past the spider,
her work a magnificent lit
lamp tilted just so

he can avoid ruining her elaborate
composition. By evening, the spider
dines on her work, now studded

with the jewels of beatles
and papery moths, lying still
in silky sarcophagi.

The spider unwinds
her entire web, ingesting it within

in a feat of impressive completion,

only to begin
again spinning
come dark.

The Garden Spider (Argiope aurantia or “with a bright face” in Latin) goes by several other common names including the writing spider, corn spider, or McKinley spider. They are found in all 48 contiguous states usually in gardens or at the edges of open fields. We commonly see Garden Spiders on squash or tomato plants in the farm’s vegetable garden that abuts a hayfield.

Laura Parker Roerden is the founding director of Ocean Matters and the former managing editor of Educators for Social Responsibility and New Designs for Youth Development. She serves on the boards of Women Working for Oceans (W20) and Earth, Ltd. and is a member of the Pleiades Network of Women.

 

Stitch by Loving Stitch


by Laura Parker Roerden

My grandmother darned socks.
A good farm wife, she knew
any tear could be mended,
the original wound transformed

into a caesura, a brief pause held by the conductor
to grab our attention, to show us meaning
that hovers uncomfortably in a void.
Or into a sharp, an intentional accident in service

to asserting a consciously uplifting melody.
Nana knew that darning took painstaking
skill, a recovery, of a pattern not usually
perceived by the untrained eye, but seen by those

disciplined enough to lean in and acknowledge the
asymmetry and contradiction of things once whole,
now splintered. That darning takes patience and faith,
word by word. That bridges built across an abyss need

to also be shored up, stitch by loving stitch, until they stand
no longer alone. That it takes a steadfast surrender
to duty and one another since every stitch rises
or falls entirely due to the number

of stitches interdependent with it.
That we must finally take responsibility
for the damage we have wrought and the scars we leave
by sitting and working under the brightest of lights.

Laura Parker Roerden is the founding director of Ocean Matters and the former managing editor of Educators for Social Responsibility and New Designs for Youth Development. She serves on the boards of Women Working for Oceans (W20) and Earth, Ltd.

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Wild, Wild Horses

by Laura Parker Roerden

“Wild horses couldn’t drag me away.” —the Rolling Stones

When I was growing up, our farm (then a dairy) was one of three farms on our hill. The other two were horse farms. The confines of these farms held a large gang of kids, who roamed the combined 200 acres of pastures and woods as if it were the wild, wild west and we were its deputies. All of us rode horses.

The lucky ones took riding lessons at Palmers horse farm, which had a proper English dressage arena, given in exchange for mucking stalls. The rest of us saddled up on our own horses and rode rag tag, grabbing onto saddle horns when the going got tough or muttering prayers to saints on necklaces once they or our hearts started bouncing too hard against our chests.

horses-1031259_1280Our horse was technically my sister Linda’s, who had used her hard earned cash to purchase a handsome chestnut-colored quarter horse named Bellboy. Along with my sister’s coming into teenager-hood, Bellboy brought a whole lot of excitement to our lives. There was a handsome farrier who came with ancient looking tools to shoe him; there was leather tack that required coats of beeswax to remain supple and waterproof; special brushes for his mane and tail; and the occasional vet visits. And then there was the luxury of riding whenever my sister would let me.

It turns out that telling someone to get right back on the horse is one of the worst pieces of advice you can give.

Linda was sixteen when she fell in love with my now brother-in-law Tom. Horses require steady streams of exercise, but that spring—the spring of Tom—Bellboy was not turned out as frequently as he would have liked. So I gladly picked up the slack. I was all of eleven.

One muddy spring day, when I could see that Bellboy was particularly agitated from a lack of exercise, I saddled him up to take him for a spin around our hay fields.

This is how I imagined I looked to people passing down our street:

cowgirl-419084_1280

But this is how I really looked:

rodeo-1010051_1280

Bellboy had reared up and took off like a flash throwing me off his back as if I were a clown at a rodeo. Only instead of a clean fall, my boot got stuck in the stirrup and I was being dragged.

Hooves were coming down all around me.

It took more than a few rounds before I realized just how in peril I was and started dodging the hooves and protecting my head with my arms. All I could think was what an embarrassing way to die.

My mother came running out of the farmhouse with a towel in her arms, screaming STOP. But it was my sister’s call to the horse that finally worked.

While the memory of those hooves coming down around my head will live in my minds eye forever, I have no memory of those moments after the horse stopped. I assume someone helped get my foot out of the stirrup. I’m sure I eventually got up off the ground and walked back to the farmhouse. I do remember that my leather boot was cut clean through and that I had a bad rug burn on my ankle. But I was relatively unhurt.

I had fallen off the horse. But getting back on was not as simple as an act of will. It would be a good fifteen years later before I got back on a horse and many years after that before I’d realize that getting right back on a horse you’ve fallen from was about the worst advice you could give someone.

The year I did get back on the horse I had travelled to Kentucky for work. The kind trail ride owner whom I told my story to before she handed me the reigns of her gentlest horse laughed with good humor and understanding, but pointed out an important fact: “Well, you might have needed some riding lessons.”

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Laura Parker Roerden

Laura Parker Roerden is the founding director of Ocean Matters and the former managing editor of Educators for Social Responsibility and New Designs for Youth Development. She serves on the boards of Women Working for Oceans (W20) and Earth, Ltd. and is a member of the Pleiades Network of Women.