18 September 2012

The Sweet Shift of Things

We hit the road last Wednesday,
The Monkey and I.

We road tripped north to the family farm in Rocky Mount, VA.
Nothing like a rural road and a trip to the Blue Ridge range 
to set things right.

I love that drive.
Windows down.
Music up.
It's three hours of I'm okay.

Incidentally, the Monkey doesn't understand silos yet.
He's of the opinion that the fields are littered
with rocket ships in need of repair.
I played along-- why not rocket ships?
Boyhood notions.
I love the grandness of his small mind.

Tobacco season is closing down.
The fields in Virginia still hold a bit more leaf than our
Carolina plots, and the effect is autumnal. 
I find the slow harvest (a few leaves at a time)
promising, laden with the commitment of cooler weather.
The humidity dissipates with the green foliage,
The south and I can breathe again.


We pulled in with the setting sun and the moon already shining.
Fifty-six acres of home, each spread wide with pasture and oak.
If I die early, they can rest me here beneath the acorns.
I sleep better in Virginia, anyway.

Meanwhile, I take my rest in a hammock,
beneath the trees my grandfather used to sing to me about.
When I was younger, I'd rest here with him,
or my cousins.
Now I have other company.
Same hammock, another generation,
another round of memories to make.



I believe firmly in the magic of the dappled illumination that
plays in oak branches.
I believe in the power of that filtered light-
Maybe it's just vitamin D,
but I swear I'm stronger in that concentrated ray of sun.
I want to swallow it.



As the time passes and their years increase,
my grandparents' harvests grow smaller.
Still, the old man saw to it that I packed the car
full of homegrown goods before I left.

Home even has a taste.
It's earthy and robust-
and it runs down my chin and over my neck,
stains my t-shirt as much as the grass stains my jeans.
It's soul sustaining even as it nourishes my body.
And no, I don't always wash the dirt off before
I bite down deep in a beefsteak tomato.

The Monkey and I did some harvesting of our own.
Collecting acorns and walnuts,
the fallen feathers of birds.
We poked at ant piles with sticks
and thumped the heads of mushrooms,
watching the plumes of spores rise up and
flow out into the air.
Puff Mushrooms, The Monkey calls them.
They make him laugh,
which makes me laugh...
ipso facto, I love a puff mushroom.

Boy and dogs are never at a loss for adventure here.
Not with many a John Deere.
Not with a pool.  Or swings.  Or Donkeys and cattle.
It's joy, simple and sweet, sunrise to sunset.



Clara Dale continues a slow fade.
This was the first trip back home that
she hasn't called me by name.
I don't think she knew it,
but she knows I'm her granddaughter and that she loves me.
She knows, too, that I love her,
and these are the things I hold onto.


The Old Man looks out for her just as he always has.
It's been over sixty years now,
and I love their love.
I want this in the end.

There is a faith on that farm that grows deep
and real, and that shines as kindly and as concentrated
as any light beaming through a water oak.
Valid, it's a faith in something High and All-Knowing
but it's also a faith in family,
in one another, and in our connectedness to each other
through anything that comes, anything that goes.
I know I can always go home-
that there will be open arms up in those mountains.

There is faith, too, on that drive back and forth.
From the old church in Axton to the fields of Yancyville,
and every country mile between.
The blessings here tally up with each click on the odometer.


Faith, it seems, even hides in a country store
restroom- to watch young enthusiasm
as it marvels over the blast of an automatic
hand dryer... could I ask for more, honestly?
This is a blessing.


Back home, beneath the shade of my own ancient oaks,
we had a yard sale. Time to shift some things around
and ease away from a time that has passed.
It's been a long summer- the heat of the air
is cooling along with the blood in my veins.

I'm calm.



It was a good weekend-- things
are certainly changing, myself included.
Whatever else I might be from day to day,
wrong, difficult, weak, or headstrong-
I am at heart, thankful.

Life is good.

Hugs, you.


  1. a beautiful post. life is working you like you your metal. i see so much grace and growth in your writing, i'm excited to see these workings develop in your art. stay true

  2. i love your poetry. the way you filter life around you through words, much like the sunshine through the leaves. :) <3

  3. So beautiful...your poetry, you, your boy, and your dog's butt pushing out of a "floatie"! <-----I died looking at that photo, hilarious!!!

    P.S. Your grandmother is breath taking....their love is inspiring♥

  4. You're a good photographer and writer and you tell the story well using both. There are more details here than can be told.

  5. Such a beautiful and painfully honest post...My eyes filled up with tears, especially at the beautiful shots of Clara, and the one with her and grandpa together. We should all be so lucky to have this kind of love, especially in the end!!! Thanks for sharing the lovely images :)

  6. I await your book; I know it's forthcoming; you ARE A WRITER in addition to everything else you are. I love you, your talents, your sensibility, sensitivity, and the stories, especially the ways only you can write and tell them.

    So glad life is good to you. No one deserves it more.

    Much love to you,


  7. I am there through your eyes and words

  8. Jess, your words and images touch deep places in the heart. My eyes well up with tears reading your posts. And I feel homesick and right at home, all at the same time.
    I love the shots of tobacco fields. My own landscape used to be full of them up until maybe ten years ago, when the business of raising tobacco changed.

    I feel like you are someone I have known forever. God is bringing you to a fuller realization of your life. Cease it. Own it. Be it.

  9. What a wonderful piece!! Truly amazing and makes me long for the days of ole with my grandparents.

  10. beautiful.....

    thank you
    Love and Light

  11. Squeezing you in 6...5...4...3.....

  12. what?? silos?!? i thought they were rocket ships!!

    grand photos. thanks for the trip. especially to see clara dale and the old man.

  13. You paint beauty in words and snapshots, dear woman. Sending you so much love.

  14. a writer, a film maker :: the power of your talents unfold ~ beautiful ....

  15. Very beautiful writing. I enjoy it and Thank YOu for sharing. Karen G

  16. Wow! wow. Amazing post. Love it.
    Thinking about you... be well.