Friday, January 6, 2012

would myth return?

Fridays in winter are such an amazing blessing. Any hesitation I had about giving up a fifth of my professional salary for one more day a week on the farm melts on mornings like this.

The fires are lit and the animals are fed. The Creek Drank the Cradle is on the record playing, spinning lazily in the living room. With the giant television gone and no speakers in that main room with the stove: the record player is the center of high-tech entertainment. Last night while paging through seed catalogs I listened to Johnny Cash at San Quentin and closed my eyes and smiled when he and June sang together. What a story, theirs. This morning it is a favorite record I know every lyric and tempo by heart. It turns with that static and scratching I love. The record player is older than I am. It's still got it.

I woke up to a snow covered farm, just a dusting. But still, all that clean white covering up months of senescence and mud, it is purifying to the farmer's soul. It makes the fires inside warmer, the mind expand into wild and older places. Outside the morning was warmer than it has been this week. The sun rose over the barn and Gibson was by my side through chores. The gosling is doing great, almost twice its hatch size and always with mom and dad. I decided to let the lad stay. A trio of geese just sounds right, doesn't it?

About those older and wilder places: on the way home from work last night I cut through Shushan because I wanted a slower drive over the river and through the woods (literally) to the farm. As I drove through the frozen night, it felt so still and cold with the new snow it was as if it had been paused and only my gray truck was left to move past the statues of does behind birch trees and windless pines. Suddenly, a snow squall started up again and the forest became a live again. In the streetlampless roads the only lights are the ones mounted on the front of your car and just ahead a dark form raced across the road and far into the night.

I don't know what it was. A deer, probably, or a bear. It could have been a dog or coyote or any other sort of North Country critter but it was fast and silent. I imagined myself not inside a V8 pickup in 2012, but in a horse-drawn farm wagon with nothing but two torch lanterns on the front. Could you imagine moving through a winter squall in near pitch-black roads with nothing but a yellow orb around you and your trotting horse? Wrapped up in a wool blanket and coat, a knit hat tight around your head and covering your ears, with a thick leather hat on top of that to keep the weather out? A scarf around your face, thick deerskin gloves, and the only sounds the wind and hooves? Now, imagine just out of view a black blur races across the road. The horse's head and ears shoot up in alert and he blows hard, stops in his tracks. You click him forward and his ears go from pressed against his head to orbiting around, listening for the monster. There's no radio, no steel and glass terrarium to keep you from the sounds of crackling brush, banshee winds, and then the low guttural tones of something just 20 yards to your right.

Don't you think your mind would take in that racing animal totally differently? That black blur would become a tale! Another sighting of a legend, or something out of folklore like a werewolf or ghost. You would take off your hat and wool layers and set them by the fire indoors and as you sat down to your dinner of slow-booking beans and beef from the dutch oven and ladle, you would tell everyone about what you and the horse saw, just 3 miles from the farmhouse...

I sometimes wonder if we lost all the electricity, all the modern, numbing conveniences of the world that treat many of us like we are handicapped—if myth would rise again? I'm not saying I want that (I have grown fond of my plug-in cage) but I certainly think I could deal with it just fine, and that a different kind of synapse would fire driving home in the snow. The forest would become bigger, wooly, and a place where magic and mystery writhe again. A part of me loves that idea. Another part of me is still nervous about a catamount on the barn roof. I'm not sure if it's hypocrisy or just idle thought, but either way I'd still like to drive a horse cart home in the snow one day. A come home and tell a story about it.

37 Comments:

Blogger greendria said...

You are such a wonderful writer, I was right there with you. Thanks!

January 6, 2012 at 10:27 AM  
Blogger Joie said...

I know you haven't much time for leisurely reading, and frankly the series is not all that well written, but I've worked my way through a majority of R. M. Stirling's post-apocalyptic saga (Dies The Fire is the 1st book). Essentially, anything that's electrical or modern or whatever stops working, including guns. You have to completely suspend disbelief, but holy cow - the legends that come about in the series! It's worth reading the first few books just to get the imagination going.

January 6, 2012 at 10:28 AM  
Blogger Robyn said...

I love this post.

January 6, 2012 at 10:29 AM  
Blogger Maria said...

I love it when you write one of "these" posts.....so engaging!

January 6, 2012 at 10:31 AM  
Blogger Flartus said...

I can see the seeds of a new career in fiction sown right here in this post. I want to know how the story goes on, how the myth grows!

January 6, 2012 at 10:32 AM  
Blogger quiltaholic said...

Amazing post Jenna! I too have grown fond of my own plug ins - but oh, to have a moment of the "myth" back again. Wouldn't that be something?

January 6, 2012 at 10:37 AM  
Blogger Odie Langley said...

I start reading a post like this Jenna and get totally lost in it and don't want it to end. Thank you for enriching my day and renewing what is truly important in life.
Odie

January 6, 2012 at 10:39 AM  
Blogger Amy said...

First time poster...what a great post Jenna! I was there in that horse-drawn cart, feeling the biting wind on my cheeks with my ears feeling like the horse's-pricked with intensity listening for a growl or a branch crack. How alive I'd feel! I often spend my down-time imagining I lived in another time and place...like you, I do love some modern conveniences, but if I didn't have them, now how could I miss them? I think it would be wonderful. I actually love to sit in the woods at night and let all my senses come alive when I head up to the cabin (Northern Wis), then come in and make a roaring fire and sit in the rocker with a lantern lit and feel so safe and warm. Your blog is great, your writing fresh, looking forward to reading more!

January 6, 2012 at 10:39 AM  
OpenID barntalkblog said...

I still hear stories about panthers and mountain lions! The latest and greatest is when my Dad was driving home from doing some work at my Nana's and a mountain lion jumped over his truck! I love old ridgerunner tales, and I wish I knew more so I could carry them with me.

-Autumn

January 6, 2012 at 10:40 AM  
Blogger Kristen said...

You're so great at helping your readers see what you see, whether it's real or imagined. Thanks for sharing. ♥

January 6, 2012 at 10:46 AM  
Blogger becky3086 said...

This was very nice. I really enjoyed it.

January 6, 2012 at 10:56 AM  
Blogger Mully said...

Damn can you write!

January 6, 2012 at 11:22 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Has myth ever left? :)

January 6, 2012 at 11:25 AM  
Blogger Anna said...

I could be totally wrong, but I think myth is there if we want it. Maybe we won't believe it with such fervor, but I think it is still important to spin tales and be open to the magic of the forest.

January 6, 2012 at 11:29 AM  
Blogger Bovey Belle said...

I often wonder about the folk tales and ghosty stories grinding to a halt with the coming of the radio. It certainly seemed to happen with the legend of The Hairy Hands on Dartmoor (qv, but perhaps NOT after dark!!!) which petered out about the 1930s.

But now we have ghosty stories involving cars and ghosts hitching a lift or being driven through, so perhaps it's just a changing scenario.

We still have our local scary legend, which is the Beast of Brechfa, and when it was seen eating a pet dog it had just killed, the legend really came alive. I used to have the hair on the back of my neck standing on end sometimes when I let my pet dogs out last thing at night and my imagination got the better of me!

January 6, 2012 at 11:43 AM  
Blogger Lee Ann said...

Oh Jenna...that was beautiful....and exactly what I needed this overly crazy day. What I wouldn't wish to be transported to the time and place, even just for a little while. Sounds heavenly to me.

January 6, 2012 at 11:53 AM  
Blogger Desert Willow said...

Jenna! Such a marvelous post, it sent my imagination soaring!!!! Myth is alive and well here deep in Navajo country. Here we have the yee naaldlooshii kind of like a skinwalker….scary! I live 80 miles from the nearest “town” and 20 from the nearest gas station your post has me 99% convinced to just throw in the towel and go back the horse and cart. With gas prices set to go to 5.00 by this summer I may just forge ahead and do it…. That’s if the yee naaldlooshii don’t get me. LOL

January 6, 2012 at 12:44 PM  
Blogger Melanie Ski said...

http://melanieski.blogspot.com/2012/01/barnheart-jenna-woginrich.html

Loved Barnheart!!

January 6, 2012 at 1:31 PM  
Blogger Kat said...

Absolutely beautiful post, Jenna. Your awareness seems to have clicked over to "being" from "doing" already--I feel like I can see that in your writing--gives even more credence to the idea of 'unplugging' and finding that sweet spot of balance in one's life.

January 6, 2012 at 2:22 PM  
Blogger Kris said...

Wow, thought I was there in the buggy with you. Wonder what that was.

January 6, 2012 at 3:30 PM  
Blogger PansWife said...

That reminded me of the chapter in Little House in The Big Woods when Pa comes back from his long trip to town and he thinks he sees a bear ready to attack (read the story if you don't remember, I won't spoil it here). I've driven in a horse buggy in nice weather, but never snow. I always wanted to go for a ride in a horse drawn sleigh and still hope to do so some day.

January 6, 2012 at 3:43 PM  
Blogger kandy Gray said...

i dont know about myth not being alive; fairies live in my garden. i have a teapot under a butterfly bush for them to live in, ant the little girl across the street swayers that she sees them when its raining.......

January 6, 2012 at 3:51 PM  
Blogger Debi said...

I love this post. I've had similar thoughts while driving along the Moose River Rd in the Adirondacks. Upstate NY is such a magical place, it's easy to see the logic behind myth and lore while surrounded by such wild beauty.

January 6, 2012 at 5:33 PM  
Blogger Trekout2 said...

Ok Jenna keep the story going... That was outstanding...

January 6, 2012 at 6:25 PM  
Blogger Gramma Phyllis said...

Jenna, as a lover of the poetry of Robert Frost, the first thing I thought of when you told about your desire to come home in a horse and buggy (sleigh is more likely at this time of year) all I could thing of was "Stopping by Woods". Then when you continued on about how myths come about from incidents like yours, I too thought about Pa Ingalls and the "bear". You have the ability to draw pictures with your words. Keep it up.

January 6, 2012 at 6:49 PM  
Blogger Lara said...

I’m with Odie on this post!

Gramma Phyllis—that’s one of my favorite poems!

January 6, 2012 at 8:19 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

I have a confession to make...

I have never seen an episode of, nor read a single word of anything Little House....

January 6, 2012 at 9:34 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

Lol you just blew the whole story Jenna. But seriously, it also reminded me of Little House when Laura used to lay in bed and hear the panther screaming in the night. I say you make it one of those "things to do" in your life- to read that series. Just by reading your blog for a short time now I know you'd love those books! As a matter of fact I think I'll read th again as an adult...

January 6, 2012 at 10:01 PM  
Blogger PansWife said...

Yes, please read at least the first two Little House books. They are a beautiful telling of frontier life. Wilder's book "Farmer Boy" is also worth reading. I re-read the books every few years and 40 years later they still spark the warm glow that first got me interested in homesteading.

January 6, 2012 at 10:32 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...

What a great post, I love how you can bring us 'right there' with you on these little adventures! I was in that cart and I could smell my leather hat and feel the fear of the unknown black blur - thank you for that!

January 6, 2012 at 10:46 PM  
Blogger rabbit said...

I still think blogs NEED a 'like' button cause, oh lord!, this post (amongst SO many others of yours) need a quickfire emotionally charged approval button. Well played; lovingly read, awe-inspiringly written.

January 6, 2012 at 10:46 PM  
Blogger bree said...

Oh I loved that wonderful story! And I'm reading it right before bed. Thanks a bunch Jenna. You write magic!

January 6, 2012 at 11:02 PM  
Blogger Paradise Found Farmgirl said...

My pony Buddy and I enjoy drives on country roads. Nothing like the clip clop of pony feet trotting along on a cold winter morning, wrapped in blankets. I even found battery operated christmas lights and jingle bells to decorate my cart with. Jasper would make a terrific little driving pony. Horses love having jobs. Is he broke to drive ? It's very easy to teach them if they already know direct rein from riding.

January 6, 2012 at 11:55 PM  
Blogger Paradise Found Farmgirl said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

January 7, 2012 at 12:06 AM  
Blogger steak and eggs said...

One of my favorite post you have written. It was like a good book, when you start reading you don't want to put it down. I could see you in a buggy riding down a dark road with the snow falling. The beast of the wood crossing your path. Great story with so much feeling. Like other's it brought back so many good memories.

It also made me think of Robert Frost's poem Stopping by the Woods. One of my favorite poem.

January 7, 2012 at 6:58 AM  
Blogger bookkm said...

Good job.

January 8, 2012 at 2:50 PM  
Blogger Catcoco said...

I am one of the dreamers that actually wish that electricity and fuel would cease existing. I believe would actually like to see the human kind going back to having to work physically to fill real needs (not trying to make as much money as possible to buy as much stuff as one can afford to show the world what they are "worth").
I really enjoyed reading your post.

January 10, 2012 at 10:59 AM  

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