And Here I Bloom

Replacing an 8 foot frost free hydrant for the stock tank

Running water never grows stale.

Bruce Lee

Sic Vita

by Henry David Thoreau


I am a parcel of vain strivings tied
By a chance bond together,
Dangling this way and that, their links
Were made so loose and wide,
For milder weather.

A bunch of violets without their roots,
And sorrel intermixed,
Encircled by a wisp of straw
Once coiled about their shoots,
The law
By which I’m fixed.

A nosegay which Time clutched from out
Those fair Elysian fields,
With weeds and broken stems, in haste,
Doth make the rabble rout
That waste
The day he yields.

And here I bloom for a short hour unseen,
Drinking my juices up,
With no root in the land
To keep my branches green,
But stand
In a bare cup.

Some tender buds were left upon my stem
In mimicry of life,
But ah! the children will not know,
Till time has withered them,
The woe
With which they’re rife.

But now I see I was not plucked for naught,
And after in life’s vase
Of glass set while I might survive,
But by a kind hand brought
To a strange place.

That stock thus thinned will soon redeem its hours,
And by another year,
Such as God knows, with freer air,
More fruits and fairer flowers
Will bear,
While I droop here.

It has been my experience that a plumber requires every bit the ingenuity and dedication of an artist to complete whatever masterpiece is required of them that day.  After a week of living with scanty access to fresh water because of a plumbing emergency I can attest to the artistry that is water that comes out of a tap on demand.  

You are probably wondering what Sic Vita (thus is life) has to do with plumbing?   In my case it was the experience of having to replace an 8 foot stand pipe hydrant that had sprung a leak at its very bottome, which required me to dig a trench 7 feet deep large enough for me to get all the way in on my hands and knees at the bottom of it and do the dirty work of getting the pipe fittings undone and a new one installed.  Like many things in life, if I had known how much work it was going to be I may not have had the courage to begin.   Instead I took up shovel and ax and fought my way through layer upon layer of roots and rock and clay, saturated clay, one shovel full, one trowel full at a time, thus is life….

As a soil scientist and agronomist I have dug many root pits, but always in the past with the aid of a back hoe.  Mature trees and fence posts prevented heavy machinery from accessing the site, (not to mention the cost), so I had plenty of time to reflect as I went deeper and deeper into my little trench with a shovel.   The great thing about a shovel is nothing has changed for thousands of years in how to operate it.   A shovel allows you to commune with your ancestors.  I felt very much like I was digging a hole for an out house, hence my ruminations on ancestral plumbers.  But the most vital connection was the requirement of persistence and resilience.  In my experience in working on worn out plumbing there is an element of knowledge, skill and the proper tools that are required, but the biggest pre-requisite for success is a stubborn tenaciousness to keep going in a dark, usually damp, foul, unpleasant confined space, long after most people would have given up.

What’s your personal test of fortitude these days?   Optimism in the face of constant negativity in the media on global warming, the supreme court going off the rails, the war in Ukraine, an unfolding global economic melt down?   Does poetry offer an antidote to any of these torments?   Only if you let it….

Rumors from an Aeolian Harp

by Henry David Thoreau

There is a vale which non hath seen,
Where foot of man has never been,
Such as here lives with toil and strife,
An anxious and a sinful life.

There every virtue has its birth,
Ere it descends upon the earth,
And thither every deed returns,
Which in the generous bosom burns.

There love is warm, and youth is young,
And poetry is yet unsung,
For Virtue still adventures there,
And freely breathes her native air.

And ever, if you hearken well,
You still may hear its vesper bell,
And tread of high-souled men go by,
Their thoughts conversing with the sky.