Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Farmer's Daughter Will Do

Needle in a Haystack
"Serendipity is looking in a haystack for a needle and discovering a farmer's daughter." ~ Julius Conroe

When I was growing up, we had a haystack once. Usually we purchased baled hay -- sometimes bermudagrass and other times alfalfa. Grass bales were heavy, 70-100 lbs., and bound with wire. I had a love-hate relationship with alfalfa. The bales were li
ghter and easier to manage but they were filled with sticky, stabby stems that made them miserable to stack. At the same time, they were bound with twine that I could cut with one swipe of my trusty Schrade-Walden pocket knife.

I saved for weeks to buy that knife, a classic stockman's model with clip, spey, and sheepfoot blades and a four-inch handle that was a perfect fit for my rapidly-growing early teenage hands. I carried it in my left hip pocket, wallet tucked in my right. Schrade knives are no longer made -- sadly, the company closed its doors in 2004 -- but I still have one, purchased while I was in seminary, tucked away in a cigar box, my keeper of memories.

Anyway -- sorry for the digression -- like I was saying, we had a haystack. Conveniently, it was located near a small barn that my mother used as a chicken coop when we first moved to the country. She had the short-lived idea of raising chickens and I have a photo of my light brown and white Collie herding them around the yard. T
he barn roof, however, was the main attraction -- it was perfect for practicing parachuting, leaping with an umbrella into a cushion of hay.

I can't imagine trying to find a needle nestled anywhere in that mass of dried grass. The thought makes my head swim. But that's what writing is like some days, picking away at the chaos of this and that, trying to find the right thing to turn into words. And not just any words, different ones, special ones, maybe even magical ones -- a farmer's daughter will do. When you find them, they pull a fresh page of sketch pad from your mind and compel a reader to pick up charcoal or pencil or pen. When they've finished -- as if we're ever finished -- they hold it at arm's length, pressing the tip of the tongue against a cheek, squinting at lines they've forgotten, and see themselves, perhaps for the first time.

naughty architect via Flickr
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