I should go ahead and admit something right away. “The Pasture” was the first Robert Frost poem that I intentionally read or heard, and this took place only two years ago. I need to point this out for two reasons: (1) My assignment for the class that took place two years ago required me to read several other poems in his collection that I procrastinated to read before our professor read this one aloud, and (2) I evidently neglected to recall that in my secondary English courses we had read his “Mending Wall” that included the well known line, “Good fences make good neighbors.” With it being the great poet’s birthday, perhaps as a gift to the late Robert Frost I am offering this confession as well as a small reflection on this poem of his that granted me a reentry into the world of poetry that had previously often made me fearful to tread nearby. Allow me to share it with you:
I’m going out to clean the pasture spring;
I’ll only stop to rake the leaves away
(And wait to watch the water clear, I may):
I sha’n’t be gone long.—You come too.
I’m going out to fetch the little calf
That’s standing by the mother. It’s so young,
It totters when she licks it with her tongue.
I sha’n’t be gone long.—You come too.*
This poem was presented to me as an invitation – a call to come along on this short but worthwhile journey to tend the pasture spring and fetch a young calf. In the context of my class two years ago it was an invitation to the world of imaginative reading to help clean out my personal “spring” as my colleagues and I entered this briefly intensive week away from the typical rhythm of our lives. I found something in the poet’s words that took me back into my personal memories. My roots are set in a family of Kansas farmers who enjoyed the open wheat and milo fields. Our “pastures” did not reflect what you see in the picture above as far as greenery, but they were just as wide, open, and beautiful (but a bit more flat). Our trips to the farm have never been long lived…in fact it was clear that we “sha’n’t be gone long,” yet the visits were all worthwhile and complete with an invitation.
My mind returns me to the fields behind my grandmother’s homestead where I first learned to hunt for pheasant. We would walk and often return with no bounty of fowl, but we never were disappointed. The fireflies had a way of filling the fields at dusk during harvest, dancing across the tops of the recently cut wheat to provide adventurous little boys with a ripe crop of catchable insects. Now-grown cousins would tackle our fears of height by playing games of tag on top of the square bails of hay that were usually stacked as high as the two-story farmhouse. These memories are my personal invitation to return to a place of formation, telling my present self, “You come too.” It is an irresistible invitation that I intend to accept more often than I have.
The UNcommon Perspective that speaks so clearly to me in light of Frost’s words of invitation is return to your formative memories. Our perspectives today tend to be limited to an either/or limitation: Either “never” return to your memories, or be trapped by them. Not all points of formation in a life will be composed of fanciful stories…some are tragic…others may appear mundane…yet all have their place in our individual stories of life that are authored by God Himself. It is in our return to these places of the mind that we may see, learn, and continue to grow in light of them. Say “yes” to the invitation and begin walking. You will likely find that your “spring” will be cleared of its rubbish and your days forward will show great potential for further formation. “I’m going…You come too.”