A Farm Breviary: Compline

The final office, and I’m seated in the doorway of the hoop-house. Behind me the compline bell rings with each shake of the ram’s head. The flock is bedded in the barn for the night, but still restless. Through the far door of the greenhouse, in the dimming light, the pigs gather as hungry penitents, hoping to be favored by an overgrown turnip or some other toothsome gift. Mere feet away, a rabbit munches a cabbage leaf, unconcerned by my presence.

The hour of compline begins with the restless, the hungry, and the insolent, which seems to be a certain commentary on something, if I could but grasp it. Meanwhile, in the blue-black sky above, a late jet catches up to the sun’s light at 40,000 feet and reflects the granted glory of a temporary membership among the celestial.

That too seems to me a lesson: mistaking reflected light as a sign of glory or evidence of mastery. Our literature as a species, outside of this current epoch of assumed progressive godhead, is replete with warnings of a fall and our inevitable irrelevance. We forget the lesson of the Roman triumph, where the servant stood at the conquering general’s ear and whispered the message of mortality, or the caution of the young Shelley, that the Ozymandian stature of our achievements was petty compared to the cosmos, or even to a tree, a bee, or a rock.

Perhaps we seek too high for that reflected illumination. Once, I had resolved to be as the moon, steadfast in her journey. Now I’m thinking I should be a cabbage. It seems not to care whether rabbit or human eats its leaves; it thrives in that short arc before becoming fodder for whatever destiny.

I laugh out loud at my absurd ruminations, startling the ram out of his own observance. He nervously rings the bell on his collar to close off the hour. Still no closer to an understanding, with this final office now observed, I pick up my chair and turn to leave. The rabbit casts a wary eye, then resumes its predations on my garden.

A final gaze at the night sky before I enter the house finds the familiar winking semaphore still sending its eternal dispatch — which I suspect, if I could just hear, would be whispering in my ear: remember, you are only a man, nothing more.


11 thoughts on “A Farm Breviary: Compline

  1. Refraining to use the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch against what laypeople would have regarded as a perpetrator of heinous cabbage removal, you have shown yourself worthy of leading a life beyond the convulsions of meteoric rise and fatal landing error due to low visibility because of a Trojan Rabbit having been smuggled into the cockpit following a boozy night’s bet between the stewardess’ husband and the airport taxidermist.

    • Ha! You give me too much credit, my friend. I simply wasn’t in the mood for lapin a la moutarde. But, if you ever make it to Tennessee you may expand at length on your knowledge of airport taxidermists.

      • Hmmm, if it were my choice between the airport taxidermists or the Trojan Rabbit I might lean toward the rabbit, but it would be very close. So close in fact, you might say… by a hare.

          • Be careful – lest you break the spam filter… who knows what awful stuff might seep through until you get it repaired. Send a shudder down my spine just thinking about it.

            Will be headed to town after lunch for some parts. Here’s hoping I don’t ask the tech for a spam filter.

  2. Your Breviary series has been very nice. The serial release worked well too. But there may come a time when one might want to binge read them. What hath society wrought, that we might talk like that?

    • Thanks, I enjoyed the exercise of trying to come up with something both different and similar in each post in the series. Binge reading these posts? Is that a form of going postal?

      • Perhaps. Though this concept of “going postal” might not survive for long. Just the other day I wrote in an email that I would provide the recipient with a SASE in a piece of mail (contract stuff). The Gen Xer on the other end sent a reply email with the confession “I’m sorry, but what is a SASE?”. I felt so old. 🙁

        • Not sure how I missed this reply, Clem. But, it is priceless. I had a similar interaction recently. I told a colleague, in their mid-twenties, to look in the yellow-pages. They looked at me and said, “how cute, Mr. Miller.”

          • Oh yeah… the “Mr.” treatment.

            I once looked forward to the respect such an appellation engendered. Now when it gets used I wonder whether the author really intends any respect at all. Oh well…

Any thoughts or questions?