The Greenneck: Mere mortal after all?

The Greenneck spent this past weekend engaged in the tasks of country living. He ran fence, with the intent of containing his cows so that he might not spend any more of his evenings chasing them through the forest. He shoveled innumerable spadefuls of composted cow shit onto the gardens. He walked into the woods with a can of gas and a chainsaw, and walked out with an armload of cedar posts. He nailed rough cut spruce boards to the side of his barn.

He did one other thing: He attended a memorial service for a neighbor who died rather unexpectedly at the age of 52.

Do these things connect? They do. Because you cannot attend a funeral without considering, at least for a moment, what you want your mark to be on your little corner of the world. At least, the Greenneck cannot.

And this is what he thinks: We are no longer a nation of producers. By and large, most of us earn our living on the whims and wants of others. Very, very few of us make anything that is an absolute necessity. Most of the time, the Greenneck is no different; his words might occasionally entertain and inform, but they fill no one’s stomach.

But on this weekend – indeed, on most weekends lately – he actually makes something. He may not make it well, but even that truth doesn’t diminish the pleasure of it. Nor does it the diminish the knowledge that when his time comes, should it be tomorrow, or 50 years from tomorrow, he will have left behind something tangible, something that endures beyond the limits of his too-humble body.


  1. Nice. But if you think that fence is going to last fifty years, you're fooling yourself.

  2. A Ballad That We Do Not Perish

    Those who sailed at dawn
    but will never return
    left their trace on a wave—

    a shell fell to the bottom of the sea
    beautiful as lips turned to stone

    those who walked on a sandy road
    but could not reach the shuttered windows
    though they already saw the roofs—

    they have found shelter in a bell of air

    but those who leave behind only
    a room grown cold a few books
    an empty inkwell white paper—

    in truth they have not completely died
    their whisper travels through thickets of wallpaper
    their level head still lives in the ceiling

    their paradise was made of air
    of water lime and earth an angel of wind
    will pulverize the body in its hand
    they will be
    carried over the meadows of this world

    --Zbigniew Herbert