driveway

Posted by Ellen

In 1940, when photographer Frances Benjamin Johnston visited Wormsloe Plantation near Savannah, Georgia, the approach looked much as it had in antebellum times. Twentieth-century horseless carriages left different tracks in the dirt of the mile-and-a-half-long driveway, but intervening decades had done nothing to change the overall effect of oak and moss and ivy.

The original plantation house, however, built in the mid-eighteenth century out of tabby–cement made primarily of crushed oyster shells–crumbled away long ago. A nineteenth-century replacement house is still controlled by descendants of the family that built the place, though most of the acreage was deeded over to the state during the Depression.

In the early years of the twentieth century, the family name was changed from Jones to DeRenne, and the spelling of the plantation was changed from Wormslow to Wormsloe. They must have had their reasons.

Posted by Ellen

Shoveling snow with Buddha
by Billy Collins

In the usual iconography of the temple or the local Wok
you would never see him doing such a thing,
tossing the dry snow over the mountain
of his bare, round shoulder,
his hair tied in a knot,
a model of concentration.

Sitting is more his speed, if that is the word
for what he does, or does not do.

Even the season is wrong for him.
In all his manifestations, is it not warm and slightly humid?
Is this not implied by his serene expression,
that smile so wide it wraps itself around the waist of the universe?

But here we are, working our way down the driveway,
one shovelful at a time.
We toss the light powder into the clear air.
We feel the cold mist on our faces.
And with every heave we disappear
and become lost to each other
in these sudden clouds of our own making,
these fountain-bursts of snow.

This is so much better than a sermon in church,
I say out loud, but Buddha keeps on shoveling,
This is the true religion, the religion of snow,
and sunlight and winter geese barking in the sky,
I say, but he is too busy to hear me.

He has thrown himself into shoveling snow
as if it were the purpose of existence,
as if the sign of a perfect life were a clear driveway
you could back the car down easily
and drive off into the vanities of the world
with a broken heater fan and a song on the radio.

All morning long we work side by side,
me with my commentary
and he inside the generous pocket of his silence,
until the hour is nearly noon
and the snow is piled high all around us;
then, I hear him speak.

After this, he asks,
can we go inside and play cards?

Certainly, I reply, and I will heat some milk
and bring cups of hot chocolate to the table
while you shuffle the deck,
and our boots stand dripping by the door.

Aaah, says the Buddha, lifting his eyes
and leaning for a moment on his shovel
before he drives the thin blade again
deep into the glittering white snow.