Abandoned silage bales, Seven Devils Road, north of Bandon, Oregon, August 2005.
Coastal Oregon can be damp and cold enough to make even the summer traveler wear winter clothes and the hay maker to wrap his bales in plastic covers more reminiscent of wet Wales, than of the hot, dry American West. I found these silage bales from an earlier season, left to decay on a typically chilly August day. The fog extended only a few hundred yards inland, but the damp air sucked by the inland heat penetrates many miles up the Camas Valley. Beyond the first protective ridge, humidity drops, temperatures soar, and hay can be made without protective plastic. But these abandoned packages, mysterious detritus of industrial agriculture, have their own peculiar beauty. The uncertainty of their abandonment to ferment and decay provoked enough metaphors to string together the following sonnet.
The plastic is the color of the mist,
Or sheep or snowdrifts after partial melt,
With wizened texture, these taut wrinkles pressed
Outward by inner swell, like bellied belt.
The fodder fumed within these swollen lumps
Left cooler seeds to darkly germinate
And push up fronds and stems, sharp clumps,
Green points, new verdant blades that lacerate.
Grains also settled on the surface skin
With wind-borne dust enough to fertilize
The urgent leaves and roots that sink within
To find fermented mulch and rush the bale’s demise.
As bodies shrouded cycle back to earth,
Abandoned hay regenerates its birth.