Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota by James Wright

Over my head, I see the bronze butterfly,   
Asleep on the black trunk,
Blowing like a leaf in green shadow.   
Down the ravine behind the empty house,   
The cowbells follow one another   
Into the distances of the afternoon.   
To my right,
In a field of sunlight between two pines,   
The droppings of last year’s horses   
Blaze up into golden stones.
I lean back, as the evening darkens and comes on.   
A chicken hawk floats over, looking for home.
I have wasted my life.

Lying in a Hammock

When I first read Wright’s poem, enticed by the title, I came to the end and broke into smiles. I realize it may not strike you this way. Certainly that last line is an abrupt turn around from all the gorgeous pastoral images – butterfly, leaf, cowbells, sunlight, golden stones, a chicken hawk floats over. What does he mean?

I’m not going to analyse this, though I gather it has been the subject of much disagreement. Simply to say that when I read it, my response was Yes! Any time I have spent not appreciating the natural beauty around me is a waste of precious time.

I don’t have access to a hammock just now but I do know how to go sit by the river to listen to it tumble over rocks or lie on the front porch and watch the wind dance the gingko leaves. This is the time of year to be ‘lazy’, to be non-productive in a consumer world. An opportunity to be idle and blessed as Mary Oliver has so aptly put it in The Summer Day, another fine poem to wake us up to ourselves.

Let us not waste our life by foregoing valuable moments to notice the world around us, to take in the beauty that is strewn all around waiting to be appreciated. So, find your version of a hammock and get busy doing nothing while you can. Enjoy!

14 thoughts on “Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota by James Wright

  1. Thank you so much Jan for your reflection on this poem as I didn’t get that message when I first read it. I appreciate your message. Love,

    Margaret 613-725-6941 Home 613-795-9879 Mobile

    Sent from my iPhone



  2. Reblogged this on martina2b and commented:
    The quiet and beauty are what we need to be able to heal. We are in existential dread with the sweltering heat, scared of a future of more climate change. I want to hear the cows on the hillside, and feel the air dancing the ginko leaves!


  3. I was startled by the ending on first read and on rereading I also smiled. I am grateful for your Mary Oliver quote “to be idle and blessed” as it expresses perfectly the imaginings of being on that hammock. Such an important reminder to slow down and just pay attention in those precious moments.
    And yes, how do we care for our world so that we continue to be blessed with butterflies; the sound of cowbells and ginko leaves.
    Many thanks for this poem Jan. Love, Lisa 🦋


  4. I would offer another step along the taking time – the training of mind in buddhism is to Be in this same state/mind, for everything, not just the natural world. Imagine being present on a call, washing dishes, showering, on this computer… and being with each moment and breath, not trailing into a previous experience/thought or multi tasking across several things… imagine seeing the butterfly of this cursor moving one character at a time… what I notice in the poem is Presence, in its present tense, this moment only. Nature invites this and.. i am practicing to bring this presence to this desk.. where the untrained mind gallops wildly! Thanks for these poems –an invitation to enter a larger space


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