Opposites: Sunshine & Shadow Over My Fence At 5 a.m. Or A Case of Elephants in The Corn And Other Unreal Realities

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It makes you want to burst into song. You know, that cheesy Oklahoma number: There’s a bright golden haze on the meadow. There’s a bright golden haze on the meadow.*

When I was small, and we still lived in Love Lane House in the midst of the Cheshire countryside, my mother would always sing as she went around the house doing chores. This song was a favourite: Oh what a beautiful morning, Oh what a beautiful day.  She had a nice voice and always sang with great gusto. This in turn provided much needed reassurance on days when Miss Goodwin put in an appearance. Wednesdays. She was mother’s home help, and she came once a week to clean the acres of red quarry tile floors that ran throughout the house.

To a child she was an alarming gnome-like figure. Her straggle of black, limp hair had much in common with the wet floor mop that she wielded with dogged determination. As she twisted the mob head in the bucket, she would peer down at me through round, black-rimmed spectacles that made her eyes stand out on stalks. I thought she was probably a witch. I also associate her with green liquid soap – a cleaning product of times past. It had a repellent smell.

But mother went on singing, and all seemed well apart from the line about the corn being as high as an elephant’s eye.

This was a mystifying notion for a country child who, though surrounded by farm fields, had never seen elephants there, nor crops that grew so tall. My father worked for an agricultural merchants, and early on I learned the difference between the grain crops he dealt in. In those days we did not know much about American corn, which we anyway call maize, and corn was a word commonly used to refer to wheat.

A case of cereal confusion then.

Many decades later when I was out and about on Kenyan farms, and wondering at the height and vigour of some of the maize plots, I could well see how you might lose an elephant or two in there. In fact African elephants are very partial to scoffing poor farmers’ white maize crops just as they are ready to harvest. They can eat in a night produce that would have lasted a family half a year.

Anyway, there are clearly no elephants in the  wheat/corn in the photo. It is only half a metre tall. But the light is truly extraordinary.  A false dawn ripening since in reality the crop is still green with only the barest signs of turning. I kept my eyes open long enough to frame the shot and then went back to bed, inner sight still glowing from the vision: did I really see that strange light, and does this happen on other mornings when I’m not awake?

Mother’s voice comes winging back across the years: I’ve got a wonderful feeling/ Everything’s going my way.  Did I ever believe this back then? Mother was someone who ever came with undercurrents, despite the nice singing. For some reason the cornfield elephant I now picture has eyes the colour of summer-blue skies, which is odd. All of which is to say, childhood impressions, layer on layer, randomly and silently absorbed in the presence of unaware adults, can run deep. Like elephants in cornfields, you just never know when they’re going to ambush you.

~

*Lyrics by  Oscar Hammerstein II, music by Richard Rogers copyright 1943 Williamson Music

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28 thoughts on “Opposites: Sunshine & Shadow Over My Fence At 5 a.m. Or A Case of Elephants in The Corn And Other Unreal Realities

  1. Well that photo was certainly worth waking up for. It’s beautiful. And a delightful story to go along with it. Despite the undercurrents (my mother also) I think it would be lovely to have a song so positive flowing throughout the morning. I think I’ll use it myself 🙂
    Alison

  2. What a delightful read. I was first captured by the image and then swayed by your swirling tale that traveled cross continents in pursuit of s blue-eyed elephant. A very dream-like state of mind.

  3. wonderful narrative to listen to Tish and the contrast between Mother and Mrs Mop so clearly drawn. The early morning photographer needs to get up more often judging by the calibre of that golden shot! (no allusion here to that awful 70s TV game?!) I like the old songs and often trill out ‘Some day my prince will come’ which always puzzled the children

    1. Thank you, Laura. I love the notion of your singing old songs, though I somehow feel you might have something mischievous in store for said prince when and if he arrives 🙂

  4. I really enjoyed this….and interestingly my Father used to sing that song all the time….He would sometimes embarrass me by singing it as we walked around the village together:) Today, I realise just how wonderful it was to have a singing Father….Thanks Tish…

    1. That’s a lovely realisation, Janet. I often wonder though why I don’t sing as my mother did; it’s not as if I can’t. I shall ponder on that.

    1. I’ve been wondering that myself, Gilly. She truly was a scary, though I’m sure she didn’t mean to be. We lived in a very isolated place, and I actually didn’t see many people all that often, so she made a big impression.

  5. I love the way your early morning thoughts ramble on, with elephants in the corn …or was that maize? and weird housekeepers with mops and tangled hair, complicated singing mothers and Kenyan farmers. Your posts are such a joy to read Tish. And what a cracking view from your window! Do you know I don’t think I ever heard either of my parents sing.

  6. Everything that could possibly be said has been, Tish. I agree with everyone.
    You weave a tale that captivates from the moment I read your first words.
    You are masterful … ✍🏻
    Isadora 🙏🏻

  7. Been a while since I’ve seen 5am!
    But it looks different over here, that’s for sure.
    I have lived in two places where there was a cornfield at the end of the road. Don’t recall elephants at either place. 🙂

  8. The light is extraordinary indeed. I could look at that picture all day. And oh how I wish I had your talent of story telling to paint pictures as you do with words.

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