Posted by: morrowsl | July 2, 2016

I Had a Farm…

“I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills.”
Karen Blixen, Out of Africa

I remember the first time I heard that line.  I understood so well how Karen Blixen felt about her farm.  How the shape of the boundary lines were the shape of her world.  How it’s smell was her perfume.  How the sounds of it were her songs.  How her heart felt every time she stepped off of and back onto her farm.
I once understood it all too well.

I know they say you can’t go home again.  But what about a place that was never your home, no matter how much you wished it to be.  What about going back there?

We leave in a couple of weeks for some time on the farm.  Which is to say we’ll drive out from town and hang around some during the daytime, cleaning up this and that and poking around.  We might venture back out in the late evening as well if there’s a bit of moon and the frogs are singing.  We’ll sit in the quiet stillness of a long afternoon and feel that incredible breeze that always lifts late in the day.  We’ll watch dragonflies and frogs on the pond.  We’ll smell the fresh-cut grass.  And skirt the edges of the fields to run our hands across the long leaves of the tall corn.  And, if I pretend, I’ll maybe feel that we’re actually on the farm again.  Then we’ll start the car and drive back to town and leave the night to envelop all that it touches in dark shadow and damp mist.

It hasn’t been so long ago that the thought of making the turn into our lane was enough to get my heart beating quickly and my stomach doing flips.  I’ve even been known to cry as soon as we cross over the Ohio and I know we’re almost there.  I know I am likely the only member of my family who feels such a connection to this place.  I am the only one still pushing with all my might against the force that time and distance is hammering down on it all.  I may be the only one left who still sees it as it was, even when the reality of what it is glares back at me.

The last time we were there we finally removed all remnants of my husband’s sweet parents.  All the clothes and shoes from the closets.  All the hats and coats from the mud porch.  All the books and papers.  All the reminders that, at one time, a family lived in the house and it sheltered them.  We packed up what made sense to bring with us.  We pulled a burn barrel out of the barn and fed a two-day fire with page after page of handwritten notes and carefully copied files and stack upon stack of magazines, church bulletins, pamphlets, and whatnot.  We made multiple trips to the donation center with clothes and household goods.  I kept reminding myself that, should the house come down in a dusty heap now, no one will ever have to sift through the rubble looking for anything important.
We bought a weed-whacker and hedge-trimmer and chemical sprayer.  He mowed and I whacked.  He sprayed and I piled up a truck load of dead-fall from the trees.  We relocated items we wanted to keep protected.  We discussed and disagreed and decided.

And, in the end, we knew that it was still not enough and that anyone who knew the story of the place would know that it is empty and vulnerable.  As much of a shock as it was to drive up and see the porches crumbling and the paint peeling, it was still a huge surprise to find the windows whole and the doors pulled tight.

That is my greatest fear, second only to losing the place to non-family members with inheritance rights and money to spend.  We never make that turn that I don’t send up a silent prayer that we won’t encounter some stranger who believes they are entitled to our farm simply because they are on it and we are not.  And I always give thanks when we step out of the car to nothing but empty silence.

The day I became a part-owner of our farm, I vowed to work at restoring it as a place for our family to gather.  I would insist we pour our time and efforts and money into bringing it back to itself.

And I failed.

And so, each time I know we are going back, I am filled with a sadness so huge it swallows my thoughts.  I almost dread the trip.  I know what it will do to me to see what another year or two has taken away.  I dwell on the what-ifs.  Even as I know in my rational mind that the time for saving and restoring is gone.  Even if we agreed to spend the time and money, we would need more of both than what is available to us now.

I had a farm…  I had a farm…  I had…

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