Once upon a time
Time for nostalgia
There was once a farm, once upon a time many years ago, that now existed only in her memories. It, too, had a story of its own, a life story of a home and of a hill. And of the young woman who lived there.
When she first came, it was land that had been left to itself. The people who once called it home had gone elsewhere and it was left with its whispering memories – and the snake that rustled through the grass. Time was no longer measured in the life span of a man, but of the deer and the fox – and when they were gone, they left no sign behind them.
It had a hill with a stone jutting out of its skin, a rock around whose base soft silken grasses swayed in the wind. The children loved to come here, sheltered from the wind. And it was a good place for lovers. One could see down to the barn and the white house beyond.
And behind there was the tip of the hill, good for flying kites until the small pine trees grew and raised a barrier to the sky. Behind this was only the woods with a half of a stone wall and a sort of road that had once been used for lumbering. But no one ever came through this way. The nearest house was a good half hour away, and then who would come walking through the woods? Hunters, maybe, but there were “no hunting” signs posted and initialed all along the border. In the winter, before the pine trees were planted there, it made a small smooth slope for the children to practice skiing on. At the bottom lay the apple orchard, across the road that led to the peach trees, and the deep secret hemlock forest.
But then the land became a farm again. The scrub was cut, and hay was made. And things were planted. The apple trees bore great red fruits again.
She loved most to work alone – gathering the apples, surrounded by their rich fragrance and their warmth where the sun lay caught in the grass. Or in the early spring when the apples were pruned and one could climb all over the trees, clipping the red suckers, seeking to find the right balance on one side and the other, thinking of the apples that would weigh down the branches, of the blossoms that would come before this. The sky was blue always and the air felt fresh. She and the farm were alone together then.
There was also a house of many rooms. Of an attic with the beams showing where one could step only on them. With its double set of stairs, and its big open-armed kitchen and the table upon which she and her sister scribbled their fantasies and did their homework. She sometimes wondered what the people who had lived there twenty or even a hundred years before were like. How many had died in that house, how many had been born.
Then came the great hurricane, and the catalpa and the hickory went. But so loud was the noise and roar of the wind that no one heard them go. Just when they looked, the trees had stretched their forms upon the ground, twisted in the agony of dying, gently caressing the house which they had cajoled the wind into sparing.
But the time soon came for her to leave, although she knew the farm would wait patiently for her return, for her to walk the fields, hunting for strawberries among the moss and straggly grass. She hadn’t thought though, nor had the farm, that others would come, cut down the hemlocks, raze the house and build ugly square storage sheds in its place. The children, who once played on the hillside, were far away and had children of their own. The farm, if they thought of it at all, was simply part of a far distant past.
For her, it was different, and she was grateful for the memories it had given her: the feel and fragrance of the grass, the shadows creeping up over the fields and the sound of cowbells as evening approached, the hush in the air when the snow drifted down, were now part of who she was.