These are some of the places we hold dear on and around the farm, places that hold a certain magic for those of us who live on and love this land. This is the vista taken at the beginning of last summer from the back door of the barn above the field where the greenhouse sits amidst orderly laid out rows, now brown, but soon bursting again with activity and green life;
We’ve made a cozy retreat — two rickety falling apart chairs behind the shed where we hide from the sun’s heat under the old apple tree planted many years ago by Bill’s grandmother Isabel, who left this earth in 1996;
We feel a kinship to the remaining maple tree that looks over the east field and stands between the house where I live, and the farm next door. Until a couple of years ago there were two trees here, both planted by Bill’s grandfather when he was just a boy. He died in 1981, so this last tree was probably planted somewhere in the first decade of the 1900s. They had to cut down the other a few years ago, when it fell victim to disease. Harrison’s ashes are scattered here underneath its generous boughs, as are the ashes of Isabel, his wife, my husband’s grandmother.
Another place we all love, but difficult to capture in one single image, is from the high vantage of the woodpile next to the beehives which, depending on your orientation, looks to the back of the farmhouse, the fenced garden, the big garden beyond it, and the east field from on the hill.
Remnant energy vibrates here of generations who have called this place home and have left their imprint. All that remains aside from grainy photos and treasured primary documents, are names now. Some of these people still live in the memories of the only one who remains of the earlier generation: Louise, now 80, Bill’s mother. Dating from the early 1800s, there have been two Johns here, two Harrisons, Audrey, Albert, Miriam, Esther, Isabel, William, all gone… They lived, survived and thrived here, just as we do now. The places we hold sacred most likely gave them moments of pleasure too, even if they didn’t speak of it. I can imagine Harrison, my husband’s grandfather feeling the same satisfaction we do looking over the fields from the same place in at the back door of the barn. Thinking about those people, living and then dying here, how can we say that we own the land, in spite of the illusion of deeds, and the artificial property lines that divide everything up into parcels? We are only here for a moment, and then we will be gone, but the land remains.
Take a walk with me now, down the path behind the woodpile that leads to a network of trails in the state forest that abuts the farm. More sacred places are to be found out there in the woods behind the farm.
This is the ancient stone wall that marks the end of our property. Do you know it was customary in generations past to “walk the bounds,” an annual task that fell to landowners to protect their property rights? You don’t hear of people doing this nowadays, but maybe its a good idea.
A mysterious sweep of swampland ringed by beaver-chewed trees. A place I call “beaverish.”
The holy place I like to call “The Hemlock Cathedral,” where a hush falls when you enter its lofty expanse framed by straight high trunks, a carpet of soft needles quiets your footsteps, a contemplative place for introspection.
The path then leads us up the steep path on to an esker, a geologic formation caused by glaciers, a winding ridge of earth like the spine of a dragon, left behind by the ice which cut wide bowls on either side.
At the end of this path, traveled by many who walk these woods, is a cairn where we place a stone whenever we walk. Others feel the magic of the land as we do…
And finally, lest we forget, the world is populated by those who we don’t often see, but who see us. We find them in the evidence of their passing, great tufts of hair from the coyote tells the story of their passing there, if we can only understand. Was it a fight between two? We don’t know.