We hit the road last Wednesday,
The Monkey and I.
We road tripped north to the family farm in Rocky Mount, VA.
Nothing like a rural road and a trip to the Blue Ridge range
to set things right.
I love that drive.
It's three hours of I'm okay.
Incidentally, the Monkey doesn't understand silos yet.
He's of the opinion that the fields are littered
with rocket ships in need of repair.
I played along-- why not rocket ships?
I love the grandness of his small mind.
Tobacco season is closing down.
The fields in Virginia still hold a bit more leaf than our
Carolina plots, and the effect is autumnal.
I find the slow harvest (a few leaves at a time)
promising, laden with the commitment of cooler weather.
The humidity dissipates with the green foliage,
The south and I can breathe again.
We pulled in with the setting sun and the moon already shining.
Fifty-six acres of home, each spread wide with pasture and oak.
If I die early, they can rest me here beneath the acorns.
I sleep better in Virginia, anyway.
Meanwhile, I take my rest in a hammock,
beneath the trees my grandfather used to sing to me about.
When I was younger, I'd rest here with him,
or my cousins.
Now I have other company.
Same hammock, another generation,
another round of memories to make.
I believe firmly in the magic of the dappled illumination that
plays in oak branches.
I believe in the power of that filtered light-
Maybe it's just vitamin D,
but I swear I'm stronger in that concentrated ray of sun.
I want to swallow it.
As the time passes and their years increase,
my grandparents' harvests grow smaller.
Still, the old man saw to it that I packed the car
full of homegrown goods before I left.
Home even has a taste.
It's earthy and robust-
and it runs down my chin and over my neck,
stains my t-shirt as much as the grass stains my jeans.
It's soul sustaining even as it nourishes my body.
And no, I don't always wash the dirt off before
I bite down deep in a beefsteak tomato.
The Monkey and I did some harvesting of our own.
Collecting acorns and walnuts,
the fallen feathers of birds.
We poked at ant piles with sticks
and thumped the heads of mushrooms,
watching the plumes of spores rise up and
flow out into the air.
Puff Mushrooms, The Monkey calls them.
They make him laugh,
which makes me laugh...
ipso facto, I love a puff mushroom.
Not with many a John Deere.
Not with a pool. Or swings. Or Donkeys and cattle.
It's joy, simple and sweet, sunrise to sunset.
This was the first trip back home that
she hasn't called me by name.
I don't think she knew it,
but she knows I'm her granddaughter and that she loves me.
She knows, too, that I love her,
and these are the things I hold onto.
The Old Man looks out for her just as he always has.
It's been over sixty years now,
and I love their love.
I want this in the end.
There is a faith on that farm that grows deep
and real, and that shines as kindly and as concentrated
as any light beaming through a water oak.
Valid, it's a faith in something High and All-Knowing
but it's also a faith in family,
in one another, and in our connectedness to each other
through anything that comes, anything that goes.
I know I can always go home-
that there will be open arms up in those mountains.
There is faith, too, on that drive back and forth.
From the old church in Axton to the fields of Yancyville,
and every country mile between.
The blessings here tally up with each click on the odometer.
Faith, it seems, even hides in a country store
restroom- to watch young enthusiasm
as it marvels over the blast of an automatic
hand dryer... could I ask for more, honestly?
This is a blessing.
Back home, beneath the shade of my own ancient oaks,
we had a yard sale. Time to shift some things around
and ease away from a time that has passed.
It's been a long summer- the heat of the air
is cooling along with the blood in my veins.
It was a good weekend-- things
are certainly changing, myself included.
Whatever else I might be from day to day,
wrong, difficult, weak, or headstrong-
I am at heart, thankful.
Life is good.