I write in the early hours when the darkness is just yielding. This whole past week I slumbered late, past the border of dark to light, and missed those writing hours as my body caught up on rest, and my gracious husband ushered our little family through the morning’s duties. My heavily-pregnant body soaked up all that deep sleep like a sponge, and each morning I awoke mildly shocked at how much light was pouring through my windows.
I drove through my favorite stretch of farmland yesterday, drove real slow. It gives me a bit of painful joy; joy in seeing the beautiful farms with babbling brooks and wide porches and cows and chickens and barns and sheets flapping out on the lines, pain in the out-of-reachness for us. We were asked recently why we weren’t buying a farmette if that’s what we wanted to pursue. That’s only a question that can be asked by someone who is used to having those kind of options. Someone who probably doesn’t get to the end of the month and wonder how the bills are going to be paid. It has the sting of asking a wheelchair-bound person why they don’t just walk.
I can usually let words tumble right off of me, especially if I’m high in the cycle of gratitude and contentment, but if I’m low, down there in discontent and despair, the words stick like tar. I know they shouldn’t; I know they weren’t spoken to injure and gall me. I know my thin skin is a perspective problem and a spiritual problem, and that the solution is never to stay in that place of sticky emotion.
So let me get a dream off my chest. Because I carry it around with me everywhere and if you’ll oblige me, I’d like to lay it all down and show you the parts, give my arms a rest.
It’s a stone house, with deep window-sills and I’ve got my hand-dipped candles in pewter holders in each one. Wide, uneven plank floors underfoot that squeak. Come into the kitchen, where the wide hearth has a warm fire going, some of the coals scraped under a spider skillet where I’m simmering sauce. There’s a rough farmhouse table in the middle of the room, with a crock of flour and pottery mixing bowls and a mason jar full of flowers from the gardens. I’m there, kneading a mound of whole wheat bread dough and I smile at you, waving you to a stool beside the work table. With doughy hands I fetch you a mug from a tall old stepback cupboard, crumple some dried mint from an herb rack overhead into it, and grab the tea kettle from it’s hook over the fire.
You look around the room and it’s all eighteenth century as far as the eye can see with just a few modern touches peppered-in. Stand-alone old furniture pieces for “cabinets”, a deep soapstone sink over there by the window, cast iron and copper pots hanging around the hearth. The refrigerator is tucked away in the walk-in pantry, along with any other modern convenience that interrupts the simple beauty all about. You drink your tea and I set the bread in a large wooden trough to rise. I strap my baby to my back and lead you to your room. White-washed walls and linen curtains. A rope bed with a soft mattress and a handmade quilt that is lovingly frayed. There’s a candle on your bedside table and a stack of old books. There’s a washstand with a pitcher and bowl and a linen towel, and of course, a chunk of my homemade goat’s milk soap. I leave you to settle in.
You go to that deep window and see me with an apron full of chickenfeed as I head out to the animals, a bucket in my hand to milk the goats. You see the stone summer kitchen out there, don’t you? You remember that that’s where I make pounds and pounds of soap each week to sell. Sparkling light catches your eye from the creek that bubbles towards the spring house, and right through it, and out the other side. You know I keep the goat’s milk there in the stone water trough for cooling.
You see my children wading in the stream, startling our ducks into a quacking frenzy. You see the sheets on the line, and the verdant green of the grass, and how content the sheep look down in the pasture. You see the apiary too, a dozen or so hives humming with activity. You see my wide smile as I come back from the barn with a bucket of fresh milk, my eyes alight at seeing the children playing and splashing and living whole.
You can walk down the stairs now, you can leave my dream by the front door with it’s old cast iron latch. You can walk on out. Thanks for coming by; I don’t know why I needed you to come. Maybe I need someone to bear witness to a deep ache so it doesn’t fester in the shadows.
And I’ll go out into my windy yard and ignore the piles of construction materials that have no home because we can’t afford to pour a concrete floor in our shed. I’ll cut the tops off of the elephant ear bulbs and store them in buckets for next season. I’ll give thanks again for every present and tangible and now blessing that I see. And I will fight despair with praise.