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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Before and After (05/14/09)

TITLE: Upon This Forty Acres
By Jim McWhinnie


Simply a two story, white clapboard farmhouse, sitting in the midst of a few tidy, well-worked field, it was not much more, my boyhood home. In that place, in those times, these family farms were scattered everywhere. Nothing all that special about such farms and their houses, except, of course, to the souls who lived within them.

Grandad had long ago took the time to place in the front room a window three sashes wide. Six panes of glass above, six panes below, thirty-six in all. I know there were thirty-six little squares of window glass for I learned my counting by counting them. Beyond the window, the porch swing would sometimes stir with ghosts, back and forth, back and forth. And there were times, when the winds coming off the fields had gone on by, when the swing would wait patiently suspended by its chains. Sometimes a bluebird, sometimes a wren, would stop and take a turn. This is how I know that even birds do have their weight and can cause a swing to stir.

But it was beyond the swing, beyond the railing of the porch, beyond the stone well that anchored what served as our front yard, that a slow, slow drama did tell of life. Forty acres of flat, rich bottom land, free of stone and so providential in its way, this was the stage upon which time portrayed itself.

Before the thaw of spring, that field was a glistening, sparkling carpet of snow. For something made of stuff so very cold, the stuff of snowmen and snow forts, the canvass for angel portraits four foot tall, that snowy field looked warm from inside my window. It looked like it would be warm to cuddle beneath its cotton down.

But after the thaw, when the winter had melted away that field looked like barren wasteland, crusty, unbroken, stubbled with the straw of the harvest past and gone. For most that empty field looked liked utter desolation, but for a farmer assured by the passing of many seasons, the field looked like hope.

Before the planting time, the field appeared as loneliness, maybe abandoned. But after the faithful rows were turned by a farmer and his plow, the field took on a certain gracious beauty as if long tresses combed by a loving lady’s hand. Worked and worked again, the springtime soil prepared itself for its purpose, a purpose that it knew quite well.

Before the harvest, the field would become a gently rolling fabric of pale and rustic gold. It had the look of softness, a softness more soft than its bristly reality. But after those late summer days of golden glory, the harvesters would come. Filling the first air of autumn with chaff and dust, the harvesters would go out and back. Filling the empty barns with wheat and barley, the harvesters would go out and back.

After the harvest, the field would look spent to me, almost tired. Then just before the winter came, the birds would pack their bags, gleaning bits and pieces off that field. And after this, the snow would fall.

I am thankful that God in His artistic understanding of how time courses through human souls, filled our living with the passing seasons, the before and after times in this long eternity.

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This article has been read 636 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Genia Gilbert05/24/09
I like the description of the birds, the fields, and the snow... Having lived in Kansas for four neat years, it brought back memories. I especially loved the color of the wheat and milo just before harvest! Good picture of the farms and land, and God's great seasons.
Myrna Noyes05/24/09
I enjoyed this gentle, rhythmic piece about the land and how it changes with the seasons.

You had some nice descriptions such as: "Beyond the window, the porch swing would sometimes stir with ghosts, back and forth, back and forth," and also the part about the freshly plowed field rows looking like a lady's lovingly combed tresses.

It made me wish I could go visit that place and that time! Good job! :)

Joy Faire Stewart05/25/09
I was transported to the farm by the vivid descriptions. I also enjoyed the mc learning to count by counting the window panes, great touch.
Connie Dixon05/25/09
Great descriptions in this piece. You made the farm and it's field come to life. There is a lot of depth in your love of the land.
Bryan Ridenour05/25/09
Vivid descriptions of a place I would like to visit. Nicely written.
Patricia Herchenroether05/25/09
Your story makes me want to go back to my childhood on my uncle's farm. Wonderful description of the field by season.
Mona Purvis05/25/09
It takes a special writer to take the common, everyday and paint a picture so rich and glorious. That is what you did.
When I read your writing, I slow down and savor each word.
Sharon Kane05/26/09
In this age of canned and frozen everything we lose touch with the rhythms of the seasons. This was a rich piece of writing which reminds us to pause and thank God for the wonder of His world. Well done!
Pamela Kliewer05/26/09
I really like this. I saw each scene as you unfolded it so well. Great take on the topic.
Lyn Churchyard05/26/09
Visually wonderful and full of descriptions that would make a poet envious. Great job.
Verna Cole Mitchell 05/27/09
Absolutely lovely pictures here.
Eliza Evans 05/27/09
Ahh, a country boy!! Me, too. (country girl I mean!):)

A soothing, gentle piece of writing, Jim.