Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Empty and Full (06/04/09)
TITLE: A Half-Mile, Dusty Road
By Jim McWhinnie
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I am not all that sure what I was expecting, but I had not expected this. As I walked down that half-mile, dusty road, I had convinced myself that I was about to pass through a portal in time. I suppose I was expecting to see barefoot brothers and sisters playing freeze tag beneath the five oaks that gave our farm its name. I suppose I was expecting to see Teddy, our collie, chasing the chickens that had strayed from the coop. I know I was looking for the red, Massey-Ferguson tractor, the round milking barn with the green shingle roof, the grey hay barn that also stabled our two Clydesdale horses, Big Ben and Prince. I suppose I couldn’t wait to find some comfort in that two-story farmhouse. I wanted to hear one more time that screen door slamming behind me and to smell that stone mill bread baking in the cast iron oven. I wanted to sit on the hearth of that grey stone fireplace. I wanted to see that blue floral wallpaper that covered my bedroom walls, my bedroom that looked out over the front porch. But most of all, I suppose I was expecting - maybe, I was even needing - to slip back into that time when life was full to the brim with innocent peace.
Then I realized that fifty years is a long time when it comes to one-time farm boys and the farmhouses that they had left behind. What was - well, it was no more. The yesteryear that I hoped I would find, was long gone. The farm that was once so full of life now was full of dust and ghosts and a whole lot of empty.
The barns had lost their reason for living and now were falling down one board at a time. No more work to do.
The chickens had been replaced by a handful of squirrels and a passing flock of starlings. No cows to milk; no horses to ride.
The farmhouse was no more, except for a crumbling foundation of bricks and a rusty pipe here and there. Even the five oaks now were but two, the other three having died away to the seasons of time. Nothing left of those sprawling giants except their decaying stumps, as if tombstones for the now departed old men.
And what of all those brothers and sisters playing tag? They had become doctors and teachers, one, a preacher, and one, a civil engineer. But my guess is that they all still had a soul full of farmhouse memories.
I actually did find that old Massey-Ferguson tractor, a rusty relic I found hiding out in a feral field. I took the time to climb on her once more. And when I closed my eyes, that far part of my life in distant yesterdays came back to me. And as it did, the empty place began to fill up with life once more.
Now and then, I walk down that dusty half-mile and fill my life with that realm from whence I came. And now and then, I walk down that shining path and fill my life with that realm to where I go. It seems like I need them both, more and more with each passing year.
Yes, I do believe that is true. I need them both to keep my present moment, full.
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