Country musings

It was a short trip to the country, long overdue.

I know you can’t go home again, and my final destination never actually was my residence.

But in my heart it was home, especially in summer.

My grandparents once lived in the little Minnesota town I was fast approaching. My childhood memories there are still ripe with picking rhubarb, fresh corn, Grandma’s lemon pies in the oven, and porch swings.

My final stop was to be a rural cemetery in the corn fields just about a mile beyond the town’s Main Street.

My brother, parents, and grandparents are buried there, along with a host of other relatives.

It’s my tribe.

I recall a great aunt softly grabbing my arm and walking me through the place at my brother’s burial service many years ago.

She introduced me to each and everyone of his new neighbors there. And it seemed I was related to them all.

The main purpose of my trip was to check on the state of my family’s monuments and pavers.

And also to pay my respects.

It was a lonely, cold and gray morning at the cemetery. Memorial Day had already come and gone, just like the northerly wind.

There was just me and the morning doves around.

I noticed looking across the grounds that flowers on the graves were very few.

Perhaps those who used to plant the red, white and blue petunias on the burial sites of their elders had now passed away themselves.

But as I walked around I found some unexpected gifts.

A small bunch of yellow silk forget-me-knots adorned my brother’s grave. They were faded some, but lovingly placed perhaps by a stranger who cared, or was moved by the words ‘beloved son’ engraved on the tombstone.

I also discovered sheaves of corn placed around his grave and those of many others.

There is an old custom of placing these sheaves on the burial ground of those who once farmed.

Though no one in my immediate family had worked the land, it was still in their blood.

I pulled my old down vest tighter as I battled the chill back to my car.

Driving again through my grandparents aging small town to enter the highway back towards the city, I became a little blue. I noticed the downtown looked a bit dead with many vacant storefronts.

And I realized too that this trip out in the country had lacked the charm I used to know. The once proud red barns were now decaying and swaying in the breeze. And many of the other small towns along that highway looked lost and weathered as well.

I longed for any signs of life in traditional small town America and rural America.

And maybe just to see a farmer in bib overalls, I thought.

Suddenly I pulled the car over at the sight of something familiar, yet a bit different.

To my right I saw that the old Victorian funeral parlor, sitting kitty corner from my grandparents’ old place, was filled with life again.

There were tricycles and toys in the front yard. Maybe a growing family lived here or it was a bustling day care center I hoped.

Then I looked to the left.

My grandparents’ former home was shining brighter than ever with a fresh coat of paint.

And a few minutes later as I was driving back on the highway, I finally saw my farmer in bib overalls coming out of a dollar store.

I smiled for a moment.

I was happy.

At least it wasn’t a big old Walmart.

Ham and cheese

While nibbling on the crust of a homemade cheese sandwich, I keep driving in drizzle until reaching the gravel road of the farm.

I’m on a lunch break from my job at a school and there’s no better place for me to relax and dine than in the country.

Eyeing the familiar jersey cows on the green rolling hills, I smile. The farm isn’t mine so I’ll find no chores for me to do this day.

I often walk these fields for miles, even in the rain, always leaving with a sunnier disposition.

Though today, I head straight to the barn.

Or maybe I should call it a maternity ward.

I missed the birth of the first nine piglets earlier this morning, but I’m just in time for the birth of the tenth.

I kneel with respect and amazement on beds of hay as I whisper sweet nothings into the sweet sow’s ear.

Wearily she keeps on working afterwards, feeding her tribe.

Chilled, I eventually rise to seek warmth from heat lamps comforting the baby lambs nearby. I sit down again and feel my blood pressure sink to the cement floor as I finish my cheese sandwich.

For a moment, I close my eyes.

I reflect on my lunches before retiring from a corporate job in the city six months ago.

Back then I’d walk a maze of skyways over honking, busy streets at noon. I’d then quickly grab Mexican fast food for fuel to take back to my desk so I could keep on working.

Yes, my life is quite different now.

I’ve discovered the miracle of birth is much more appealing than a bulging burrito anyday.

I open my eyes and glance down at my watch.

It’s time to leave.

Briefly I check in with the chirping baby chicks on my way out.

And then I return to Mama Pig and the piglets to wish them well.

Pushing open the heavy barn door after, I glance at the greenhouse to my left where vegetable seedlings have optimistically been planted.

I find myself feeling optimistic as well.

Quickly, I revise in my mind the tired Easter menu I was planning from a glazed ham to a fresh vegetarian quiche.

As I drive off, the sun suddenly makes a shining appearance above the hills.

And I catch myself humming, ‘oh, what a beautiful morning’ at the sight.

How can I not?