A long time ago I left the world’s perfect farm.
Something broke inside me in the days leading up to that departure. I drove slowly, so slowly, down the roller coaster roads of Northwest Missouri just so time would go slower.
Tractors passed me on the highway while I gazed out across fields of corn and soybeans, small white farm houses, and lines of laundry baking in the sun.
It may have been my heart that broke. Or my spirit, or my dreams. I can’t always be sure, but I know the edge is still there, sharp, and it cuts me when I look too close at the memory of what I left behind.
But I must look.
In spite of the pain, there is an edge of joy that follows closely beside it. So I look. I look back at the crooked little house with the sunshine walls. I look back at the big red barn with the wildflowers around the edges. I look back at the daylilies nodding their heads in the evening sunshine and the wisteria vines following the training of my fingers.
I look back and I see my bare feet on a weathered wooden step that was all mine. I see my hands folding pink baby clothes that smelled of warm sunlight into a wicker basket. I see three little boy faces peering at me from their bunks as I read a bedtime story.
I look back at all of this and I reach up to find the salt dried upon my cheeks from standing so still, for so long, gazing rearward at what has been and can never be again.
And I feel my brokenness.
Time passes and sharp edges dull. The demands of the day turn my eyes to the three strong sons who look to me with questions. I pull fewer and fewer pink dresses from the dryer now and watch as my daughter runs in her blue jeans out to the yard where her brothers play.
I wonder often how much of the present I have lost while I’ve been staring so long into the past.
I turn one last time to look at the cracked paint on the porch, the irises beneath the ash tree, and the green field of my perfect farm.
I look at the gray cat wandering ghost-like through the empty barn doors where children no longer play and as the broken edge presses against my heart once more to cut deep, I pull it free.
Good-bye to the farmhouse.
Good-bye to the trees.
Good-bye to the fields.
Good-bye “used to be.”
I wander out to the front step and watch the children who still love to play. They barely remember the perfect farm. They don’t really recall the three-story tree house or the annual harvest party. But they remember love.
They look back and see a mother. They look and see a father. They look back at me as I watch them play and I wave. Sunlight burnishes the stray hairs on my sons head. A laugh and a yell chase their owners around the dusty yard like shadows.
Someday they will look back at this place. The will look back at the tiny home on four black wheels. They will look back at the compassion of a borrowed backyard. They will look back at the warm welcome of family and friends.
I hope they will not remember all the broken edges that have made me sharp. I hope they will not see only the tears and think me a pillar of salt that gazed too long upon what was.
I am looking forward now. I am driving slowly down dusty, western roads where I can see row upon row of peach trees growing beneath blue mountain spires. Cars pass me as I creep along highway shoulders to watch sheep graze among the artemisia.
All things break.
It is the law of the earth that the grandest mountains eventually come to dust and the sweetest of dreams-come-true make their way to memories.
It is the law of Heaven that we come to understand why.
To understand that joy is born in the breaking.
A child is born in grief of pain. The edge of sorrow cuts through a mother’s body as she pushes out from herself the glory of life and she is never whole again. Forever after a piece of herself will wander the wide earth, going places she will never see. It is a joy so exquisite that it cuts the heart. It is the pain of separation.
So it is with change and farewell.
Dreams are lost or left behind in the pursuit of living and every separation is a birth. Forever after a piece of ourselves, our memories, our love, the evidence of our efforts, will remain behind in the lives our own has touched. Little seeds we have planted by the wayside through our words and deeds.
I often wonder, as any farmer would, what my harvest will look like at reaping.
I planted seeds on the world’s perfect farm. Seeds I left before I had a chance to tend.
I’m looking forward now, not gazing too hard at the past; but I hope the Lord of the Garden will forgive me if now and then I glance back. Just to see how they have grown.