for days, i drove around with my little bundle of mowed-up field in the back of my old wagon. i kinda liked pulling into quasi-upscale parking lots with straw spilling from my rear. rear end of my car, i’m talkin’ ’bout. puh-leez, people.
fact is, i liked everything about that country bundle. smelled like farm. made me sneeze like farm. gave me license to make-believe i was steering my stout john deere down row after loam-clumped row, instead of here along the leafy shore where streets are lit by antique lights.
i plunked down seven bills for that bale of hay. a sum that’d make my farmer friends laugh out loud, i do suppose. but this here is no longer farmland. paved over long ago, and now we pay an import tax, or, more aptly, pretender’s fee.
but i, city girl wishing on a star to look out her window and see a farm appear out back, well, i thought that seven bucks was a flat-out steal if it brought me one inch closer to the bucolia for which i long.
perhaps, i sometimes think, i am descended on all sides from farm people. perhaps that cock-a-doodle-doo once woke my great-great-great-great granny. i do know that my very own irish granny, the one i never met, i know she was famed for the way she could wring a chicken’s neck.
i tell you, i swelled up with holy pride the day i heard that tale. never mind all the business ’bout her being the first kentucky miss to graduate from college. give me the backyard chicken yarn, and you’ll see my feathers fluff.
so, the way i frame it, the equation is uncomplicated: if i can’t plow under my quarter acre, can’t bring home a laying hen, or a cow that’d moo me to sleep, well then, at very least, i can claim a bale to call my own.
it’s all part of my compost operation, that hay is. an operation i am milking, quite frankly, like a bulging bovine at sundown, when she’s throbbingly engorged and near spurting from her beet-red teats.
fact is, i read in one of my composting magazines (yes, i sneak off to the library these days to read such earthy slicks) that if the, um, perfume from the bin gets to bother, say, your next door neighbor–or, worse, the ones two doors down–why you just grab a fistful of hay, toss it there atop the rotting apple cores and, voila, the eau de dump is gone. replaced by eau de farm.
only thing is, i’ve yet to haul the hay to where it belongs. it seems stuck right out my tall french doors. i can’t bear to budge it one more inch. and not only because my palms near tore from tugging on the twine that ties it up.
seems it’s stuck because it is my latest bleary-eyed hope. goes a long way, that stash of dried hay does, to deluding me from where it is i really dwell.
oh, it’s not that i don’t like the land of garbage trucks and mailmen who mark their routes on foot.
it’s just that i’d much prefer to live out yonder where the stars and moon are reachable, where seasons are marked by what stands or falls in the fields, and where you eke a living from mama earth by tending her, coaxing her, wholesale depending on her miracles, and those of sky as well.
i know a farmer or two. even blessed to call them friends. and they are among the wisest, most poetic souls i know. they don’t mince words. don’t double talk. don’t do the city soft shoe.
seems they’ve absorbed the hard lessons of the earth and moon, of rain and sun, right through their dirt-stained hands. and worn-down bones, as well.
maybe it’s, more and more with every passing sunrise, i wish my days could be spent, my hours steeped, in what the winds whisper to me, what the clouds roll in, and what the gnarled branches reach for.
in the gospel that beckons me, i sense the turning of the seasons and the slanting of the sun holds something i should know. to live the cycles of the fields and woods, i’ve come to think, is to soak up perhaps the purest truths.
the one preacher i ache to hear is the one whose parables rise up from furrowed earth.
but for now, i’ve only one square of dried-up straw. not even a mound. surely not a silo full.
i’m old enough to know i might never land my dreamed-of farm, my milking barn, my henhouse.
i’ll make do–and more–with that blessed bale right out my window.
for now, as evening wraps the day in purple-gray, i watch a flock of soft brown sparrows, pecking at the hay. they seem to think it’s all part of a vast country buffet. bugs and field bits, on the supper’s menu.
even my old fat cat has taken to perching there like it’s a throne. that cat, born of the farm, seems to sense it’s home that’s come to find him.
i imagine just how he feels. since i believe i feel the same.
and my imaginary hay stack–humble as it is–it’s not going anywhere. except the places it becomes in my imagination.
have you an imaginary life you wish you lived? an apartment in paris, perhaps? a new york city brownstone? a woods all to your lonesome? or a cottage on the shore? what dreamscape speaks to you? or are you utterly content right where you are? anyone else a would-be farmer?