A human perspective on things ephemeral and concrete...
There will come a time when you need your space.
Used to be, you could spend all day tracing the contours of your little world, following the grain, crisscrossing the rows, digging in the soil, then climbing the highest tree to survey the realm. The day will come, though, when itís way too small, and youíre way too big.
That drafty old clapboard house will shrink. The furrowed brow of cropfield will grow tiresome. That woman patching holes in her mosaic of vari-hued Mason jars will look away, saddened by talk of futures and plans and that time that comes. The man in the field on that old red tractor, the one who holds tight when you sit on his lap and steer, he will pause to watch you walk away, but heíll never really let go.
Yet, go you will.
Youíll go after hugging that woman on the weather-worn plank porch, her jars waiting patiently. Youíll go after waving good-bye to the man on the old red tractor, his brow furrowed like the land. Youíll move to the next town, next county, cross-country, across the waters. And the world will expand all around you, often too big, sometimes not nearly big enough. Youíll live and youíll learn. Youíll love and youíll lose.
And sometimes youíll forget what you still have. Thatís okay, youíll think, because in those moments when you find the time, you will remember, so you call, you plan, maybe next week, next month, next year. Youíll know all is well, each season after the last, a woman filling her Mason jars, a man tractoring the sustenance she seals and preserves.
We donít have to touch a thing to know itís there.
And you wonít have to touch a soul.
So time will pass and youíll chase success, even catch your share to seal and preserve, but there wonít be enough, not nearly enough. Then at the worst possible time while youíre shining in the light, those people you love will pass with the shadows, and youíll have to go back, back across the water, the country, the county, the town. Youíll be in a hurry to fashion lists: arrangements, finances, property, possessions, mementos . . . Who need I tell? youíll wonder. Whoíll want what? What need I keep? So much to do, so little time.
Youíll turn down that familiar road, eyes straight ahead, but then have to look, to pull to the side. The old red tractor squats forlornly in a patch of scratchy grass amid unplanted furrows, its motor silent, seat empty, the backdrop painting pale purple swatches of intermittent cloud, their passing shadows dark-patching the sunlit treeline.
And itíll break your heart that a machine can outlast a man.
Then youíll realize that tractor is yours now. You have no use for it, youíll think, not even this very thing, a mere object, the tool that helped pay to send you away.
Youíll step closer, then kneel and scratch at the soil, clumps through your fingers reminding how the earth moves with life of its own, and youíll discover the most exquisite beauty in what youíve always known but have yet to learn.
Youíll move on, up to the house, then step inside and listen, see the shelves lined with that dependable mosaic of Mason jars; but youíll reel and have to sit, brought low by empty spaces, empty jars, expectations unmet. Youíll sample the hint of a notion about maybe finishing the job, but thereís no way and no timeóno reason, reallyóand youíll remember youíve come, not to fill jars, but to dispose of jars already full. You canít take them all, would never consume them, but you couldnít begin to bear the idea of letting her efforts, his harvest, come to waste. Still, time is running out.
People will fill the house. Theyíll laugh and theyíll cry, and some will explain to you how they see it all, just see it their way and youíll be okay, weíve all been down that road, all thatís bad is really just part of the good.
And youíll try. Really, youíll try.
But youíll know what youíve always known: Much thatís good comes with a part thatís bad.
More people will appear, many bringing food, some grown right here. A man will approach, a man you never liked. Heíll remind you that space is valuable, time is money, the fields already plowed, seed in the bins, just give him the word and heíll make the time to work it, maybe split a few dollars, and least not let a season and space go to waste. That will sound okay at first, prudent, even savvy. Youíll hear about others whose specialty is cleaning and selling, just write you a check, and that will sound good, too, even prudent and savvy, because you truly donít have the time, and you know that when all these people have gone, youíll feel the emptiness of your drafty old clapboard house.
Youíve got a plan now, youíll think, but in the swirl of darkness that night all that space will surround you. Youíll sample the hint of a notion that you might simply let go, but you know that you cannot. You did not come here to dismantle this part of your world.
Youíve come to find a way to keep it whole.
There must be a young family out there who can love this land, whoíll savor that medley of sustenance now sealed and preserved in that mosaic of Mason jars, whoíll fill jars of their own and hold tight while the wonder of childhood in a big world steers that old red tractor and, hopefully, just maybe, someday proves that when a man passes with the shadows, his world passes to the next man, and the man after, because this is how we live, each of us in our time, all learning to embrace this one simple truth:
The next man will outlast the machine.
You will figure that out, and when you do, youíll decide thereís no hurry, and youíll be right. A field needs to lie fallow every now and then. When you work it too hard, worry it too much, you must give it time to rest, to restore itself, recharge, a breather when no one expects you to give anything of yourself.
Come back in a month, sooner if you can. The Mason jars will keep a while longer. They live to buy us more time.
Next time you come youíll set aside more days, weeks even, a month, and do this your way. Youíll pack up and cart home what you value, yet leave for others what you most cherish.
You wonít be in a hurry. Thatís okay. Itís okay that a tractor, there in a field across town, the county, the country, the water . . . itís okay that a tractor can wait.
Itís okay that a tractor can sit there against a backdrop of pale purple swatches and break your heart.
Itís okay for a tractor to be still while the shadows pass.
Itís okay because youíve decided to do this right.
And you will, you will do this right.
But youíll need some space.
You just need some time.