What happened to him? And to his wife—meaning his ex-wife, so I’d heard. They’d lived on the lake road in a towering barn that had been in his family for generations, so much a part of the land, it seemed to have grown from the loamy soil like some outrageous mushroom. They made their home on the top floor where the hay was once stored, with a coveted view across fields and woods as far, I thought, as the ocean. The livestock were housed below the loft, a few sheep for wool, a couple horses to turn a cider mill, a sow and her piglets for food.
I questioned such creaturely proximity, but it was comforting, they said, to hear shaggy bodies moving all night and to feel hot breath rising through the floorboards on a winter’s morning. How thrilled she was with the piglets. How pleased he was with the land, especially the crop of weed hidden in the woods in a sunny spot behind a fringe of trees. We didn’t talk about where it came from as we passed it back and forth on those long, cozy nights encased by primordial timbers. It was a summer friendship, kept alive for a few years of cards and occasional letters, until our marriages fell apart, although whose went first, I don’t remember.
When I searched his name in the online newspaper in the town where we’d lived, I was surprised to read he’d left his family’s land for many years and had recently returned with an adult son I didn’t know he had to grow pot again on that same farm, but legally this time. No mention of a second wife. No mention of sheep, horses, or pigs either. Just a homecoming with his son, the fifth and sixth generations to shoulder that land like a crank turning in its shaft. It seemed he’d been given a chance for renewal and was ready, now, to take it, with the barn, like our dreams, still standing.
Writer, farmer, and teacher Kayann Short, Ph.D., is the author of A Bushel’s Worth: An Ecobiography (Torrey House Press), a Nautilus Green Living & Sustainability winner. Her work appears in Mud Season Review, The Hopper, Panorama, The Write Launch, New Flash Fiction Review, and Burningword, among others, and the anthologies, Dirt: A Love Story and Rooted: The Best New Arboreal Non-Fiction. A recipient of the Downing Excellence in Journalism award, Dr. Short runs a CSA and organizes community writing events at Stonebridge Farm on Colorado’s Front Range.
Artwork: “Intuition” by Rachel Wold
Acrylic and ink on canvas