Selling The Farm

I got the email from my dad six weeks ago. It was characteristically sparse:

We just sold the farmhouse and 6 acresClosing targeted for Nov. 1. 

I had known it was coming but couldn’t bear to talk about it. Losing this place was something I couldn’t quite stomach or breathe past; I told my parents I only wanted to know when it was time for me to say goodbye.

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So. I took time off and bought a bus ticket home, gathered a few ritual items, and pondered how best to close this chapter. As if such a thing were possible. How was I going to say goodbye to a place, an institution as holy as the family farm, where our parents had grown and where I, along with my siblings and cousins, had learned so many lessons about life and wildness?

The farm had always been our place, so permanent that the idea of its passing out of our grasp seemed as ludicrous as the idea that my grandparents might die someday. We farm-cousins were rapscallions in these fields, kings and queens of the hay mow; our dads, aunts, uncles and grandparents had worked this land and its animals for a generation and were marked by it in ways we’re only beginning to understand.

The reason it hurts so deep, I have decided, is because this place is so firmly tangled up with the people who lived and loved here.

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**

Stones in my throat, all alone at the farm, I peck away at a list of “lasts”: last going-over of the upstairs bookshelf; last overnight; last sunrise; last porch breakfast. Last picnic lunch under the big front-yard maple. Last apple picking, last photos, last hike to the hemlocks, last barn exploration, last romp in the hay mow.

I wish I could freeze it all, hold it body-close, keep it with me. Stop time for a moment. But life is a river of love and loss, churning and roiling, change its only constant. There will be no stopping of time. Not this time.

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I haven’t met the new owners, but I love them, already, for having the good sense to fall in love with our farm. Thank God they’re moving in during apple season. And thank heavens for the gutbusting colorstorm of autumn-in-dairy-country, a beauty so singular I can’t tell if it makes it easier or harder to say goodbye.

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I will miss this place. So. Damn. Much.

It’s because of this farm that I know how to know place. And it’s thanks to this farm I know people who dwell in, and with, the land that surrounds. I miss this, love this, am this place and its people, the grands and great-grands I knew and never knew.

Goodbye means “God be with ye.” Here’s one more whispered prayer, to the hills and the Dutch Hill angels, to keep this wild place–and its people–underwing.

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12 thoughts on “Selling The Farm

  1. This post touched me so deeply that I read your words with a hard lump in my throat. Though it was not a farm, after my parents died we had to sell their beautiful old home. When they purchased it, it had belonged to a motorcycle gang so there was much work to be done. The house, under their special brand of TLC became beautiful once again. Our entire family shared many happy memories in that house. The night before the closing, I also ran through a list of ‘lasts’—last standing at the pantry window, last walk up the beautiful staircase, last look at where my dad’s chair had been, last stroke of the beautiful woodwork. So painful, but sold to a lovely young couple who had their own plans for the house. I have not been back. I do not want to see the ‘improvements’ this young couple make to the house. I have to remember it as it was, but I also appreciate the hopes and dreams and new life this young couple breathe into the house. And I’m grateful for it.

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  2. Oh, well thanks for making me weep. I feel your goodbye time so deeply. I see Yellowstone and the GYR inside my head each and everyday and have no way of strolling up a hillside to sit and watch her exist. It’s a disconnect and an uncontrollable that effects the soul.

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    1. Mary I relate to your words … because Yellowstone is far away for me as well. Far away geographically and also far in mood and timbre. My own big trouble is that I’ve given my heart to a bucket of places aand can’t be in them, or with them all at once. So … the downside of loving is loss? But I guess it’s all part of the same big beating thing??

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  3. Charles Markis

    Hilary I loved your piece, and it made me cry. I was one of the rapscallion cousins who summered on my aunt’s farm in Sewickly, PA, just outside of Pittsburgh. Many happy times were shared with my cousins and brothers working–taking care of the garden and animals, playing, sleeping in the barn, swimming in the creek, and living in nature and on a farm. I never got to make the farewell visit you describe, I only have the amazing memories of my last summers there, so maybe that’s best. There is hardly a day that goes by without recalling the wonderful experiences we had there, and I treasure every moment of my farm days. It’s sad to lose your place but you will savor and share your memories forever. Thanks. Charles Markis

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    1. Thanks Charles. I am sorry you were not able to give your goodbye to your family’s special place. It sounds like an amazing bit of world. You’re right, maybe, that it’s the best, not to have that too-heavy “final” goodbye? Who knows. Goodbyes are strange (and creepy, in a big empty house in the windy, lonely country!!). We are our places. Sad for the goodbyes, happy we had ’em in the first place.

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  4. Hilary:
    You can rest assured that your love and fond memories of Dutch Hill add greatly to the warmth of welcome experienced by the new owners. (My daughter and her family).
    It has taken 18 months for the Lord to lead them to this perfect residence.
    I am sure that a great tradition of family life will be continued as the four “new kids on the block”, settle into their new life, “down on the farm”.

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    1. Wow! Hello and what a blessing (you have no idea) to read your words. I prayed for your daughter and her family, over just about every square inch (and there are many) of the farm. I’ve no doubt it will be a wonderful home for them :). Truly, the apples are delicious. Just made a sauce with my last gathering from the backyard greening-apple tree and though it called for a bit of extra sweetener, the local maple syrup (Maple Tree Inn in Angelica, only open in the late winter/early spring months) was just the thing. Cheers to you and your daughter’s family! Enjoy it!!

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