I got the email from my dad six weeks ago. It was characteristically sparse:
We just sold the farmhouse and 6 acres. Closing 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.