I ran an errand yesterday.  I drove a few miles down the winding road to the nearest tiny town to the post office.  There behind the counter was a woman that I’d never met.  She looked at my face and called my father’s name.

I walked out the door and looked across the street at the majestic Victorian house, and beyond it at another Victorian falling into disrepair.  They lay cheek by jowl with mobile homes and more modest homes from the 1970s or so.  The nineteenth century homes seemed to stand proudly – aware of their flaking paint and not-quite-plumb doorways but still prideful in their age.  They’ve survived floods, fire, and depressions before and will do so for another hundred years.

I took a left by the church to see the 1880’s house that my first cousin just bought in a state of awful disrepair.  It’s okay; she’s young, she’s moving home after a divorce, and restoring the house will be a good focus for her as she starts over again.  A dim memory of a decade ago tugged at me, and I continued past her home and down a tiny little road.  Sure enough, a mile later I came to a small cemetery.  I got out and walked around for a few moments, seeing the familiar local names on the headstones.  For the first time in ages, I heard – nothing.  No cars, no planes, no trains, no trucks.  Silence.

I got back into the car and headed back toward my parents’ house.  A few miles away, however, I turned off.  Down a small gravel driveway, past a trailer where the gravel driveway petered out to two grassy ruts.  I got out and walked around the short fence to the gate.  I had to push hard to open it – not that the gate was rusty, but the earth around it had piled up to the level of the bottom rail.  There’s no way to know how long it had been since someone else had been that way.

Inside, a thick layer of pine needles muffled my footsteps.  A half-mile away occasional cars whined down the highway, but the wind in the trees was as loud.  A bird lit on the old mud-and-log tobacco barn nearby as I stood for a long moment over the graves of my great-great-great-grandfather and great-great-great-grandmother, where they’ve laid for a century.

Back at my parents’, I took a long quiet walk through the hardwoods behind the house.  Inches of wet red oak leaves rustled under my feet as I stood, walked, stood, walked, and finally came to rest partially up the ridge on the other side of the tiny creek.  I stood on a stump to make sure that adjusting my position wouldn’t rustle the leaves, and waited.  Soon I could hear a doe calling over the ridge.  The smell of decaying leaves was everywhere.  I waited to see if any deer would appear.  Squirrels hopping in the leaves sound very much like an approaching deer, but aside from a hawk and occasional falling leaves the squirrels were all I saw.

The people here generally drive me insane.  But the land…it calls to me.


5 Responses

  1. Lovely, just lovely.

    Happy Thanksgiving, my friend! Hug Dys and The Boy for me!

  2. It is a beautiful part of this country…the smell of the damp leaves under your feet and the sounds of the last of the acorns falling from the trees came to mind as I read your story…

    Happy Thanksgiving.

  3. That was great, TB. Very, very nice.

  4. I could easily picture it – that was beautiful.

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