Reub's journey

28 October 2012

Visit



Born and raised at the edge of this woods--a mix of beech and ironwood, maple, oak and birch--I've just returned from a visit home. There are only two years out of my whole life when I've failed to shuffle, daydreaming, through the thick duff of this forest.



A Cortland apple in one hand, a stick in the other, and a dog at my side, it was here that I whiled away every golden autumn afternoon of a gloriously slow childhood.



 And so it was last week, the tail-end of October, that I paid a visit.



 Despite the decades and the many miles of separation, much remains familiar. This tractor, dating from the 40's, runs like a charm and still lacks the brakes it never had.



The cast iron bell for calling my brothers in from the fields hangs near the kitchen. It's quiet now, mostly serving as a post for a bird feeder.



 
  The sumac is ablaze with color against the October clouds and sky, just as I remember.



 Asparagus continues to grow wild, making a show of itself bejeweled with rain drops.




 The glacial moraine on which the old farm rests still yields tiny fossils.




  The absence of the barn is sad. It's the one change I'll never get used to.




 The space where the barn once nestled into a gentle slope is the emptiest place I've ever seen, and yet it is the sharpest reminder of home.





 It exists only in memory, but there the barn is richly inhabited by warm cattle, silly chickens, skittish barn cats, coils of old ropes, a mountain of oats in the bin, and fragrant alfalfa everywhere. At the bottom of the empty silo lies an unlucky raccoon.  There are pigeons in the rafters.


Memory is actually pretty magical.

Assuming it was a happy place, it's a lucky thing to be able to go back to the geography of your childhood. Sometimes you can travel there for real, but the rest of the time you visit it in your head.

Thank you to Hilary, of The Smitten Image, for honoring this post.


35 comments:

  1. oh, kerry. you've just made me homesick. i believe you're from wisconsin, aren't you? *sigh* it's been 6 yrs for me since i've gone 'home'.

    the leave at the end - i should remember the name of that stuff. even that makes me homesick.

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  2. Replies
    1. Mullein. It's a mullein leaf and we don't have it here in Oregon either. No sumac either, or ironwood, or beech or birch trees! And yes, that's right, I am from Wisconsin! Ozaukee County: the smallest county in the state.

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    2. Great, I think to look among the comments for answers after I've asked them. Oregon does have river birches, and, as you know, I'm sure, it has the other trees you listed, at least here in western Oregon people have planted them. Imagine my surprise when my first apartment here in Eugene was called Magnolia Manor, which was named after its many Southern Magnolias.

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    3. I think it would be hard to find beech here; they refuse to grow in cities & are kind of fussy. Have you seen sumac? Ironwood? Maybe ironwood, I dunno. But anyway, I was speaking in broad terms when I said that we don't get certain trees here. Oregon is amazing for growing stuff & undoubtedly someone has tried all of the above.

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    4. Eugene has beech trees. I don't know if you've been to the Lane County Fairgrounds, but it has several. I'm not saying they will ever be the equal to the ones back East, but they don't look sickly either. Yes, I've seen ironwood, and sumac as well, but I'm the kind of person who goes around looking at trees and shrubs. This is actually much, much harder in town than in the woods because any and everything grows here. I could find you a half dozen palm trees and twelve foot tall banana plants within ten blocks of my house. Two eastern trees that I've never seen here are chinaberry and pecan, but I don't think you have those in Wisconsin. BTW, I lived in Minneapolis for two years and was surprised how similar the native vegetation there was to the native vegetarian in Mississippi, both of which are very different from Oregon. The fun thing here is that you have so many radically different botanical areas that are so close together.

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    5. I don't know about native, but the Garden Club in the SW hills on Vista has a fabulous copper beech tree. And we have mullein all over the place. Not so much in your ferny woods, but everywhere else. And cheese. We also have cheese. Shoot, we're practically Wisconsin, with different vowels.

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    6. Ooooooooooooh Murr: what you said about cheese...them's fightin' words! Oregon has nice cheese from Tillamook and Bandon, & a bit of good cheese at farmer's markets...but Wisconsin ROCKS the CHEESE! There is fantastic cheese still made in little creameries there. I came home with a coupla blocks of Widmer's mild brick (to die for). It was totally worth the hang-up of going through airport security with hunks of cheese, which look dangerously mysterious to the x-ray machines.

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  3. The bottom photo is of mullein, I suppose. I have no knowledge of where you're from, but I assume it's either the eastern part of the upper Mid-West, or else the lower part of the Northeast. It can't be the South--which doesn't have glacial marks, so far as I'm aware--and I very much doubt that it's anywhere in the West.

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  4. Thanks for taking us with you down memory lane.

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    1. It's a pleasure Stephen. I miss the autumns of the upper Midwest.

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  5. It's always sad to see places we knew from childhood undergo change. I've been experiencing much of that myself. Enjoyed your post and the photos.

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    1. The empty place where the barn stood is very sad for me, but otherwise I always like re-acquainting myself with the places I remember.

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  6. Beautiful! I love all the oranges and golds of fall.

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    1. Me too. I love the golden colors of the leaves and the afternoon light.

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  7. Interesting how you can make us homesick for a place we've never seen before. Sometime you can go home again. I'm glad for you that you did though I'm sorry you feel the pang of loss with the missing barn. Lovely pics and so nicely told.

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    1. Thank you Hilary. I'm trying to learn how to use John's SLR Nikon & half the pics were taken with that, the others with my Canon point-and-shoot. The first pic of the woods was me trying to set the Nikon for maximum depth of field, and by golly, it worked. I have a lot to learn though.

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  8. What a magical childhood that had to be - the stuff of my dreams! Your post is timely for me. I'm back in my childhood home and was pondering the changes in my neighborhood today. Most of them make me sad, but it's easy to close my eyes and return to the way it was.

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    1. Ah, it is an odd feeling to look at childhood places with the eyes of an adult. Retreating to memories is a refuge from the harsh reality of the present.

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  9. Beautiful post - and what a magical place you grew up in - reminds me of The Waltons, did you watch that as a child and think 'that's just like us?!!'

    Was it Wisconsin, i am assuming so?

    Thank you, as always
    Saul x

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    1. The Waltons! You saw that in the UK? They were so corny and quaint, but then some of what I showed in this post is quaint as well. Maybe we were the Waltons. My brothers weren't nearly as nice as John Boy though.

      And yep, it's Wisconsin.

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  10. Don't know how I missed this post, but thanks to Hillary I am here. I cannot go back to the farm that I remember as it has been sold and is now far from where I live. Oh well, I will journey with you and pretend.

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    1. Sometimes journeys of the mind are the best of all.

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  11. What a lovely share, I like the asparagus shot, but became a kid exploring with you.

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    1. Thanks! Asparagus in the fall is spectacular & I wish I'd taken more pics.

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  12. Love the solitude you are able to capture through words and photos. Very nice and inspiring. Thank you very much! We look forward to more!

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    1. Thank you. I was a loner of a child, and I guess that can't help but come through now.

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  13. Well now, you've made me homesick for my childhood! What a wonderful homage to your old homeplace. Woods and fields hold my happiest childhood memories, too. My eldest son and my two sisters live in Oregon. They describe it as "like New England only bigger."

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    1. I think we lack the Vermont maple syrup.

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  14. Your memories are sharp.

    And while we can all go back there in our heads, it's nice if our bodies can come along as well.

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    1. I have a selective memory Christopher, very selective. Wish I could remember where I put my phone.

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