Isn’t he magnificent?
Where I live, you don’t see many long-horn cattle. This herd lives along the road we take to get “to town” and I’ve played hell avoiding them for about ten months now.
There’s a story here, and it has more to do with elusion than livestock.
My dad loved cattle. No matter how many we had on the farm, they were more pets than hamburger, and Dad fell ill about the same time this magnificent herd moved in up the hill. We passed them on the way to the hospital on his last trip there, and I slowed so he could see them. Mind you, my father had farmed all his life; he’d seen cattle. That, and he was weak and sick. But he pretended delight because his child so needed him to, and I felt, that day, such a bruise spreading on my soul, I didn’t believe I could ever recover.
Here’s another one.
A girl I didn’t know at all once held my hand as she died. We’d rolled up on that car accident - as we do, in our shiny rig – to save the day, and we didn’t get it done. That’s all. These things happen in our line of work. But that girl had a tangle of glorious dark hair just like my daughter’s and she wanted to live, and I lied to her when I said, “We’ll get you out of here. You’ll be okay.”
Ah, another bruise; a fearsome, horrible one. I will tell you - sometimes that girl still appears from nowhere to whack me over the head with the certain knowledge of my own stifling limitations.
So much is said about PTSD these days! And without belittling that status, might I suggest that almost everyone you meet is carting around a load of soul trauma? And the tricky thing about that condition is, it’s quiet. The soul walks its path with God but no one else. And if you don’t have God, you walk it alone. But you don’t talk about it much.
No one can see the size of the bruise or gauge the level of pain. The causes are so many and so varied that you can’t begin to guess the method of injury. But this isn’t a nice neat fracture to be iced and elevated; often it’s a gaping wound. Invisible to the naked eye, but so painful the victim is in danger of . .
Of what? Despair. Darkness. The utter inability to see . . . a blue sky. To hear a favorite song, to smell a dandelion. To feel love.
Ah, is there a point to all this?
Only this –it would be so good if we could be gentle with each other always. If we could try to help each other back from that dark ledge. You don’t know what trauma the soul sitting next to you has suffered or is suffering now.
That, and this – remember, if you’re bleeding, how your soul gets to go on. Whether you want it to or not. Your heart can break for good; I do believe that. But this thing we call soul remembers where it came from.
And sometimes it can even bring little pieces of that other place here. Compassion, laughter. Love.
People, if we have each other we can all be all right.
Have a beautiful August! Walk in the sunshine a lot!
Can tractors have souls? Absurd question, of course, but here - if God should deign to equip any piece of man’s machinery with a hereafter, the recipient would be an International 706. If metal could retain memories, if oil could lube a beating heart, then this little tractor would be the archangel of farmers everywhere.
Here she sits, at the back of my father’s machine shed beneath a lavish coat of winter dust and pigeon poop, and she isn’t cowed at all. No, not humbled even by her massive brethren or the slow air leak in her front tire. Her beautiful red paint gleams even in the chancy light; her engine is ready and waiting and . . . maybe she remembers.
But, if not, then I do. I have a heart and a soul, and I know that to ride on her fender through the chill spring daybreak was to ride straight to heaven. Wind in your hair, white-knuckled over bumps, lungs filled with a sharp crystal air like nothing I have breathed since that time - I knew, irrefutably, how alive I was.
And to be alive was good. It was blessed.
Thunder wakens me the first time – deep conga roll just pass the whine of our window air; the clouds are torn and purple, the leaves on the hill already jeweled with the first fat raindrops, and I’ve disregarded morning in the time it takes to roll over.
By the time I emerge, rumpled from my extended stay, the air has cleared and the ground steams beneath a dazzling sun. Coffee, swimsuit, sunglasses, and I’m headed out.
Summer calls me home.
Here, above the valley, the land flattens out like a wide clay bowl, chipped and striped in greens and golds, the sky a hard ceramic above - a color like helium balloons or the fistful of forget-me-nots your first love gave you.
Locals call the high spot “the ridge” but in Illinois this is something of a misnomer; we have no mountains. The truth is, out here, the land falls away, flat and still as the Pacific, to an unchanging, long and straight horizon. At night, above and below differ only in the depth of their shadows - planets and fireflies kissing so that the effect is that of swimming in a bowl of stars – but by daylight, you can see forever. You can see your whole life spread out before and behind you, your soul easing from your body and soaring, following the straight corn rows all the way to the sky.
Importing my blog onto the new website has been quite the feat. My team and I are still in the process of categorizing and fine-tuning the years of posts you'll find here. We hope you enjoy our work-in-progress library. Check back soon for updates!