Years ago I visited the site of an abandoned farm with a friend who had discovered it, and the place was like a wonderland of leftovers and memories from decades of people loving their land and working very hard.
The farmland had been sold and was due to be cleared and “made ready” for development. The wooded hillsides, the partly-overgrown upper fields, the packed clay roads from one pasture to another, the locust posts still sound and straight would all disappear.
The barn still stood, though it was hardly sound. Barns carried tons of weight in livestock and stuff for livestock and are generally built the sturdiest of any building on the land and last a long time past nearly anything else. Off in the woods was an old chicken coop, still smelling just a bit like chickens, but obviously made from hand-hewn boards. We knew this would be either plowed under or sent to a landfill and we wanted to salvage as much wood as we could, but the three of us couldn’t easily carry even one of the 12-foot 2x10s and knew that cutting them would be impossible. Some of the artifacts we found in the barn, empty food tins and old tools, told us the farm had probably been there since the mid-nineteenth century.
But the most magical thing was the spot where the house had been. There was no trace of the building, but a rectangle of open green grass remained, surrounded by a riot of forsythia and lilacs and rhododendrons and roses ready to bloom and crocuses and stars of Bethlehem and so many other plants just sprouting, as if they were all waiting for the house and the people who had loved them so much to come back, and wouldn’t fill in the empty spot just in case they would reappear some day. I was moved to tears at the generations of people who worked hard on their traditional farm, but also loved their flowers and surrounded their house with color and scent.
And there were these daffodils, bright yellow and “doubled” as flowers are called when they sprout extra rows of petals. Doubled is an understatement—they have so many rows of petals I couldn’t count, and each flower takes several days to fully open. They were clustered around the house and barn, here and there in the dim under trees, but the most joyous display was all along the road that curved up from the barn to the upper pasture, a riot of daffodils that would have accompanied the person on the tractor or leading the cows, as winter led to spring and the hard work of farming began again in earnest, they would be cheered on by a long line of yellow flowers nodding and waving as if in applause. It must have taken decades for them to naturalize and fill in like that.
The daffodils were in full bloom when we were there on a sunny spring morning. Knowing it was all going to the backhoe, we decided to preserve this memory by taking as much as we could and filled our cars with buckets of daffodils, a few other plants, and my beloved dogwood, a native sapling the day I took it home, now proudly filled out and blooming with creamy flowers the size of dessert plates.
Every spring these daffodils still turn their faces to the sun and bloom enthusiastically, and I think of the people who loved and planted and nurtured these things and hope they know that someone found their little paradise and helped to salvage some of what they loved.
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