Thursday, September 25, 2008

A Journey Back

I have passed you many times standing stark and alone in the field. Today I feel drawn to you and the secrets hidden within your aged and weathered walls. Over the stone post barbwire fence and across the field of wheat stubble, until, like a wounded warrior, your battle scars are revealed.

Now I see your chimney rock, loose and some already on the ground. Heat and cold alternating over decades have drawn the square nails from their holes and boards move in the wind. Your north wall rest against a large cottonwood brace -- leaning, supported as an old man by his cane.

Forging my way through the fireweeds grown shoulder high to reach the sagging steps and stop. Dare I cross your threshold -- do I have the right? The present owner would not care.
I have his word on that -- but what of your former tenants, those who laid your foundation and fastened your, then bright, freshly sawed boards with the square nails? There was a time when they shared their hospitality. I think they would wish it so even now.

I accept this belated invitation. Gathering my resolve, I step slowly and somewhat hesitantly across the threshold and the years.

Once inside the room I pause my eyes to adjust to the dim light and for my psyche to apologize for the intrusion. While I stand pensively -- a current resident shows his displeasure through the sound of scampering feet across loose attic boards overhead. His passing is marked by dust particles dancing on beams of sunlight streaming thru a broken window. Silence descends with a new layer of dust particles, blanketing all save the mournful whisper of prairie wind as it tugs relentlessly at tattered remnants of window curtains.

I feel as a privileged spectator allowed behind the stage of an historic drama. How did the actors play the earlier scenes? What took place on the stage? Oh, would that I could read the script, for I have been cast for a role in the next act!

Journeying slowly back to the present and my own awareness, I move thru the silent rooms surveying your artifacts -- bridge timbers to span rivers of time. Vainly I search for key, evidence that will lead to understanding. Perhaps a faded letter, the scrap of a document, or the receipt of the bill finally paid -- but these are too personal, too precious, too revealing for the eyes of a stranger from another time. The marrying, the birthing, the living and dying with all the accompanying happiness and sorrow will not be revealed -- and that is as it should be.
We must each write our own signature to the contract of life.

I returned to the room I first entered and stop once more to contemplate the prairie horizon thru the broken window. What did your builder see when this window, new, framed his visions? Would he be disappointed with the picture if he returned again to your window? Would my horizons be broader, more distinct, more realistic and attainable if I could have shared his view thru the new window?

With reluctance and regret I turn toward the door, leaving your artifacts intact, but taking with me a much greater gift -- a new resolve. Making a new path thru the fireweed I stumble over an old, half buried, wagon wheel as I hurry toward my car.

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