I grew up in the land of Eden, I swear, which I could not possibly appreciate until it was too late to come back. I grew up on what was for its time, a large dairy farm, with a big pond, a huge woods and the third best cream producing dairy herd in the state. We also had sheep and occasional hogs. We had milk, home-made butter and cottage cheese out the ears. We butchered. We dressed chickens
and made cider. We had a five acre apple orchard in its prime, put up every bit of our own produce from our garden and had irises and peonies, gladiolas
and snapdragons growing everywhere. We had no pesticides yet. Barn swallows swooped after flies, herons nested by the pond and every species of bird imaginable filled the air with their calls on a June day.
Mom and Dad were positively crazy about each other. They got giddy and sang as they worked together. The neighbors were like extended family and everyone, I mean everyone got along. We went to the church down the road and we would go to each other’s houses and have square dances and big sings. Both sets of my grandparents were alive and well in their eighties, and the neighborhood was brimming with people born well before the twentieth century. I got taken to a lot of funerals, but I spent a lot of afternoons after Sunday dinner, rolling around on the floor, listening to old folks tell about their parents breaking the first prairie sod with oxen or about what happened to them during the Civil War.
Suddenly I found myself in college. I was going to come back home and farm, but Dad got Alzheimer’s and sold most of the farm before anyone was awake enough to stop him.
Carol and I went west and taught on the reservations. Some of that was pretty rough, but I always reckoned we could manage to get through it, since I knew that sooner or later we were coming home to what was left of the farm.
The day came. I knew that the family were all gone before we ever started home. I knew that nobody waved anymore. I wasn’t surprised that everyone I knew had moved away, either. After all, we had to go west, ourselves. Due to the massive pesticide use with no-till farming, I didn’t expect many birds. There has not been a single whip-poor-will call since we returned. And a thief took every last one of the tools which I grew up watching my family use to work the land.
My grandma said: “Time is a river. You can’t stick your foot into the same water twice.”
I don’t care. There still has to be an Eden to go back to. One’s mind has to be able to escape to some place enchanted. There has to be one good place. Carol opened a door. She invented the land of Niarg. And we’ve been visiting there ever since.