Monday, June 29, 2009

3. Finding the Juicy 'Heart-Gift' of this Land

ave you ever longed to step into one of those pictures in your first grade reader? Remember that page where the children get to spend "A day at the farm"? My brother and I found ourselves transported into this scene, when my folks bought 'the ole Donellen place'.

The Donellen's wanted to retire so they entrusted our young family with their one acre mini-farm (an entire life's work). Eagerly, we unlatched the handmade wooden gates, entered the chicken-wire pens, discovered decoy eggs in the hen house straw, and ample proof that rabbits had recently inhabited empty hutches. Two sheds, way out back, held curious delights: mason jars, cabinets, tools and implements. We became the children in those pictures, as it become our life, and we played inside our little storybook world for many years. Mom & dad had placed their old-fashion storage trunk there as well. It was filled with 'period piece' clothing and antique high heel shoes. We would play dress up and carefully put everything back.

Beside the house, a dirt driveway with a strip of grass growing between two tire ruts, led to a small wooden garage whose hinged doors opened outward from the middle. Its tiny workshop became my father's territory. Out back, behind a series of pens that once contained goats & chicken, we found an old incinerator--I'd never seen one before. The scent of burning trash laced with 'menthol of eucalyptus', became a familiar fragrance-blend. We noticed horses, roosters and rabbits next door, beyond the pepper trees, bordering the boundary between farms. A picnic arbor, heavy with pungent purple grapes, beckoned in the side yard. My 6th birthday party would soon take place beneath it. Even now, the taste of purple grapes instantly revives that early era, causing the Donellen's immaculate 'lattice-work charm' to spring vividly back to life.

But for me, all these wonders paled beside two very exotic discoveries. The bathroom floor had green and white hexagonal tiles, whose patterns never ceased to fascinate me. And, right off the kitchen porch at the rear of the tiny house, there was a magical bush covered with big red eatable ornaments.

Beholding it, I felt like Eve in the garden. I had never heard of pomegranates. It appeared to be a sacred, mysterious object. Then I opened it, to find clusters of tiny sparkling ruby-gems all nestled inside. Respect for its inherent nature to stain clothing, made a lasting impression. Handling such an amazing delicacy lured me into ceremonial ritual. What a sensuous challenge it was to gently peel the leather skin back, then carefully pull away a section of seeds without breaking them open. Only with deliberate attention and patience for detail, could 'The Tao of Eating Pomegranate' be explored.

To me, this amazing bush was not only a spectacular gift but it was the very heart and soul of the Donellen property. After all, it was thriving quite well, smack in the center of the yard and just steps from the kitchen door! The thought that it might not always be there, never crossed my mind—how could the 'spirit incarnate' of a magical place ever, ever disappear?