July 15, 2002

Strange Farmer of Erehwon

He prepared them lovingly, his favorite fishing lures and old pressed flowers, arranging them prominently on the bench, near the road. Just beyond, a little closer to the barn was a crude table with all manner of assorted clippings and cards, diplomas, certificates and old, yellowed journals. Up around the bend near the low-water bridge, were photographs arranged haphazardly on the maple trees... dogeared, roughly framed or not at all, some new, most sepia toned from the passage of time, with a patina of love and memory.

Trinkets and curios, mementos and very private bric-a-brack, images and essays lined the dirt road along a quarter mile of this seldom traveled path in a remote part of a sparsely populated region of the rural land of Erehwon. Here was more than the eye could take in: planks on stumps covered with cones and seeds, garden tools and lensed instruments for seeing things close or far away; buckets of garden veggies; small cages with insects or small birds or lizards he had tenderly captured, just for a day, so that his visitors could get to know that these things exist in his world, though not in theirs, perhaps. And everywhere, wildflowers, mushrooms, liverworts and slime molds, things to the farmer most wonderous and sacred, piled and stacked and scattered.

"Who will come?" she asked derisively. "You are a foolish old man" she said, "and if anyone comes, they will think you mad".

"Friends I have never met will come", said the farmer. "Strangers who will not know that they wanted to know about these things I show them here until they have seen them. In seeing them, they will see into me and trust me, and we will share the deep things of our souls with each other, me and my visitors."

The farmer was careful to provide chalk boards nailed to roadside trees and scratch pads on the display tables, so that his guests could tell him about themselves and direct him to their places. With these wonderful leavings, he would be able to visit them all around the world, and see their displays, and know and appreciate their unique curios, sepia memories, and golden dreams.

So, the days and weeks passed. Visitors did come, but more often than not, they drove down the road and passed on. Some surely thought him mad. Mostly, they came past slowly but without stopping, though the farmer thought they did seem to acknowledge in some small way his racks and tables and hangings. Many came down his road quite by mistake, looking for the shopping mall or in order to read some strange and terrible story not contained in the farmer's collection.

But lo, wonder of wonders, some of the wanderers stopped and tarried for a while, even occasionally handling one or two of the treasures on the rickety tables, turning it over curiously in their hand. Once, a visitor was heard to exclaim "This is the most wonderful thing I have ever seen" upon discovering some small caged creature that was commonplace and barely worth showing, as the farmer saw it. This delighted him, and he was eager to tell his wife that indeed, his treasures were becoming treasures to one in a hundred of his guests, and that this was enough. But in truth, he was was always disappointed when they remained strangers as they drove away. He soon learned to take joy in the fact that they had come at all.

His chalk boards and memo pads, and his green rusty mailbox near the stone walk to his door remained sadly empty. From time to time, a visitor would pen "hello I was here", or "my name is Mark. Nice tables and stuff". The farmer was always thrilled to see that the page was not empty, but dejected when he had given so much of himself and learned so little of his visitors. He began to feel somewhat foolish and doubted himself and the public display of his silly yard-sale memories and special things that were sacred only to him.

And yet, in his more hopeful moments, he thought "There is a point to this that I cannot see yet. If I am faithful to my dream, they will come and stop. They will share and invite me to their roads. And when the world is able to put their precious things on all the roadsides of Erewon and the larger world beyond, we will trust and care for each other, we will learn from and about those of us that seem strange and unfamiliar, as I must seem now to my visitors."

And so, the stange farmer of Erehwon to this day is searching in his garden and woods, and in his memories and hopes and golden dreams, to find things each day to display before his visitors. If he is mad, he is harmless; and if his strange ways become the way of the lands beyond Erewon, his madness will have become his joy.

Posted by fred1st at July 15, 2002 07:26 AM
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