That Ache of Memory









Well-away and be it so,
To the stranger let them go.
Even cheerfully I yield
Pasture, orchard, mowing-field,
Yea and wish him all the gain
I required of them in vain.
Yea and I can yield him house,
Barn, and shed, with rat and mouse
To dispute possession of.
These I can unlearn to love.
Since I cannot help it? Good!
Only be it understood,

It shall be no trespassing
If I come again some spring
In the grey disguise of years,
Seeking ache of memory here.
~Robert Frost from “On the Sale of My Farm”









From the road, each of the two small farms where I grew up in western Washington state look nothing like they did in my childhood.  When I drive past now, whether on Google Earth virtual reality or for real , the outbuildings have changed and are unfamiliar, fences pulled down, the trees exponentially taller, the fields no longer well-tended. Instead the familiarity is in the road to get there, the lean into the curves, the acceleration in and out of dips, the landscape which triggers a simultaneous comfort and disquiet deep in my DNA.

Though my younger brother recently stopped and looked around our long-ago childhood home, and sent me pictures that looked barely recognizable, I have never stopped to knock; instead I have driven slowly past to sense if I feel what I used to feel in these places.  My memories are indeed triggered but feel a bit as if they must have happened to someone else.

One clinic day a few years ago, I glanced at the home address of a young man I was about to see for a medical issue and I realized he now lived in my childhood home over 100 miles away.  When I greeted him I told him we had something in common: we had grown up under the same roof, inside the same walls, though children of two different generations.  He was curious but skeptical — how could this gray-haired middle aged woman know anything about his home?  He told me a bit about the house, the barn, the fields, the garden and how he experienced it felt altogether strange to me.  He and I had shared nothing but a patch of real estate — our recollections were so completely disparate.

I worry for the fearsome ache if someday, due to age or finances, we must sell our current farm ~ this beloved place our children were raised, animals bred and cared for, fruit picked from an ancient orchard, plants tended and soil turned over. It will remain on the map surely as the other two farms of my past, visible as we pass by slowly on the road, but primarily alive in the words and photos I have harvested here. There will always be that sweet ache of seeking out what might be still familiar on the map of my memory.













7 thoughts on “That Ache of Memory

  1. Your entry today is very powerful and poignant for me. The farm I grew up on is about to be sold following my mother’s death last year. I will receive half the profits and, had I been able, I could have bought it myself, but I wasn’t able. As I still grieve her loss (and my Dad’s from years ago), I now find myself also grieving the loss of this beautiful home with all of its memories of growing up with my three brothers, our animals and the extended family who came often. Sledding on the fields in winter, wandering the woods year-round, or berry picking and then picnicking on the shore of the Potomac River in front of our house – all of these memories flood back. I tell myself that once it is sold I will never return there. I think, on this side of it, that I couldn’t stand the pain.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. You are a beautiful writer. I enjoyed this especially and can identify a great deal. I am from Germany and have been here now for over 50 years. When I go back “home”, it is not the same, yet in my dreams and memories, it has never changed even to this very day.
    Keep on writing! I start each day reading your blog over a nice hot cup of coffee. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I, too, have experienced that loss, although not a family farm. Initially our childhood home—the only place I ever lived, and very beautiful, private, with a vista of the Ohio River, and splendid woods for building forts and swinging on vines over ravines, was purchased by one of the neighborhood children. He raised his family there, and I was able to take my son to show him where me and my siblings, and the neighborhood children (only three families, eight kids in all) were measured on a door frame. But now they are in their late seventies, and have sold the property, and it is no longer available to visit. An old grief.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Yes, I know what you are saying. Last October 28, our family farm was sold on auction, after my 95 year old father decided it was time to leave the farm.

    He could no longer get on the tractors. He realized that it was just too much for us to do all of the work required to keep the farm well maintained. Four generations of our family had called this farm…home . My great grandparents bought the farm in 1901.

    I continue to be amazed. My dad made the decision in August. My brother and I cleared out nine buildings in preparation for the auction. I sorted through the house and left it empty and clean on January 1…the day before settlement.

    In a very short time, we made a huge transition. Only by the grace of God, I tell myself. I was exhausted many days in August, September, October and beyond until we moved. Each new day there was energy for the day. I got to referring to the energy for the day as Manna from God. And I still tell myself to look for the Manna. God will provide.

    I have been driving past the farm…slowly… every now and then, since the move. The new owner will be moving to the farm in July. They didn’t want to move before the end of the school year. I have seen dumpsters and vehicles indicating they are renovating. I think…good for them. I am quietly cheering them on and praying for their family to experience joy, when they move in and call that wonderful 67 acres of beauty…home.

    I had some very sentimental moments in May. I ended up in tears, when I went to the local greenhouse. I missed my flowerbeds. I had a conversation with myself and God and thanked him for orchestrating the whole process from the decision to sell to the finding of the place I now call home. We rent. Not sure how long we will be here. But, I have decided to live one day at a time and be thankful for all of the blessings God gives to us each new day.

    I have also concluded…less is more.

    Yes, there are many memories. Last spring, I had this internal feeling that it might be my last spring there. It was a beautiful spring and summer. The grass was lush and green all summer. The flowers were beautiful right up to the sale date in October. The weather was perfect. Sale day was spectacular. It was a social event with old friends and childhood neighbors and relatives there for the event.

    I felt God’s presence during this life changing experience.
    It is a huge blessing to know when it is time to make a life change and then do it willingly with thanksgiving.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Emily, I read your ache and the aches of the commentators as I anticipate selling the Maine coast cottage my grand parents bought. Underoaks sits on the tip of a peninsula in Casco Bay so we see sunrise and sunset over water. Every room has water views. The LR has handcarved furniture and mantlepiece my grandfather carved. His binoculars sit on this desk as I write. I’ve been here every summer since i was a newborn. If I am still I can hear the voices of my grandparents, parents and aunt and uncle as they say each other’s names.

    But I’m now 78, live in CT and it’s unlikely our two kids (CT and OR) and six grandkids will be able to care for the summer-only acre and house that sleeps 11.

    There’s a mid-tide rock that’s been my Thin Place for prayer for decades. Yes, we know God’s omnipresent, yet this rock is truly a Thin Place and those are hard to come by.

    My heart goes out to all the commentators. I do believe that when we are fully in God’s presence, the aches will dissipate.

    Liked by 1 person

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