Foreign to the Fields

I stop my car by the side of the distant, desolate black top highway,
a road with little purpose but for farmers to reach their fields;
long-dried tracks of tractor tire mud offer evidence of the reason for the road.

Shutting off the engine and opening the window, I listen for quiet. Instead
I hear wind whistling through a barbed wire fence and the sounds of shrinking metal
as the motor cools under the hood. Birds abandon power lines for safer distance.

Fields of soy beans and sorghum surround me. A roadside ditch conspires
with fence posts and barbed wire to keep my car and me away from that range,
those acres of tillage nursed and cultivated to maximize production.

The scent of new growth and decomposing shards of yesterday’s crops
fills my nostrils and lifts my spirits. As I look across the fence
I feel that moist, black earth breathe, the heavy sigh of a lover.

My trip to the countryside began with a need to reach back to my roots,
not the pedigree of my family but the lineage of mankind, the origins
of that tiny seductive space in my brain that draws me to fresh-turned earth.

What is it, I wonder, that draws me to places like this, vast fields of
fertile soil where trees once stood, before farmers’ conquests? Did the farmers
search for the same thing I seek; did they know better than I what that was?

Unlike me, the farmers know this land; they know what it wants and needs and
what it gives in return. They know its solitude and the strength of its bonds
to that tiny seductive space in their brains that draws them to fresh-turned earth.

We share something, these farmers and I, that we don’t and can’t understand,
an ancient and aching connection, an attachment long ago buried, yet fresh as the soil.
I am foreign to these fields, but my human history is right here, under my feet.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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