Sunday Open Forum – Mailboxes and Old Barns
Mailboxes along the roads
and old barns set back
in fields overgrown with weeds
often served as landmarks
in rural Montana.
These landmarks told us where we were,
and how far we had to go.
Sometimes they signaled “home”
and the end of the road.
At other times,
barely visible through a swirling snowstorm,
they told us we had miles to go.
Maybe you’ve seen some of the same mailboxes
along your roads
or glimpsed some of the same old barns
through your storms.
The landmarks themselves are neutral. What gives them punch and meaning is the information they convey. Am I almost home? Or am I lost and perhaps don’t recognize that barn at all? Am I safe? Or am I in danger?
This transition between Christmas and the New Year was for about 20 years the very most painful time of the year for me. It was the time of year that I was most aware of being out of step with the normal world. Most aware of being in pain. Most conscious of feeling lost. I remember those places clearly. If you know Emily Dickinson like I know Emily Dickinson, it won’t surprise you that I have a well-marked copy of some of her work. Maybe that subconsciously influenced my choice of the online name, Emma.
Here is part of the word picture noting a point where I was beginning to dare to hope again (circa 1983):
There is a stillness that happens at dawn.
There is deep chill in the air and suspension of continuity
between the progression of night and the beginning of day.
There is a point at which the first bird sings.
I sit in single dimension darkness
with my back pressed against the tree
that has sustained me through the stormy night
and a single clear birdsong comes flinging through the darkness.
So the “mailboxes and old barns”of my life are not all warm fuzzies.
Neither are they endlessly painful allergens that must forever drive me up the wall.
They just are. They are a report from one life. That’s all.
They are the memories of my blessings and my battlefields. Just as yours are for you.