I recently changed the header photo on my blog from the stock photo of a beautiful beach to a photo I had taken at my farm circa 1980. I think the change reflects how I have grown (and aged) over the last few years since this blog began.
When the picture was taken, I did not technically own the farm. It was part of the estate my great-grandmother (Ida Knost Burgy) left to my grandmother (Cora Burgy Westbrook) and her siblings. My grandmother died in 1957, passing her interest to my grandfather (Thomas Harry Westbrook), who in turn bequeathed his interest in the property to my father (Harry Clifton Westbrook) and uncle (Darrell Lynn Westbrook). My grandmother's brother (Noah Burgy) passed in 1970, leaving his 1/3 interest with my grandmother's remaining sibling (Marie Burgy Matheny). When Aunt Marie passed in 2002, my husband and I bought the interest from both Aunt Marie's and Uncle Darrell's heirs.
None of the names listed above are important to the reader. To me, however, they are important in preserving a piece of the past as a wheelhouse to which I can return and center myself. While the beach captured my imagination as a child and young adult, it left little for me to hold onto, aside from memories of vacations past. The beach is wild and every changing. My writing, planning and thinking when I was there was fanciful and based on dreams with no real foundation. The farm is solid and slow to change. It is a place of peace and solitude. I do my best writing, planning and reflecting there, seeded on the solid experiences of the past and nurtured by the thoughtful contemplation of the writings of others.
One of the most important admissions of learning is realizing that in the total scheme of things, one knows nothing. In my beach days, I knew everything. Today, in my farm days, I realize how little I know. Today, I am much more receptive to the thoughts and experiences of others.
Ironically, none of the man-made items in this photo remain. The house was consumed by fire in 1997. The barn fell down years ago, and the garage and the smokehouse were demolished soon after we bought the property. My first car, a 1971 Plymouth Valiant (aka Prince) expired in 1982, and my dogs, Tiny and Mabeline, died in the mid-80s.
I still dream of all of these, the house and my dogs, the smokehouse and barn. I still maintain that Prince was a more rugged and maneuverable vehicle than most four-wheel drive trucks. These are parts of my past that cannot (I hope and pray) be erased by time.
What keeps me focused is what remains: my husband (barely visible on the porch) and the land itself. Like my reading, writing and reflecting on my practice as a teacher and a school library media specialist, they require commitment and nurturing, time and care.
That is fine by me.