06 June 2008

A Dream dies, a Dream is born

Unseemly as it may be, this is an airing of family dirty linens. My grandfather Field was, among other things, a farmer, and was truly a scholar of many things but he was especially noted for his knowledge of trees. Around his house, he planted many unusual trees that he discovered in his journeys. The University of Kentucky used to bring graduate students to see some of his rarer specimens.

When I was perhaps twelve or thirteen, he was having trees planted on the two of his farms. He seemed like a man beyond ancient age to me and I quite indiscretely inquired why would he plant a sapling he would never live to see as a mature tree. He quoted Thomas Jefferson to me, after asking if I knew who he was - "Too old to plant trees for my own gratification, I shall do it for posterity." [to answer your query, no I did not remember it verbatim and had to seek it out] He explained further that his posterity were his descendants, especially his grandchildren, and that they (myself and one other at the time) would live to enjoy the beauty of these tiny saplings as mighty trees and moreover, they were hardwoods that had value as lumber and if funds needed to be generated, these trees were effectively a check filled out by Papaw and greatly post-dated. I have rarely known anyone as far-sighted. Bless him for the attitudes he shaped in me.

It was not to be, however, as several years ago three of the four grandchildren were disenfranchised from the two farms; all legal, fair and square, my Grandfather's intentions were circumvented. I would not want to be present when Papaw eventually greets this person on the other side of the dark vale. To say we felt robbed is an understatement and it engendered a tremendous anger in yours truly, not so much the loss of the farm, which was dear to me (I'd worked there many summers and knew it like the back of my hand) but because Papaw's hopes and dreams for the grandchildren had been undone. To be honest, I had always presumed that I would spend my last years on earth in a corner of that farm unless that big snapping turtle got me while swimming in the five acre lake...

A firm believer in Divine Intervention and a Divine Plan, my anger failed to allow me to see that this was just another part of the will of the Creator and was absolutely in my best interest. Had the family farm not been jerked away from me, April & I never would have found this farm in Virginia (near where Papaw's people lived before the Revolutionary War). More recent events, such as how we came to look for a farm in Floyd and Patrick counties (thank you Breon and Travis), are most certainly very direct Divine Intervention, and finding this farm surely was as well. Faith in the Creator is always repaid, it just may not be clear to the mortal mind at the time.

My years are numbered as well. At 58, I have already outlived one grandmother. My Dad lived to only 67 and his Dad only to 69. Nonetheless, as Papaw lived and Jefferson advised, I'll plant trees for posterity, knowing that someone (who will never know of my existence) will appreciate them one day. In the short term, the birds and four-leggeds shall take refuge and sustenance from them and we shall share their joy.

I never before knew the full value of trees. My house is entirely embossomed in high plane-trees, with good grass below; and under them I breakfast, dine, write, read, and receive my company. What would I not give that the trees planted nearest round the house at Monticello were full grown.
--Jefferson to Martha Randolph (from Philadelphia), 1793

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