Kansas and the Healing of Memories

On the farm, one is required not only to take in the silence that lurks joyful along the rolling prairie but to make use of it. The tractor will spit and sputter. The meadowlark will trill in the sunlight. The wind will push along its way. But there are the moments, sitting still with the farm truck shut off when it will slip over a man and widen him out.

There is no accounting for this. It will come of its own accord. But having been inculcated in such complex rhythms, a man can learn to accept it and take the stillness in.

It is said by some that nature abhors a void. A farming man might tell you there is no void, only the tilling and the reaping, the calving by moonlight, and a rest and stillness that can never be empty. A careless man, or a wise one, will turn up that loam within the heart, or let a thing rise up through the soul-soil, leveraging that silence like a fulcrum. A sound, the smell of the turned earth, anything at all can give the thing passage. And there it is, fronting him, while folded arms steady his weight across the sill of the open truck door and a gaze turns unfocused toward the horizon. The smell of rain is in the wind.

There he sits, long years past, side by side with her, the rain falling gently over the windshield, the car running softly while the song plays on the stereo. See, she says, the urgency in her voice, willing him to hear the words, to ingest the melody. That’s us. And for a moment, the breach is filled. The small fracture healed. But only for a moment. For the gulf is not spanned, and before the world spins again its seasons four-square, he will break her heart. Not for any great sin. Not from any great betrayal. Simply because the time has moved him onward to a different place.

It could have been a memory from yesterday, instead of from his beginning days as a man, independent in the world, more than a quarter century ago. That’s how these things go. There is no rhyme nor reason for the recalling of such things. But the soul, the heart, has its movements, unravels its threads in conjunction with timelessness anchored in time.

Hard upon such a memory, another may come, and another. Suddenly the soul-wounds beg for cleansing, for the salve of remembrance. And here’s the thing: sheer remembrance alone cannot do it. It is there, standing under prairie stars, the heart can understand, the soul can reach out and find life. For the digging up of memories is not accomplished by one’s own hand alone. A greater someone will call them forth. Just when they are needed. When the emotions are again felt, when the brokenness can be pressed tender, when the divine hands of healing minister the final judgment. These things are now finished.

When that farmer climbs stiff back into that truck, not even the engine noise and the scraping of the prairie grass along the side panels can overtake the silence. Nor is there any diminishing of the surprise at what has burst up from the soil. It is a wonder of healing.

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