Monday, April 2, 2012

The Lone Lilac

Down at the end of the first ravine in the wood grew a lone lilac tree.
It was a remnant of a past life, the only survivor of someone’s hopes and dreams for a farmstead.  At one time a small cabin stood beside that tree and someone else looked out of a window at the expanse of valley laid out below.

I was surprised at how many places on our acreage; physical reminiscences remained of someone else’s life. A lone lilac or apple tree grew in the middle of nowhere.  My father would point out in the corner of a field where he remembered a well had been filled in.  An old root cellar was supposedly under another mound of earth at the opposite side of our property, a slight concave shape in the soil showing where it collapsed upon itself long ago. 

I never dwelled on these findings much when I was young, although the idea of an archeological dig did cross my mind more than once.  Old tools, glass jars - who knows was under the soil in some places.  My father did tell me about an old school bell that was, he said, buried under a collapsed storage shack next to the outhouse.  When my father passed, I went out there and dug.  Sure enough, I found the 2 foot tall bell. 

A sadness comes over me now when I recall, in a rare moment of personal conversation, my father had stated matter of factually, that many of those homesteaders left after the flu epidemic of 1911, which snatched the young, able bodied and healthy  from their families’ grasp, their hope for the future of a farm dashed within a few hours. 

They had most likely spent years building a farmstead, two generations, if not more, living in a small cabin, struggling to survive the harshness of the Midwest winters and hot, humid summers, only for their family to be decimated within a few hours.  Many just left outright, leaving possessions they could not carry behind. 

The sole reminder of their existence now – a blooming lilac tree.

                                                                                              copyright 2012 Stepka