The change of my life was heavy on my heart as I thought about what my future would look like, now. Two children, on my own. My only concern was for that little boy and little girl. That boy had red hair and freckles that darkened, just a little, with each day he played in the sunshine. And the little girl had blond hair that lightened for the same reason those freckles darkened.
I do not know of the happiness of other people. I imagine money is a factor, maybe a dream of success or desire to forget the painful past and failures. For me, happiness is safety. Or what I imagine safety would be like, but I know nothing of safety. I wasn’t safe, and my children were not safe. The thoughts of my own happiness were swallowed by the thoughts that kept me awake at night. Fear of the future, the unknown. No hope can survive with those kinds of thoughts, it was no wonder that I had no hope. But even the happiest of people still struggle sometimes, right?
I could learn to welcome problems, but what do you do when it’s a person you face? That’s a different thing. How do you escape? Was I even strong enough? I had literally traveled the Pacific Ocean and a good portion of the western side of the States; so many miles. I didn’t even have a plan when I left. It’s not that I didn’t try to figure it all out beforehand. I did. It’s just that I couldn’t. The fear of staying was enough to make me buckle, and that’s the only reason I could leave. Had I stayed I don’t know what would have happened, and I would never let myself find out.
I thought I could manage his anger, his drinking. My plan was to be so loving that he couldn’t help but be the man we needed him to be. He wouldn’t be able to help but love us. It doesn’t work that way, ya know? I tried to change my hair, the way I talked, and what I believed. The things that hurt me, I pretended didn’t. The things I desired, I silenced them within my own heart. What are dreams good for anyway when you’re drowning? I kept canceling myself out and soon wasn’t even myself.
I was driving as these thoughts plagued my mind, remembering the events that lead me to leave that beautiful island. It was more like a cage than it was like paradise. My children sleeping in the back seat allowed the car to be quiet, a quiet that was uncommon. I welcomed it, I was tired. A deep soul tired.
I was tired from running and looking over my shoulder. As I thought of the plane trip I had taken several months back, the fear rises in my throat and wells up into my eyes. I was almost not able to leave, almost didn’t make it. I stood standing in the airport with a toddler and was very pregnant. They told me my tickets were canceled, and I couldn’t understand how. How did he know? I looked over my shoulder. No one was there, he couldn’t follow me. I told myself this, but I am not sure I believed it. And I am not sure I believed it now. My head knows, but my heart doesn’t.
When I visited Heart Song Farm, such a long time ago, I began a journey to happiness. It is a real-life place in my part of the world, the plains of Northern Colorado. That day did not feel particularly special. My life, for the most part, felt like one long and bad day. A day that kept desiring to return to me.
At Heart Song Farm, beautiful things surround you. Those things feel almost magical, though very ordinary in a sense. Every tree, bird, and even the wind seems to have its own soft music that it plays for its visitors. Heart Song Farm is a place where difficult times seem to feel a little smaller, and less consuming than they do in the real world. It seemed as if this farm held the secret of happiness, true happiness.
I had no peace of my own, but this was the only place that I knew of that had peace for me to borrow; until I found my own. There is a simple way about it, but it is something the outside world knows nothing of. I wasn’t sure what it was though.
The morning was coming to an end. The sun rose higher and higher into the blue of the sky. The old familiar farm came into view as I turned onto a dirt road in my sisters’ new car that I borrowed for the day. From the road the old white Victorian house was visible. The Burgundy window shutters stood out from behind the green of the trees. As we approach the wrought iron gate, I felt as if I was entering another time from long ago; the same feeling I got when I visited as a child.
I parked and stepped out onto the gravel. Peacocks flew to the tall cottonwood trees and called out from behind the fullness of the branches. Winter had finally passed on the farm; new life was everywhere. My heart, though, still had some frost on it. The cold from the life I had left behind followed me here, and everywhere I went. Once I entered the gate, though, I felt as if it left me. As if, only my children and I were allowed in. I knew my normal life awaited me outside those gates, but for one day I could escape. I could be happy for today.
I only visited a couple of times as a child, but those few memories were clear in my mind. I once swam in the creek that ran outback. I walked along a fallen tree and climbed the ones that still stood. I collected eggs and watched the cows with their calves. I didn’t need peace then like I do now. On second thought, maybe I did.
My anxious toddler, patient for only a moment. Began to push against the straps of his carseat that held him in, safely. I helped him out of the car, first unclipping him from his restraint. His feet hit the ground, he took rapid short steps as his little legs would allow. He walked around bent over scouring the ground for treasures. Completely unaware of where he was headed. Adventure is important to a young boy and new rocks are the best thing. The only other time I’d seen him this pleased is when his little hand clutched the string of his very own balloon, revealing dimples on his knuckles. I got the baby out next and held her on my hip. The shutting of the car doors seemed to stir the animals on the farm, but the rhythm soon returned.
For a long time, over 100 years, that old barn stood so tall. I stood at the opening of the barn door and peered through trying to follow the sound of the new chicks peeping from within. The white paint began to peel revealing the light wood underneath. It’s amazing how, with very little care, the strength of such a big structure is sustained. The inside of the barn was home to the new chicks, a few cats, and stored some feed. Its large doors we ready to close whenever the setting of the sun or weather said it was time.
We passed an old wheelbarrow, and behind it grew Hollyhocks. I walked along admiring them. Tall green shoots with burgundy and peach blossoms. Honeybees swarmed the flowers, paying no attention to us at all. On the side of the barn were old wood-framed windows, reflecting back the beauty of the flowers.
We keep walking around, stretching our legs from the long drive. Some Guinea fowls scurry around with their heads bobbing as they go. They dart in and out of the barn and disappear under a hedge of bushes, looking for bugs. The way they run makes it seem as if they’re late for something, and frantically trying to make up for a lost time.
The baby girl on my hip looks around with legs swinging. She cannot wait to walk. Occasionally she’ll look up at me to smile about something she saw, and wants to see if I saw it too. She reaches for almost everything we walk by, but I know whatever she grabs will go right into her mouth. So I keep her just far enough away, but she knows exactly what I am doing. I brush a tiny wisp of blonde hair out of her eyes. Her hair was barely starting to come in, so light and fine. She smiles up at me.
From one side of where I stood my toddler reappeared. With pockets bulging full of rocks and a hand grasping peacock feathers; treasures he had found. It didn’t take much to fill those tiny pockets. From the other side of where I stood happy the cat rubbed against my leg purring. I bent down to scratch his ear, this was the best thing, to him. From behind me, I hear the crunch of gravel and a sweet southern voice.
“Sarah, Is that you?” I stand to face her and she wraps her arms around me. “How are you?”
I can’t really answer, so I just hug her back. She pulls away and looks at me. Her hands were still on my shoulders, waiting for an answer.
“I don’t know.” Is all I can say because I don’t.
“Sarah, you are going to have to get as strong and as wise as you can.” She sweetly and gently gave me her piece of advice, because she knows. “Let’s go to the back so the kids can play.”
The sweet southern woman, so encouraging in all she said, poured her wisdom into me. She had so much to teach me, and she was being patient for me to learn- to understand. We talked of my journey, and how I got here. We talked of my future and what to expect, and more importantly, she told me what I would need for the journey ahead. She didn’t sugarcoat a thing, she was a straight shooter. But somehow, what she said was welcomed and I longed to learn more. I understood that I was not to blame for the drinking, the abuse. I was not the names he’d call me. I understood that my journey was going to be long and hard. But she believed in me, that I could do it. I had never had anyone believe in me before.
We walked across the farmyard, through the gate, and entered the back of the property. Two tree swings hung from yards and yards of thick rope. The little redhead ran to the lower hanging swing and leaned over the seat to swing on his tummy. As he swings, back and forth, he reaches to the ground trying to catch the clovers that grew below. He was always so happy-go-lucky. He had a way of seeing the adventure and fun every day held. I wanted to be more like him. He didn’t stay too long on the swings, he had more to explore.
“Sarah, It’s not often that these sort of situations go away. I have some books for you that will help you if you’d like. And you are welcome here, I have walked with women in your same situation so many times before.”
I nodded, to let her know I wanted the books. But also, to let her know I understood that she had been through before with other women- the same thing I was going through now.
“I know it’s hard, but you can do hard things. You can do it for you and for those babies. You may surprise yourself at the strength you will find.”
This day marked the first of many that I would spend at that farm, this was the place my heart would learn to sing. I was under the good care of the little southern woman. She had the same music in her that the farm did. And she sang, she sang the most beautiful song; the first time I ever heard a song like that- one not from the mouth but of the heart.
She built a good life with the southern farmer, they were best friends. He was an old man now, but he worked as if he never aged. In the scorching of the summer and in the dead of winter, that southern farmer was sweetly tending to all he and the southern woman built together; with their own hands. They were no strangers to work or pain, but somehow they never held on to the past. Something I needed to learn. I knew it would take more than just having a good night’s sleep, to get over my past.
The sky darkened in hue, signaling the day was coming to an end, and to my heart that is was time to go. The baby was almost asleep in my arms, but the young boy protested just as much as my heart did. He didn’t want to leave, neither did I. Though we had to, the southern woman and the old southern farmer welcomed us back anytime. I said we would visit again, and made a promise to myself that this was not the last time I would be here. There was something to learn here, something to learn from them both. They were the happiest people I knew, they had real happiness. I didn’t know what my future would hold, I didn’t even know what the next day would hold, but I had a small idea that I may have a little hope for whatever it brought.