On a morning around this time two years ago, I was sitting at my kitchen table in Arkansas with my husband, Miah. I was reading or journaling or drinking coffee with my thoughts, and he was at the other end of the table doing something along the same lines, and we were in that sort of togetherness that doesn’t require anything but proximity and familiarity. It would have been an entirely ordinary day, and I wouldn’t be writing about it now had Miah not broken the silence, looking up from his phone and abruptly saying my name.
He said it urgently, declaratively, and slid his phone down the table, an invocation to read what had provoked the break in our comfortable silence. It was a real estate listing. A photo topped it, a capture of a pasture with lush spring grass bowed and a heavy fog settled over it. I saw the price, just within our budget. I looked at the address, exactly where we wanted to be. I looked at the photo again and scrolled to the next and then the next, rolling hills and glassy ponds. Then my eyes scanned the description, “This parklike setting is perfect for your future homestead.”
Parklike. The word evoked intention and design: something created, something meant to be enjoyed, a place of respite, a place of beauty.
“We’re already in an agreement. We already have an accepted offer. We can’t buy this,” I said, pointedly popping the bubble of hope and excitement that seemed to hang in the air. It was true. We’d put an offer in on another bit of acreage a month before, one that was decidedly less parklike than this one. It has been a verbal agreement, and the sellers were supposed to contact us when they’d untangled the legalities of the trust the land was locked up in. Sure, they’d left us waiting longer than they’d said, but I wanted to honor my word.
“I’m going to contact them and give them 48 hours to give us some information. If we don’t hear anything, I’m moving on,” he said. I held my expectations in place, lest they get too high and risk breaking my heart, but in the end, he did move on. When the sellers of the first place didn’t respond, Miah got on an airplane and traveled 720 miles to the parklike land and called the realtor from right there by the pond. He’d been there five minutes when he knew, it was home. Then we all moved on across the country with trailers of livestock and our whole life packed in cardboard. We moved on to the parklike homestead.
This morning was a foggy one. Foggy mornings capture my heart with the way they muffle the farm sounds and soften the sunlight as it peaks the trees. They remind me of how the world feels a little stifled when I’m enveloped in Miah’s broad arms, how his heartbeat and breathing are just as present in my ears as the surrounding noise. This morning, I felt the strength of my farm’s hold on me. And as I walked down the driveway at sunrise, one phrase kept breaking into my thoughts.
It was, of course, just that. The hills rolled beneath the fog and the smooth-topped pond disappeared into a blanket of unknowing. A cow’s moo floated loosely through the dense air, and the chickens came rushing from the coop as the automatic door opened to the morning. It was picturesque, idyllic, lovely, wooing, breathtaking but the word that came to mind, and always comes to mind, was parklike.
Prior to two years ago, I had never called anything parklike, but since that fateful day at the kitchen table, the word has been lodged into my vocabulary. On particularly lovely moments on the farm, when the light is just right and my heart starts swelling with awe, that word floats the service and claims its descriptive place. This morning, a realization struck me.
I don’t remember how old I was when I wrote my first poem. I’ve been a storyteller for all my life, and in turn, I devour words wherever I can find them. This week alone, I have read a bit of C.S. Lewis and Henry David Thoreau, some poems by Mary Oliver and E.E. Cummings and started a novel by Kristin Hannah. I love to listen to eloquent speakers and love to consume words in all forms. I’m pretty sure if the back of a cereal box was written in admirable style, I’d read it twice. Simply put, I adore language and have yet to find my fill of it.
The reasons for this love affair with words are endless, really. It makes me feel alive to get to experience things my life did not afford me firsthand. I have felt loves I never lived and adventures I never went on. My imagination is wild and, when left to its own devices, has been known to make me feel a little crazy. However, when fed a daily ration of lovely words, I find my imagination serves me well.
The real crux of words, though, the real reason I value them so highly, is that they give me understanding. Words are the lightbulbs that illuminate the mystery of life. They shine into the shadows of love and beauty and nature and family, or pain and joy and anticipation and torment, and make sense of it all. They make the depth of this human experience palpable and expressible, and unarguably REAL. Words connect us to each other. They make our stories last for our children’s children to have a piece of the life we lived.
I have known this for a long while, having identified this value years ago. However, this morning, when my farm wrapped its arms around me in a stifling hug and in return, I muttered, with the satisfied hum of a woman well-loved, “Mm. Parklike,” I realized. Words are contagious. Lendable. Multipliable. A realtor wrote an ad years ago, maybe offhand or maybe with intention, and it found me at my kitchen table 700 miles away, and in a single moment, his word became mine.
I like to say the garden woos me. And I hear the viewers of my YouTube videos respond, “Yes! That’s exactly it!” I knew it resounded with them, but maybe I didn’t really fully grasp the value of the knowledge it unlocked. I cannot take credit for the way a garden makes a human feel. But when I lend my language and share my own experience, a person can carry away from me the knowledge that what they feel is wooed, swept away, romanced, intrigued, fulfilled in the way of good love, in a way that makes you hungry for more. Then they can dive into that understanding the way the brave always dive headlong into deep and mysterious things. They can see it as valid. They can fall in love even further.
So, can I challenge you, friend, to take this revelation that struck me hard and ponder it? Lend your language, will you? Sit with your thoughts long enough to hear them fully. Collect ways to describe your one and only unique and lovely life. You are holding keys for others to really, fully know their humanity. Perhaps we shouldn’t call it frivolity to wax poetic about everyday magic and parklike farms. Maybe, if we treated words like the gold they are, we would come to realize we could all be rich with experience. We could all be storytellers and poets, unlocking the world for those who are listening.
Wax poetic, darling. Bring the mysteries to light.