Author’s note: We’ve lived on our farm for 30 years. It’s where we raised four children and birthed a family business. A few years ago, I wrote about my first impressions of what would become Springfield Farm, and how much that sparkling waterway represented my dreams for our life. I invite you back to that beautiful April day when I stood on the banks of a pretty little creek, on the edge of a beautiful new life.
The moment I opened my car door, I could hear the creek — a gurgling rush of water, spilling over rocks and roots. The sun-lit flash I had spotted as I pulled into the driveway cut through the center of our new homestead, laying down tracks to a destination unknown, yet pre-determined.
The bubbling welcome of that narrow flow of water on an early spring morning was a harbinger of what was to come. In the days, weeks and years ahead, my husband and I would claim this 100-acre patch of land as our home. We would raise a family, start a business and steward the acreage surrounding our century-old brick house, anchored by this artery that would become our family’s lifeline.
Shallow and sandy-bottomed, the creek is bone-chilling cold even in the middle of summer. It flows east from a cistern that captures water from a nearby spring-fed pond. The pond is still and murky, filled with vegetation that sustains wildlife. Turtles and frogs are visited seasonally by sleek silver muskrats. It welcomes Canadian geese temporarily nesting to hatch babies and the occasional curious heron who feeds on tadpoles. It’s a peaceful habitat, ringed by redbud trees, wildflowers and cat tails.
In contrast, the creek that spills from the cistern gateway sparkles with action and intent. Water escaping the pond is void of wildlife as it races toward a bigger stream that flows to a river that dumps into a fresh water lake 10 miles away.
The creek and the tall maple and walnut trees lining its shores became our sons’ playground. Shallow enough to be safe and brisk enough to provide chilling entertainment on hot summer days, the creek was their favorite setting for tiny boat races and GI Joe battles. Bare feet, damp shorts, abandoned sneakers, sunburned noses — small sacrifices for an afternoon by the creek.
As the boys grew, the creek was first a boundary line then a rite of passage. Crossing the creek’s homemade bridge to explore the banks of the pond under the watchful eye of an older brother was a privilege earned. In time, the churning water flowing beneath the bridge inspired young fellows testing their skills with guitars and with cameras, as the unassuming waterway showed up in songs and photographs.
And once the creek was abandoned by our boys for cars and music, friends, college and travel, it became my sanctuary. The shore guided my prayer-filled walks. The swirling stream served as a quiet background for recording a mother’s reflections. The calming steady flow of water brought music to the stillness of our empty nest.
In the year after our youngest went off to college, my husband placed a covered bridge upstream from the little handmade crossover. On a beautiful spring day, in a wedding ceremony by the pond, the wooden bridge served as a fitting pathway for a son’s crossover from bachelorhood to husband. Memories collided to the murmur of the bubbling creek. Past, present and future joined forces in a clear, life-giving flow of water that continues to mark the passage of time. Soon, another generation will build boats of twigs and leaves and launch them from the wooden bridge. Squeals will rise as tiny toes press into the sandy bottom, ankles numbed by the rush of cold water.
My husband was a farm boy. This country life is familiar to him. I grew up at the end of a street in a small town, miles from flowing waterways and silent ponds. Still, in the driveway of our future, I had recognized the creek for the gifts it held for our family and for me. A familiar craving surfaced 30 summers ago as I stood in it for the first time, bare feet tingling toward numbness, sand, tadpoles and leafy debris washing over my toes. My own childhood dreams of flowing water bumped up against memories of summer afternoons fishing from the pier on grandma’s lake and I knew. This is what I had longed for, this cleansing, stimulating rush that told me I was alive.
The poet Rainer Maria Rilke gives voice to my wish for myself and for my family:
“May what I do flow from me like a river, no forcing and no holding back, the way it is with children.”
Perhaps the poet stood on the banks of a little creek like mine as it flowed into a river and poured into a lake. No doubt he observed the way it is with children, who dangle their feet in shallow currents then step ashore and into life “no forcing and no holding back.”