A few months ago I wrote an essay about bridges for the first edition of this publication. The theme for the set of writings was Bridges. I was inspired to write about a bridge between the natural world and the dwelling of the divine and how they are connected by a bridge that connects two spaces that are separate, yet the same. As I prepared for this essay, I kept returning to the concept of the bridge. And then it hit me, our connection to a homeland is like a connection to the divine. Because our homeland is one way in which we experience the divine.
I grew up on a farm that we had to move off of in the early 1990s. It was the farm that my grandfather and great uncle grew and then my dad took over and cared for the land. I can’t begin to even assume I know how agonizing it was for my parents to have to make the decision to leave it. This place where my dad’s connection to his father, who died in when my dad was a teenager, would no longer be a physical connection but a memory. And farming is something that is in your blood. It’s part of the DNA.
I may not remember much of the nuts and bolts of farming – the pattern used when turning a tractor around in the field. Which lever to use to raise the implement out of the soil. But I remember the smell of the freshly turned dirt in the spring. I remember the smell of the first cut of wheat in the late summer. I remember the sound of the tractor idling and cooling at the end of the day. I remember the vibration of the combine as the auger emptied the hopper of its contents. I remember the taste of the burgers and the salad with ranch dressing that we would serve when neighbors popped over on a summer evening.
I am no longer living on an operating farm but I live amongst those who do. Even though I am not living life on a farm, I still have a deep connection to the land. The land of the prairie, with the flowing grass, the oft strong breeze, and the rolling in of storms that you can see for miles, will always call to me. As I move around and experience other places, I still return in my mind, my soul, my whole being, to the farm that built me. It does not belong to my family anymore, but we belong to it. You can take the girl from the farm but you cannot take the farm from the girl. I return to that beautiful, magical place when I need to find my happy place. When I need to experience the divine, cross that bridge, so that I can be reminded of the promises that there is something else out there calling to me, something that knows me deeply and will never disappear, I am transported to the steps of that white house surrounded by trees, where nearby chickens are crowing and the ever present wind blows making the leaves rustle. I cross the bridge in my mind that keeps me where I am but brings me to where I need to be. My home. My farm. My homeland.
Ivy Schulz is a pastor of a Lutheran congregation in rural North Dakota, USA. She loves to travel, ride her Harley Davidson and go camping with her family. Faith informs her worldview but does not restrict it. In fact, faith opens her up to encountering the Divine in unlikely places and unlikely people.