Sill dark when I wake this morning, haunted by a vivid dream.
I walk outside my cabin to see my breath for the first time, steaming the sharp, August air and know fall has arrived. Golden leaves already drip down the Birch, Aspen, and Cottonwood. Wildflowers of summer, yellowed, leaning closer to the ground, before dropping their seed, freezing, and melting into spring mud eight months from now.
This jagged air reminds me of chilly mornings on the farm when my father and I would also wake before dawn, share breakfast and coffee, pull our work clothes on, and walk out across those darkened fields toward the tractor. The earth, thawing from last night’s frost, and steaming upward all around us.
We’ve always been different, me and him, yet exactly the same. We’ve argued politics, lifestyle choices, the decisions I’ve made. Or been afraid to make. So difficult, the relationship between fathers and sons. The expectations. The disappointment and heartbreak. The times I failed to rise up and be the man he wanted me to be. The man I knew I should’ve been.
But that all went away when we used to farm together. Worked the land as a team. In synch and harmony. He’d tell stories about the old days. The grandparents I never knew. The life we both wanted to return to.
Now he’s in in his eighties, finally retired from farming, and I’ve moved to Alaska, chasing my own version of his dream. He has cancer now, my dad. We just found out. And recently took a bad fall. It’s heartbreaking for me to see it all unfold this way. As I knew it would, but somehow refused to believe.
No doubt we share the same blood. Him rebuilding the family farm and me homesteading in Alaska. The independence. The challenge of it all. The dream of autonomy. And a simple, direct life of hard work. My need to make him proud the way he made Grandpa proud. Just like my dream last night, which is how I’ll choose to think of us.
Crazy, but in the dream, for some reason, I watched us from a distance. In the old days. My father the age I am now, a younger version of me walking beside him. A blue smudge to the east but still dark. Just me and him in all that blackness. I saw it from where I stood. So close, but way out of reach. Side by side in that starlight. Heading out to sow seeds in the fields.
I'm still back there now. In that dream. Peering harder and harder as we move further and further into that darkness. The smell of earth rising up. Our conversation turning to murmurs. Whispers. Eventually silence.
Out across those vast, steaming fields. Until our silhouettes fade, melt into the night. And finally disappear.