The field

Betty Driscoll

August 15, 1991|By Betty Driscoll

To the attentive eye, each moment of the year has its own beauty, and in the same field, it beholds, every hour, a picture which was never seen before, and which shall never be seen again.

Ralph Waldo Emerson TUCKED BETWEEN a tangled woods on one side and an old stone farmhouse and outbuildings on the other, the field lay -- new green in the spring deepening to a cool evergreen in summer as it grew tall with corn. Behind the field stretched a wooded ridge; before it wound a narrow country road.

The field had been there as long as I could remember, bringing each season a new beginning.

By mid-August the corn tasseled and the first shades of brown appeared. Soon the woods were on fire in autumn reds and thin rows of dried, colorless corn waited for the coming of the combine. Geese foraged the stubble and then flew off in uneven formations. Snow brought silence to the field. A few broken stalks poked through the white crust.

Every season the field was there, a framed miniature of the countryside. Each day it sheltered groundhogs and pheasants. At night it fed deer.

Then one day they arrived, a few at a time, until a long line of giant yellow earth movers stood on the slope overlooking the field. They stood in powerful silence while other equipment arrived: a quilted aluminum trailer housing the plans of destruction, a long flatbed truck with its cargo hidden under a tarpaulin, a disjointed orange backhoe. They surrounded the field. One morning, at about the time of the first frost, the earth trembled and the rumble of engines decreed the death of the field.

In one day the ground was mounded and leveled, shaped and reshaped. The veil of dust settled, and the field was gone.

Huge oaks that grew for over a hundred years were felled in a matter of hours, their wood gathered by the neighbors and stacked against winter. Some never noticed; others have already forgotten the way their gnarled roots gripped the bank along the road.

I remember the morning a family of white-tailed deer darted out of the field, then disappeared into the woods over invisible fences. And the day Barney, our young retriever, amazed himself by flushing a nest of pheasants. Ears up and flopping, he bounded into the field, stopped, pointed and bounded again. With a great rustle of wings and loud squawking, the birds took flight and then glided serenely to safety. Barney cocked his head, unsure of what he had done and what he should do next.

"Here, Barn!" I called, and he trotted to my side to continue our walk in the wet grass.

The bulldozers could not be called off. They continued day after day, blowing black fumes and raising dust until there was no hint of the field's rolling contour. Puzzling patterns of stakes pierced the flat red earth, and piles of white stones were dumped here and there. Deep treads replaced familiar tractor treads and dump trucks traveled back and forth, spilling dirt on the country road.

Animals retreated deeper into the woods. The cardinals deserted the lilac bush.

Now, during the fall, winter and spring, long lines of yellow school buses come each day and children raise the flag, the sign of another beginning. They sit at new desks inside a sleek, low brick building.

Outside, a red fox paces the fence line in front of the woods, searching out some old den -- or perhaps protecting a new one.

Betty Driscoll writes from Monkton.

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