Before we got fiber optic WiFi at the farm (yes, the angels are singing)…I used to unplug our modem each night (fewer EMFs and all). Until recently, no cell service would work in our valley (most still don’t). We still have a land line; we used to have two. At night…sometimes it is so dark, you can’t see your hand in front of your face. For most of our friends from the city, these things were/are cause for alarm. Until they relent…
Five years ago when we decided to rehab the old summer kitchen adjacent to the farmhouse and rent it on Airbnb, some questioned if anyone would come out here; no cell reception, no TV. We wondered, too. But they did…and they do. Family and friends stay in the farmhouse and it’s not long before you find them cozying up in the big chair next to the woodstove or heading back outside to the sun deck…and we visibly see life’s stress and anxiety leave their body.
People say they sleep well here; they say they dream. We’ve been fortunate to host three college students from the local University of Wisconsin campus over the years. One student from South Korea told me he never understood what people meant when they talked about dreaming. He had led a life of intention during his brief 20 years…had plans to become a neurosurgeon…but he had never had a dream. “At the farm,” he said, “every night I dream.”
Now, we have invested in some pretty amazing Saatva mattresses at the farm…and several folks have bought one for themselves after a sleepover here…but I think there is more to it than that. Our barn cats lay belly up sunning themselves on a rock on the hill or on a lawn chair in front of the Guesthouse. We find our guests snoring with the windows down, taking a nap mid-day in the Starcraft camper with a dozen other people milling about. It feels safe here.
I bought this farm after one of my six-year-old identical twin boys died from the rarest cancer on the planet. This is a healing place and I named the farm for that amazing kid, Griffin, and one of the things he liked to do most: run (he did not get that interest or ability from me). I’m guessing, whether we can admit it or not, many of us who have lost someone we loved dearly believe we hear from them again after they’re gone. Before Griff died, I told him to come back and cause some trouble so Mommy would know he was OK (this is important for you to remember)…and he did…within 24 hours of his passing. I like to think that sometimes Griff visits us here. We know someone does.
The UW student we hosted most recently came to the farm to avoid returning to Milwaukee when COVID-19 hit; COVID was rampant in his city. Thankfully, E knew my kids and they all got along pretty well. We worked really hard at the farm that summer out of necessity and as an escape. The kids also had quality down time and had some pretty deep conversations about life, loss, race, spirituality, religion. I think they talked about ghosts, too, because E mentioned it when he came running to the house from the barn one day.
E had been doing chores in the red barn. It’s a traditional red dairy barn…barn stalls on the first floor with stairs to an expansive hay mow with 25-foot ceilings. The barn has been filling with antiques for years in anticipation of opening our vintage shop. To hear E tell the story, on his walk through the barn that day, he knocked something over and it broke. He came inside the house to tell me about it, grabbed the broom and dustpan and headed to clean up. About ten minutes later he came running out of the barn and across the road yelling my daughter’s name, “Holland! Holland!” He ran into the back door of the house talking fast and out of breath wanting to know where Holland was…wasn’t she just in the barn? Nope. She’s been upstairs in the house for awhile. He flipped.
“I heard her voice clear as DAY! The barn door opened behind me and I heard it close, she said, ‘Hey, Eli’ and then I heard footsteps go upstairs!” Then, when he talked to her and she didn’t respond, he yelled up the stairs to the hay mow, but, no answer. He thought for sure we were fucking with him. We were not. He never went back into the barn…saying ‘Black people don’t fuck with that shit.’ LOL! That is indeed the most vivid encounter in the red barn, but not the first and, hopefully, not the last. Thanks, G, for letting me know you’re still OK.