Her wrinkled face, once smooth and beautiful, had been burned by the sun and seared by the wind. She spent her days bent over, a crescent-shaped figure, feeling for berries ripe to be picked. She worked alone in the field, thinking of the past, of a long lost love, as she dug deep into the soil, feeling the good earth between her crooked fingers. She would sometimes pause and look up, to count the blessings in the sun and hear the music in the wind. One day she knew she would return to the earth, to be part of it, to enrich the soil that would grow the berries. It would be the great circle of life… from beginning to end… and to begin again.
She bore no children, and the love of her life had died long ago, leaving her little to carry on. She used what she had to purchase her field of dreams, and for twenty odd years she tilled the soil and planted the crops. Her field was near an old dirt road, where those who passed by could see her tiny shack and the field beyond, where she would often be seen working while her berries were displayed for sale on the shelf inside the shack.
Those who wanted to buy were instructed to leave their money on the ground inside the shack, away from view, until she returned from her field. Those who came were trusted, and for many years the money was always there when she returned.
One day, when she had come from the field with a basket full of berries, two men were waiting for her near the tiny shack. They wanted to buy berries, and offered a sum of money to buy the land. She thanked them for their offer and told them berries were for sale but not the land. Disappointed, the two men left and drove away along the old dirt road.
She spent that day, and many days thereafter harvesting the berries and selling them to her happy customers until the season ended. Soon the winter planting would begin. But one morning, it was a Sunday morning, she had come from the nearby church and when she arrived the field was on fire, burning from end to end, consumed by flames. She stood helpless, watching as the tiny plot of land, the only thing she owned, had been destroyed.
The cause of the fire was unknown. A few days later the same two men returned and offered her a large sum of money to sell the empty blackened piece of earth, but she decided to replant the field, and believed the berries would again grow and ripen. And grow they did, season after season until, well past the age of eighty, she passed away, bound for heaven.
There were no relatives, and the land was claimed by the state. The following year a home was built on the land where the field had been. It was a beautiful, modern looking home, with a large green manicured lawn and an oval-shaped swimming pool. The owner and his family often travelled, and were away for weeks at a time.
One summer they went overseas for a long vacation, and during their absence a violent storm erupted; it was believed a lightning bolt had struck their home and caused a horrible fire. When they returned the charred remains lay scattered across the landscape.
Heartbroken, the family moved away to start their lives again. The land was sold… bought by the church where the old woman had prayed.
Soon afterward a strange event occurred; the field had come alive again, though no one was there to till the soil or plant the seeds. The soil was rich, the berries were ripe, the plants were evergreen. They believed it had been a miracle; the land had been re-born.
She had returned to the earth at last.
Jeffrey Sommer has been writing short stories and novels for the past twenty years. His novel titled ‘Laybug’ was published in 2015, and his first novel titled ‘Passing thru Paradise’ was published in 2013. He lives with his wife and daughter in Northern California.
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