The Farmer’s Beautiful Land
By BC from her childhood in 2003
Once upon a time there lived a farmer. He didn’t like the winter. One day he received a letter from his father. It read: Go to the winter water hole. There you will find the key to the beautiful land where planting is done. Your father. There was a map on the back. So, the farmer headed there. He saw a message on a tree. It read: Notice. Go to the corner of the box. You’ll see a couple of rocks. Go around them. There you’ll find the beautiful land. See you. The farmer did as it said. He finally got there. It was beautiful. He sent his father a letter. It read: Thanks for showing me this beautiful land. Your son. They lived happily ever after.
BC’s Modern Day Response
I decided to pick this story from my archives because it is such a lovely little children’s story. Clearly I had just discovered the possibility of inserting letters into stories, or I had just read a story that featured letters in it, because that technique appears throughout this piece and the plot actually depends heavily on the written correspondence between farmer son and father.
Our aged anecdote begins with a farmer (the son) who dislikes winter–presumably because not only is winter cold and snowy and absolutely horrible in every capacity possible, but probably also because farmers cannot farm when their fields are turned to barren wastelands by the harsh weather conditions that freeze the earth. Although the writer does not provide much of a setting, the story plays out best if we assume the story takes place during winter.
The disheartened farmer one day receives a letter from his father! How lovely. Except, we don’t know much about the relationship between the farmer and his father. Are they neighbors, thus making the letter somewhat useless if they could just meet at their fence and discuss this–unless the father is so busy he doesn’t have time to meet his son, or maybe this operation is too covert to speak aloud in case their farms are bugged by the government or aliens. Or, perhaps the farmer has not seen his father in twenty years, and this is the first outreach his ol’ pops has had with him, thus adding to the excitement of the message the letter contains.
Either way, the father compels his farmer son to visit the “winter water hole” so that he may discover a beautiful, hidden land “where the planting is done.” (By the way, this phrase “the beautiful land where the planting is done” is just so endearing to me; I don’t know why, but it definitely adds an important idyllic zest to this story.) The winter water hole fascinates me–is it a water hole that only appears in the winter? Is it a winter water hole because it has enchanted properties that resist its freezing to ice?Is it there in the summer or only the winter? It must be pretty inherently significant though because the father includes a handy little map to it, which the farmer son dutifully follows (shout-out to dad’s map-making skills) because he is no doubt enticed by his father’s mysterious letter and the fact that he probably has nothing going on because it’s winter and he’s a farmer and there’s probably nothing good on TV.
When he arrives at the winter water hole (which we will imagine is beautiful and glistening and sacred, because the writer does not give us any satisfaction regarding this winter water hole’s imagery) he finds a note posted on a tree. His father has been here! He left a note for him! Er–a “notice,” I suppose, because that’s how he rather coldly begins his next clue in this adult scavenger hunt. His father instructs that the farmer “go to the corner of the box” as if the reader were supposed to have any notion of what kind of box one finds lying about in the forest near a magical freeze-resistant water hole. Is it a cardboard box with a homeless individual living in it? Is it a gift-wrapped box that his father left for him to test his instruction-following abilities, tempting him with the sight of a present but testing his willpower to ignore it and proceed with the mission? Is it not even a box, but a metaphorical box? The box within ourselves that we all must overcome and go around? Or is it just “like” a box, it being rather a box-shaped rock? And why must the farmer go to the corner of it–is it that massive of a box that one could go to the wrong part of it? Regardless of the properties of this box, there are rocks near the corner, and the farmer must go around it all to reach his beautiful promised land. (I love how the father ends his “notice” just as coldly as he opens it, with a “See you.” Not “Safe travels” or “Good luck,” or a more casual “See ya.” This man is all business. “See you.” We are starting to get a sense of his no-nonsense nature.)
The writer doesn’t mention the farmer’s reaction, so he may be excited by his father’s notice, or nervous about the journey, or maybe he just reads it and shrugs his shoulders and keeps going. The writer says he “finally” arrives to the beautiful land, making it seem as though going to the corner of the box and around the rocks was a long-winded adventure and not just a box on the ground near the tree with some pebbles tossed near it. Perhaps the “box” is the world, and the farmer had to travel to the corner of the world to arrive, and the box was not as near to the notice as it seemed.
So, what does this glorious, pastoral “beautiful land” look like when the farmer “finally” gets there? “It was beautiful,” the author writes. At first, I was displeased with this rendering of Beautiful Land. That’s all? What did the sky look like? Did the farmer fall into a box and become transported to another world Narnia-wardrobe style? Was it at least a farmer’s delight, or was none of the land available for more planting because so much planting was already done? Did the farmer farm while there, or merely visit for the experience? Was it still winter but planting could occur anyway? But then I reread the story, and I understood that the land was just so beautiful that there were no words for it. By writing, “It was beautiful,” the author is depicting the power of its beauty, that it was so encompassing in its beauty that by withholding information, it actually plays up the significance of its wonderment. And this way, every reader can visualize the beautiful land where the planting is done differently, in their own vision of what is beautiful land. The narrator almost seems wisely content in sharing just what is needed to be said and nothing more.
On top of this beautiful moment at the end of the story where the farmer lays eyes on Beautiful Land, the farmer (presumably at a later point in time) sits down to write a letter to his father expressing his gratitude and appreciation for helping him find this beauty. Talk about a wholesome tale.
Although the reader does have many questions (such as, how long is the farmer at the beautiful land? Does he live there from now on, enjoying a winter-less existence, or does he just visit and explore and then return to his old duties? Is the farmer’s father there, or does he continue to elude the farmer, only communicating with him through a series of letters? Did the farmer think his father would be there based off the “See you” left in the letter, and this is just another occurrence of his father disappointing his son? Or do they meet up in the beautiful land, but later the son writes a formal ‘thank you’ letter? Is the father deaf, and that’s why they must communicate through written word because the son doesn’t know sign language? Or is the father actually deceased and the notes are left from beyond the grave and that’s why the farmer is willing to blindly follow directions if it will help enlighten him and reunite him with the spirit of his father? Maybe they do meet up in the beautiful land, but it is a spiritual reunion, and the beautiful land is an emotional location of understanding and acceptance, and the farmer has finally reached the sacred place in his heart where he can connect with the world around him better.), the farmer and his father are said to live “happily ever after,” and so long as they’re happy, I suppose it doesn’t matter much what they choose to do with their lives, and we can gossip about it all we want but we’ll never know. Although I’d really love to know for myself so that I can escape winter and visit the beautiful land where the planting is done.
I think the reason I like this story so much is because it almost reads like an allegory or a parable, in its brevity of detail and its kind message. It’s a great tale about a father guiding his son out of the dark of winter and helping him find a more beautiful existence, even if it’s outside our understanding. And, there’s always room for an alien interpretation, but I won’t cloud this little moral of the story with my silly ideas anymore today. Thanks for reading.
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