Barren Lands

The drought left the pasture as dusty, dirt colored cement. Huge cracks revealing a depth of at least a couple of feet spread here and there across the barren surface. However, he would be successful, no matter the difficulty, as he prepared for his grim mission. He looked out upon the barren meadow and blinked back a few tears.

This type of thing was happening too often, it already made an indelible mark upon his psyche, and he was unsure he would ever recover from the events of the past few years. Life was making him hard and untrusting. He refused to call it fear, as his feelings were truly not born out of terror. Bravery is actually one of his strongest traits. Being brave is sometimes synonymous with being fearful, if the person is also wise-, which he is.

At least he has not always been responsible for this part of the mission in each of the sad circumstances he has faced. However, this is his third time but charmed is not an accurate description. He was beginning to think that for every good fortune he had in his life, something terrible would also follow to keep a tumultuous balance. If there ever was a lifelong pattern of the “other shoe to drop”, he believed his existence was a fluid example.

He began his journey almost alone under the unforgiving summer sun. He had a place in mind, and hoped conditions would allow for a successful undertaking. He planned to get this first part over with quickly because he knew finishing the task would be the toughest. He walked for a while until he felt a peaceful feeling come over him; he knew this must be the place.

He put down his backpack and tools, took a swig of water from the flask, took a deep breath and picked up the shovel. He used all his might and force to get the first scoop of soil out of the ground. It may have well been concrete. He pushed himself to the limits of his endurance to keep turning the resistant earth. A small pile began to form next to the hole. He crushed the hard clods with his shovel and tried to form a more giving medium to work with.

As he worked, the sweat poured from his head and down into his eyes, he couldn’t tell any longer where the saline came from, as his tears poured just as heavily as his perspiration. He was weary and almost physically sickened from the heat and his plight. After he made it to a safe and satisfactory level down into the ground, he surveyed his work. He wanted this to be perfect, nothing less would be acceptable. He had been busy for about two hours now, but the time passed as quickly as the previous two years—in a blink.

He sat for a moment and thought about the next step in this job. He was glad he was alone because spoken words were just not appropriate for this situation. He didn’t feel like talking anyway. He mused that the older he became, the less he liked talking. His best friends didn’t need his words anyway. They understood him better than anyone did and they weren’t even capable of carrying on a conversation.

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He began to cry again, soft, sorrowful tears fell rapidly down his face, and he wondered again why the hell life hands him such misery. He knew it made him stronger, but he was tired of whatever lesson the Lord was trying to teach him. He had learned well enough by several examples. He was intelligent enough to pick most things up on the first try, so, subsequent trials were just flat cruel in his opinion.

He unlaced the backpack and took out a small carefully bundled parcel. He desperately wanted some resistance to suddenly emerge from the stillness of what was in his hands. He knew it would not come. Accepting the inevitable, he carefully placed the parcel in the hole, making sure the ends were tightly secured. He wanted nothing to ever disturb what would be the final resting place of his best friend.

He took a deep breath and shook off the sadness and smiled at the thought of the silly pup that had crooked eyes. He jokingly told everyone, “one eye’s huntin and one’s fishin.” The pup had been the runt of the bunch and held few desirable qualities, but, that is what made him special, made him unique, made him like his owner—one of a kind.

He began to carefully pack the dirt around the small shrouded canine. He had taken extra precautions to dig deeply so no wild animals would disturb this sacred place. He wanted to make sure he was just as careful when he replaced the earth. Shovel, turn, pack, shovel, turn, pack, he developed a rhythm that soothed him and his breathing finally returned to normal.

After he finished, he closed his eyes and imagined how much time he spent worrying about this very thing. As far as he was concerned, it was difficult to get close to anyone or anything without fear of feeling the very way he felt at that moment: lost, sad, alone, regretful, untrusting. He felt empty, and realized he felt that way for quite some time. He wondered if he would ever shake it.

In his young life, he had seen more loss than most. It was not always death, but his distressed experiences elicited the same feelings from him. When it was death, it had been the loss of several friends, both human and animal, and it left him with resolute feelings of the finite reality of the world. He began to live life logically, and he could feel himself drifting away from his emotions.

The irony of the situation is that he also had a bigger heart than most. He hoped it remained that way and struggled against the pain of caring too much. Throughout the sadness, he embraced his passion for life and tempered it only with the discretion to see each day safely to the next sunrise.

He said a silent prayer, picked up his tools and backpack, and turned away. He chose to smile as he walked back toward the house. “True character is revealed in adversity”, he mumbled to himself, reciting a family mantra.

He only hoped it would not be too soon before his character was tested again.

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