Rev. John H. Farmer’s ‘Reflections’ Column

by Rev. John H. Farmer

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Imagination Blessings

The oddest things catch my eye, piques my imagination. Occasionally it will be just a sideways glimpse of something that lingers in my psyche. Usually it is not an object bold. Things that loom directly in front of me are easy with which to deal. It tickles me sometimes how the slightest movement (or lack of same) in my peripheral vision will latch on to me and give me great gobs of time just imagining this and that.

Route 3, often called the King’s Highway, is a path I am oft want to trod. All along its path stand monuments of my yesterdays. Here and there stand houses in which childhood friends once dwelt. Over there was a service station; there a grand spot for teens once to gather. From the town of Kilmarnock to Lively I am taken home again as I go home again to Millenbeck. Right here is where I had my very first flat tire—changed it myself, too. ‘Round that bend, just off Route 3, was an old tomato cannery, which in late summer smelled sweet, sometimes putrid.

In my collection of the way it was I am forced to compare to how it really is now. I miss the faces, long for the fellowship; yet count the blessings.

I vacillate from humor, to remorse, interest to downright nosiness at what is going on over there now…. Hmm, I wonder what they are building there?

Some while ago I measured a church sign. I could almost swear I saw it move. I don’t mean a swinging placard tossing to and fro—I mean it looked for all the world as if the timber lurched as I drove on past. So, for the next dozen or so times by I stared with keen interest. You know what I discovered? The post actually moved and not from being tossed about by the wind either. It was too proud a post for that.

That beam which holds out the sign has a memory of standing tall in a forest somewhere. It waves to me with sounds of antiquity, of peoples long gone. Depending upon the moisture in our environment the post stretches, or bows. It twists this- and that-a-way. It is almost imperceptible. But because it once caught my eye it requires constant measure as I drive by again and again.

On some bright mornings the post hangs its head a bit and the sign droops toward the neighboring asphalt. At other times it is raring back, chest out and banner high. On other days it seems to be military erect, called to attention by authorities unknown, unheard. The tree is long gone from which he was hewn. Her branches are withered. Her leaves have rotted. The chap who took her life may be gone too. I suspect the saw that cut her from life is dull, maybe abandoned. The mill which drew and quartered its harvest probably was dismantled and moved to more fertile a forest.

One only imagines that the post, though dead, lives again. It can be moved and twisted by the whisper of our creator’s voice. I hear it sing, “alive, alive again, living still. I have a job to do. Here I stand to announce the name of the family of faith who worships here.”

Another post came to mind as I measured the church sentry. My dad built a sumptuous condo for purple martins, which used to live all along our Corrotoman shore. It was a three-decker, with round holes on four sides and a nice railing an inch or so tall that fenced in the perimeter. It lived atop a four by four post.

Somedays the unit would lean toward the river. On other days it would snap erect. I imagined that it sometimes turned a bit just to play with the martins, to see if it could confuse them as to which hole was home. The martins went away. Dad got too feeble to keep the structure fit. The paint blew off. The railings failed. A storm snapped the foundation, then dropped the house into the river where it washed ashore on Grandmother Farmer’s beach. It deteriorated on a pile in the back lot, eventually fueling a brush fire. For a few years longer the post, bolted to the seawall, held firm, then retired. Dad died.

Those posts remind me of another. It too once lived in a forest but found new life. It is sung about in my mind and heart, even when the church is silent. “On a hill far away, stood an old rugged cross… that old rugged cross, so despised by the world, has a wondrous attraction for me… for ‘twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died… So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross, till my trophies at last I lay down; I will cling to the old rugged cross and exchange it someday for a crown.”