Different dances

The skeleton bones of the half-torn-down white barn echoes the quietness on the farm I've loved for a decade now. That barn used to ring with boy's voices and paint-ball battles and my children's hollers as they ran end to end in bare feet through hay dust and drafty sunlight. This farm used to ring with a pure true joy that you couldn't mistake and you couldn't describe and now it's bittersweet love full of tang and twist, still intangible and hard to resist.

It's October and we've been trying for weeks to take some graduation portraits full of long afternoon sun. Portraits in dresses instead of shirt sleeves, portraits in fall colors instead of surrounded by the dying leaves. Yet here we are now on a windy day, kids mittened up tight against the wintery breeze. We bought a few hours in the white clear light of an overcast day down by the lake, just the youngest farm girl and I and a 50 mm lens, fighting the wind and her unruly bangs. We found some places where the leaves were yellow yet, some places where her beauty breathed straight through the camera stills.

Two teenage girls and a teenage boy, all of whom I watched birth from their mama's joy. I don't want them to know that today is what life is, all sadness and smiles mixed up together, inseparable.

My son's grown weary of currying the horse, so he curries the cats and then curries the dog. He'll remember these blond girls as his first girlfriends. He'll have cowboy dreams though he won't know where they come from.

The horse looks through me with his all-seeing eye. He knows that I might laugh or I just might cry. He knows I hold the camera up to shield my face. He felt the salty tears when I buried my face deep in the scent of his wintery coat, horseflesh warm and comforting on this cold wintry day.

It makes me feel old to watch them just smile. All of them, teens and kids, wrapped up in horseback rides, they lose all the tension and they forget this place isn't the same as it was just a year ago, it's skeleton bones of a marriage now. What happens to the joy of that mama when those babies birthed? Is it filed away, does it stay right where it is? Just a memory, a complicated twist? I know what I did with all those memories with faces of old boyfriends, I just burned them up and forgot they were there. But she's got these babies with him, these grown children now, they've got his lips and his dimples and his shoulders and ways. She's got a farm and these horses and so many shared days, how do you hold on to memories in the skeleton barn? Do you paint them on your bones and bind them in a song, trace them in your tears or brand them on your skin?

One last smell of the horse's winter coat, mismatched mittens on my youngest girl. I don't have the medicine to heal this ache. I just swallow it whole along with the joy and I know we'll make a different kind of dance in the fields of the farm with the skeleton barn.

Peel back the veil of time
And let us see You with our naked eyes
We just wanna love you

We want your blood to flow inside our body
We want your wind inside our lungs
We just wanna love you

Skeleton bones stand at the sound of eternity
On the lips of the found
And gravestones roll
To the rhythm of the sound of you
Skeleton bones stand at the sound of eternity
On the lips of the found
So separate those doors
And let the Son of resurrection in.

Oh let us adore the
Son of Glory drenched in love
Open up your gates before Him
Crown Him, stand Him up
~Skeleton Bones, John Mark McMillan