When I was growing up, I used to visit my Grandmother who lived on a place in Maryland called Rockdale. Although her genteel house never hinted of it, it was a working farm that ran to several acres. Over the years, there were a hundred secrets and mysteries for us kids to experience.
Down the lane there were apple orchards. In the front yard was a huge snowball bush and what used to be a fountain. A strange-looking gazebo sweetly rotted away.
There was a bridge where we used to play Pooh Sticks. The trickle of Winters Run went underneath, and all the way around the property. We could go swimming in it if we were willing to brave the steep climb down through the woods to the sandy banks below.
One of my favorite places was the summer house. It was made of stone and had a peaked roof and no windows. On summer nights, my Grandmother would have parties and hanging paper lanterns along the garden.
But during the day the summer house was unused. I used to sit in there and pretend I was a gypsy living in the woods with a horse. I would imagine my bed over there, my fireplace here, and in the nooks along the eaves I would place my treasures.
Beyond the fence was a huge rock that I called my dreaming rock. The field was rarely plowed and the grass would be waist high and blow in the wind. Sitting on that rock, it seemed I was in the middle of a huge ocean. Sometimes I could see cows in distant pastures.
My other favorite place was the top of the hill where there was a particular tree I used to lie under. It was a willow tree and I liked the patterns it made with the sun.
That was the hill where my mother would take us blackberry picking and raspberry picking with buckets filled to the brim and our legs covered with little red marks from the briars.
In the fall, we would play with the milkweed silks peeping out from their hard pods, and blow wishes to the wind. If I twirled around very fast, all the colors of the autumn trees would melt into a swirling rainbow.
I especially liked it when I would see bales of hay neatly stacked. It seemed like magic. Who did it - and when? It was always a question in my mind, "Will there be hay?" as I was climbing.
Only once I saw the tractor pull up and men jump off and load the bales onto a bed. The boy that drove the tractor was barely older than me. Maybe 13 or 14. I marveled at his prowess with the tractor and formed a crush. I named my kitten after him - Snooks.
I happened to see a photo of some hay bales today, and all these memories came tumbling out.