Where Geese Become Swans -
by Julia Ryan Meservy
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These essays originally appeared in The Ashfield News, Ashfield, Massachusetts. Some appeared in Life at Brook Hollow Farm, printed in a limited first edition, December 1995.
My sister Julie and her family own a farm in a New England village where they work with Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), a program that encourages people in the community to support small farms by buying shares in the harvest each year. The shareholders show their faith in the farmer by providing the money that allows the farmer to buy the seeds that, with skill, hard work, luck, and maybe some magic, will become the crop. It's a risk. It's a bet that, despite bad weather, despite potential disaster, despite everything that could go wrong, the farmer will triumph and the shareholders and the farmer will mutually benefit. My sister, true to her nature, works hard to deliver what she has promised, and she always manages to throw in "something extra" - whether it's tucking a freshly baked loaf of bread or a bunch of flowers into a basket of paid-for vegetables or writing a story that leaves you smiling with tears in your eyes.
Julie's New England farm is worlds away from the middle-sized Southern city where I work for a daily newspaper, but her stories have a way of bringing us - and countless others - together. Her stories touch something within each of us, leading us to recognize an important truth: The peace and magic she writes about from Brook Hollow Farm are really within each of us, wherever we are, whatever we're doing.
My newspaper colleagues and I can be a cantankerous lot, stressed and agitated and sometimes short-tempered with each other while we fight to meet daily deadlines against seemingly impossible odds. But when I brought these stories into our newsroom, magic happened. We fell in love with the stories and the way they made us feel. Reading about Brook Hollow Farm somehow made us remember who we are and why we do what we do. We don't remember how it was decided, but my newspaper family and I found ourselves talking about surprising Julie by putting her stories into a book. It would be our Christmas present to her, a way to thank her for sharing her stories.
None of us had ever done anything like that before, but caught up in the magic of the stories, we forgot that we didn't know how to do what we were doing. Over and over, I heard: "I can do this part. I know someone who can help with that. Let's try it this way. Help me change this. Let me help you with that. I like what you did there." We worked late into the night after the daily newspaper was done and on our days off, trading ideas while passing in the hallway, on the telephone, over supper together. Secretaries, photographers, page designers, pressmen, technicians, security guards, and editors worked together to make a surprise for Julie. Together, we did what none of us could have done alone.
My sister and those who love her received copies of her book, and I heard that some people wept when they saw her stories together for the first time. The book, she said, was everything she had ever dreamed it could be. The spirit of Brook Hollow Farm, it seems, guided us as we chose exactly the right paper, exactly the right design for the pages and the cover, exactly the right type faces to tell the stories.
Since that Christmas, people who received copies of "Life at Brook Hollow Farm" have shared them with others who telephoned or wrote to Brook Hollow Farm, asking where they could get copies. And so "Where Geese Become Swans: A Year at Brook Hollow Farm" came to be. It has all of the stories from the first book and some new ones. It also has all of the magic of the first effort.
I envy those of you who are reading Julie's stories for the first time, but, I have to say, the magic of these stories doesn't fade no matter how often you read them. Every time you read them, you'll find "something extra."
These stories bring out the best that is in each of us, although we sometimes forget it's there. They can make you believe you can be better than you ever thought you could be, that you can do something that you never dreamed you could do, that there's something special in the routines of our lives. They can make you believe that wonderful things happen when we believe in each other, when we find some way to show that each of us can do something extra for someone else. After reading these stories, my newspaper family did something extra for my sister and me and our families, and I never would have thought to hope for it. It was a magical gift, proof that these stories have the seeds to make all kinds of joy. From those seeds, wonderful things can happen. The Brook Hollow Farm stories can be the seeds you need to sow some magic in your own life. All you have to do is believe.
Patricia Ferrier
Julie's sister
Remembering Mama
The first sign of spring
A picture to last a lifetime
A new day, a new season ... and cow bells
Thanks to you, I still have a floor to mop
Winter thoughts in summer
Kyle and the cows
With her face averted
End of the season
Night falls at Brook Hollow
The power of nature
Back to the clothesline
Seasons in transition
The art of churning butter
ne adventures of Mary and Nell
Farewell to Canada geese
Rosebud and the lady
Moving indoors
A sanctuary for the soul
Bridget and her babies - and an important truth
200 years of shelter
Frozen pipes and a cup of tea
Rosebud the Younger
Christmas at Brook Hollow Farm
The legend of the wood sprite of Brook Hollow
Where geese become swans
The voices of children, echoing forever
Cover design by Isolde Ray
Page design by DeWayne Wilson
Cover photo and editing by Patricia Ferrier
Printed in the United States of America by Jersey Bell Press
Library of Congress Catalog Number: 96-86760
Copyright 1996 by Julia Ryan Meservey
All rights reserved by author
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