My sister loaded her barn with hay yesterday, and even just hearing about it secondhand brought back instant memories. There's nothing so delicious as the smell of fresh-cut hay. I'm immediately six years old again and playing at Grandpa's farm. The chickens with their rusty-gate sound. The rooster that sounded as if he'd been cut off mid-yodel. The snuffling of pigs. The light filtering through the gaps in the barn wall, highlighting the dust motes (I used to think those little swirling specks were the sunbeams, and I'd stir them up with my hand to watch their patterns. And wonder why Jesus wanted me to be one of those. My friend Shirley used to yell the last syllable, and for the longest time I thought they were called sun-beeps). The hollow thunk of my feet on the back steps. The cavernous crunch of horses chewing. The heat and baked dust of the barnyard. The feel of the old tractor's wooden-knobbed steering wheel. Playing drums on the seed spreader. The hidden little pockets of play space behind the barn and in the old camper and even on the silage mound. And over it all, that magical scent of hay.
Grandpa's farm is gone now, paved over and buried under new houses. Even the street names don't reflect the fact that such a wonderful place existed there. It seems like one of them, at least, should have honoured what went before. I am so happy that my sister's children will get to form those kinds of memories for themselves on their new farm. Their experience will be different in some ways but the same in others, and binding it all together (with baling twine!) will be that golden, dusty scent of hay.