The Offering

 

 

the offeringAbout a decade ago around Thanksgiving, I had seen a story on PBS about an 18th century midwife, named Martha Ballard, who kept a meticulous journal about her patients, treatments, weather conditions and everyday events in her life. The entries were written from a very pragmatic perspective, direct and to the point. Yet, in one particular passage , which the show emphasized, her tone changed. She recorded the night her barn burned down and in the middle of the story’s account, she interjected a rather strange statement concerning the tragic event with the erupting destruction it incurred. She mentioned , out of the blue, that her daughter had turned 18 that day. Normally, from our modern viewpoint,  that would seem a distant thought during the onset of flames and charring timber. However, this was the 18th century and a lot children died under the age of one or if not that early, by five. So in a season when fruit and crops where gathered, when leaves flamed in color but held a brief time of bloom, this birthday celebrating her child’s entrance into womanhood was miraculous, a gift from nature and God. And though part of Martha’s farm was destroyed, she still recognized this offering of life and acknowledged with awe and gratitude, her girl’s full growth into a bride and future mother. And on this day of thanksgiving, I realize that despite the setbacks, sorrows and challenges we struggle to survive, overcome, there are the blessings of being alive and interacting with those we love and need. This poem is about Martha Ballard and her daughter from a reflective stance. She is standing in front of her rebuilt barn and reminiscing about that night in October when everything seemed lost and yet found through a sudden realization, Hannah’s adult presence.
The Offering

( Memory of October, 1790)

The barn extends its length
from road to hilltop
overlooking the river.

Its wall
rests on the edge of twilight
wearing a season patched by leaves.

A cloak of rags,
the foliage reminds me
of one I grabbed in another life
watching fire turn
this building to skeletal timber.

I stood silent
clutching a quilt, hearing livestock
trample the fence — but thought
only of my daughter’s age.

She had turned 18 that day
fair, tall enough
to pull herbs from the kitchen ceiling.

Her arm reached long and smooth
like a shaft of moonlight through the room
whenever she prepared
supper late and birds were hushed
in the field by evening’s shadow.

I felt chosen.

Her life had flourished
beyond cradle to dower chest,

a young bride
waiting to build her first home

while part of mine
was burning down.

At that moment,
nothing mattered but Autumn
offering Hannah, who had grown
to harvest womanhood.

9 comments

  1. Love some of the images in this, Wendy.

    Yes, indeed many of us have much to be
    thankful for, considering how tough life could be back then.

    Enjoyed this moving write.
    take care,
    Kerri

    Like

  2. Thanks so much Kerri

    your kind words toward this poem and your perspective are deeply appreciated!! Wishing and your family
    a blessed and peaceful time during the beginning and beyond this holiday season. As always, I deeply value your continued interest in my work!! Thank you so much!!

    Take care,
    Wendy

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Wendy,

      I am not on the computer as often so I don’t get to reply as I would like, but
      I wanted you to know that I so very much appreciate you, your work, and your
      insightful and generous comments that keeps the lights shining bright and the
      Pubsters united. My thanks a million times over. Hoping all is well with you and yours.
      I want to write pages on my appreciation of each of your poems, but that is not possible
      so please forgive and know that you are read and appreciated.

      My best,
      sarah

      Like

      • Dear Sarah

        Whether you are on or off the computer, your lovely spirit and presence is here at the pub making those lights shine. I so deeply appreciate your continual interest in my work and deeply cherish your friendship!! It means a great deal to me and to just know that you read my work makes all the difference. Don’t ever worry about posting comments to my work, I know you like my stuff and that is what really matters!! Hope all is well with you and Bella.

        Take care, Dear Friend!
        My best always
        Wendy

        Like

  3. A beautiful look at the thoughts and emotions that probably flooded the mind and filled the heart of Martha Ballard as she viewed the ruins of her home, but celebrated the life of her daughter Hannah who had had attained this milestone age.

    Best regards,

    Maryse

    Like

    • Hi Maryse

      So glad you enjoyed the poem and took the time to share your thoughts!! I deeply appreciate them and your continual interest in my work. Martha Ballard’s story is quite interesting and her knowledge of herbal medicine and practical cures for the time was remarkable. More of her story can be found on youtube if you type in “A Midwifre’s Tale, The American Experience. . It was originally shown on PBS years ago and youtube has some of it.

      Again thank you!!

      Like

    • Hi Craig

      Thanks so much for the lovely commentary on my work!! I have never read that book but looked up the plot/background on Wickipediia and it seems like a beautiful novel. One I would like to read. Thanks so much for mentioning it!

      My Best
      Wendy

      Like

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