Cynthia Thayer found her entire world cut adrift from its familiar moorings. Her husband Bill had been in an accident while driving their team of horses; he could not speak, so what had happened remained a mystery. Bill and Cynthia had been through a lot over the previous four decades but this time, Cynthia doesn’t know what comes next. Bill’s injuries are severe. Blood has pooled between his brain and his skull, as well as within the brain itself. Surgery isn’t possible until his condition improves … if it improves. In the waiting, Cynthia tells the story of the life, the farm, and the community that she and Bill built together and what happens when she brings him home again.
Below is an excerpt taken from the prologue.
I WAS BORN IN NEW YORK CITY TO A BEAUTIFUL, ALCOHOLIC, and fashionable mother and a gay Canadian opera singer father who remained in the closet his whole life. Most of my growing-up years were spent in Nova Scotia, where my father was from. I took piano lessons, ballet lessons, figure-skating lessons, and—the only one of the lessons I loved—horseback riding lessons. I was expected to be the best at everything but I wasn’t, except perhaps for the riding. I loved feeling at one with a horse, loved the feel of its body underneath me, powerful and strong. The most memorable moment in my youth was riding the chestnut mare, Cherry Dale, with my Irish mentor, Lettie, beside me on her Arabian hunter. We tossed the saddles and our boots onto the beach and rode the horses into the ocean, bareback and barefoot. The moment the horses began swimming, when their hooves no longer touched sand, I felt like I could do anything and no one could stop me.
My parents did the best they could at making sure we were exposed to the arts and conformed to social norms, but my childhood was dedicated to fighting against being controlled, trying to be myself, but never knowing who that self was. When I met my first husband, he was exotic and was what I wanted at the time—someone my parents wouldn’t embrace. But he tried to control me, too. The marriage soured, leaving me with two children—one severely handicapped—to raise myself.
Then some years later, I met Bill. We were an unlikely couple. Bill was older by seven years. He came from a well-to-do family and was an only child. I came from a wannabe well-to-do family and was oldest of four. He was kind and loving, and at first, I thought he might be much too nice for me. I had been a feisty child and had grown into a feisty adult.
Bill grew up in Hingham, Massachusetts, attended Noble and Greenough prep school, promptly flunked out of University of Vermont, and sold life insurance for his father’s business. He was successful, had married well, and had three daughters. Life was good until his first wife asked for a divorce. She was in another relationship.
Bill took the plunge and decided to quit the business. He went back to school, where he got his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in psychology and special education. His life seemed so normal and unusual to me because mine had been so full of strife and lies and alcohol that I thought that was just the way people were. Having loving parents without ever-present tension was foreign to me.
We became the perfect couple, disparate as we seemed. Although we had different styles, we were both Pisces—dreamers, lovers, intuitive, imaginative. We both had the same secret dream that we had never thought possible and had not yet explored. We had a balance of respect and love that made our relationship work. Sometimes I think of that moment in the ocean with Cherry Dale, my clothes soaked with brine, that moment the horse’s hooves left the sand beneath us. That moment where I felt no one was controlling me. A feeling that I never felt again.
Until I met Bill.
Cynthia Underwood Thayer earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in British Literature before moving to Gouldsboro, Maine to be an organic farmer with her husband Bill more than four decades ago. Today, Darthia Farm encompasses 250 acres of recaptured pasture, hay land, gardens, and a selectively managed woodlot. Thayer has previously written three novels—Strong for Potatoes, A Certain Slant of Light, and A Brief Lunacy.